Contact centres drive customer-facing firms

Contact centres have been the overlooked application during the industry discussion of IP telephony. Contact centres offer perhaps the tightest link between communications and business process -- a link that will become stronger as the industry moves to Web services in a service-oriented architecture (SOA) context.

Contact centres will be the driving force behind companies that highly value interaction with customers. Customer-facing organizations are retooling their contact centres by adding IP telephony for mobility, screen-pop consolidation, and Web services and SOA to link customer communications to business processes. The result is a company that offers its customers a better experience.

Agents increasingly require more access to enterprise resources, be they experts or applications.

Companies soon will be able to systematize, sanction and measure these interactions so knowledge workers and experts can be a legitimate part of an agent's professional network. In addition to expanding an agent's professional network, Web services can tighten the linkage between agents and their enterprise back-office systems. Linking agents to back-office systems and enabling a more structured way in which they can reach into the enterprise are opportunities most companies are starting to address with Web services. While this has focused on human-to-contact-centre interaction, there are as many opportunities for system-to-contact-centre improvements for customer-facing organizations. For example, a popular BMW commercial shows a driver talking to a contact centre agent after his car has sent status data to the manufacturer, which told the contact centre to schedule maintenance with the owner.

Vendors such as Avaya, Cisco, Siemens, Alcatel, Mitel and Nortel are starting to deliver Web services-based platforms that will let IT departments develop communications-enabled business applications, which will transform their businesses. The customer-facing organization is just one example of how the game is changing.

Nick Lippis publishes the Lippis Report newsletter, a resource for network and IT business decision makers

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