Using SOA to integrate the contact center

Companies are finding SOA enables them to closely align their customer contact infrastructure with the data, workflows and processes used to manage customer interactions across the organization

Among the many benefits being delivered by service-oriented architectures, companies are finding SOA enables them to closely align their customer contact infrastructure with the data, workflows and processes used to manage customer interactions across the organization.

The ability to integrate contact center applications, such as call routing and voice self-service, into complex workflows enables organizations to support those interactions across multiple channels, such as the telephone and the Web. Many customers begin a task in one channel (the Web or a branch office, for example) and then complete it elsewhere -- often in the call center. This new level of enterprise-wide integration reduces duplication of effort each time the customer engages with the organization to accomplish the same task.

That means applications can be more advanced and responsive. For example, applications can be tailored to the preferred usage patterns of each customer. As systems across the enterprise can more easily share customer insights, richer profiles are built and acted on, regardless of how a customer chooses to seek assistance.

Further, the application of SOA principles helps ensure reuse of code across the organization, which lowers the cost and risk associated with application development and can speed the development of new functionality. Similarly, customer data required by the entire enterprise, including the contact center, can be managed more securely and cost-effectively from a centralized location.

With the introduction of SOA, the possibilities for new and enhanced functionality within the contact center greatly expand. For example, a bank could integrate its SOA-enabled speech applications with other enterprise resources, allowing customers to pay bills over the phone using the same back-end systems that enable Web-based bill payments today. This would complement voice-based self-service capabilities that are already available to customers, such as the ability to check account balances, the status of payment and changing addresses.

Moreover, SOA enables data to be updated and made available to all applications at once, eliminating delays and discrepancies. Similarly, SOA can drive workflows across multiple channels or customer touchpoints, so that a mortgage company, for example, could consolidate all the capabilities residing at its headquarters, its branch offices and its contact centers.

In this way, employees would have access to the latest updates for the myriad documents and data that flood into mortgage offices every day. And customers would have immediate access to their most recent mortgage data and applications, regardless of which location or person they contacted or whether they reached the company through the phone or the Internet.

How can organizations begin to extend SOA to customer-facing applications in the contact center?

They can start by implementing a few best practices:

Break down the silos. Many large organizations have decades-old divisions between voice and data IT workers or between enterprise and contact center IT employees, or both. A model based on SOA principles will require everyone to work together in a holistic manner across various company functions and departments. The result should be the development of applications that provide greater responsiveness for customers and a smoother, more consistent customer experience.

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