eGain looks to consolidate customer communications

Looking to consolidate different customer-to-seller interactions, eGain Communications Corp. on Monday plans to launch eGain eService Enterprise, a modular system intended to boost the productivity of phone-based call centers and help them evolve into multichannel facilities.

Available now, the package, abbreviated as E3, enables customers to pick and choose various eGain products for inclusion in a single contact center platform. Available applications include knowledge management, inbound and outbound e-mail management, real-time Web communications, and Web self-service and guided service.

Although components of the package -- such as eGain Call Center Bridge, eGain Mail and eGain Inform -- pre-date this week's release, the products previously required professional services to integrate them, according to Max Fiszer, vice president of marketing at eGain, which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif.

The main goal of the product, Fiszer said, "is to allow all the [customer service] channels to work as an entity so there is a common knowledge management base supporting them and there is escalation," from one channel to another. Escalation can include having a query transferred to a live agent when it has not been answered by other means, such as via e-mail.

The offering also allows for "blended queues," through which a customer service agent can communicate via multiple media.

"You can have one agent that has a telephone queue combined with a live chat queue," said Tom Rearick, eGain vice president of product strategy.

An eGain user welcomed the integrated approach.

"It's great that they are integrating the offerings that they are providing," said Neerav Berry, co-founder and vice president of marketing at CellMania, a wireless operator in Mountain View Calif. "I think it will make it easier for customers like us."

CellMania is using several eGain products, including call center and e-mail offerings, and required professional services for integration, Berry said.

Components of E3, all of which bear eGain in the formal product name, include:

-- Commerce Bridge, a database and application linking product;-- Knowledge, for searching knowledge bases;-- call center products Call Center Bridge and Knowledge Agent;-- e-mail offerings Mail and Campaign;-- live communication products Live and Interact; and-- self-service offerings Inform, Assistant, and Knowledge Self-Service.

An analyst said eGain's new offering meets a requirement for linking electronic and telephony contact channels.

"I would [say] that it's a required step for any company looking to add electronic channels to existing telephony channels to manage customer interaction," said analyst Tim Hickernell, senior program director in the Web and collaboration strategies service at Meta Group, which is based in Stamford, Conn.

But customer contact applications still must be integrated with corporate applications, such as enterprise resource planning programs, Hickernell said.

"Having APIs, having SDKs [software development kits] doesn't just make it magically happen," he said. "Companies still have to plan integration activities."

According to eGain, E3 can be integrated with front- and back-office applications, content management and analytics packages, as well as with Lotus Notes and other applications.

EGain eService Enterprise is available now for all Windows NT-based environments, with a Sun Microsystems Inc. Solaris version to be available by the end of 2001. Multiple languages are supported.

Pricing is based on a cumulative number of seats for the agent-facing applications and concurrent access levels for the self-service applications.

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