Test Center Rx: Integrating Call Center with Net

SAN MATEO (07/31/2000) - My company already has a full-scale call center integrated with CTI [computer-telephony integration], CRM [customer relationship management], voice logging, workforce management, etc. I'm interested in the integration of the call center with the Internet so that my company can provide an additional channel for our customers to contact us.

To give you more background, we have Gensys and are using Siebel Systems Inc.

98 for CRM. Currently there is a new, Web-based release of Siebel 99 or 2000.

But I want to maximize the flexibility of the integration because eventually there may be another upgrade of the CRM system. To further complicate matters, Sybase Inc. underlies the database design and structure in the Siebel system.

Is Sybase compatible with Web-based applications, which usually use Java?

Is there an e-CRM system that can integrate with our traditional CRM? I really want to integrate the e-mail correspondence to and from the customers into the CRM system for future market analysis and development.

Amy Wong

Lori: There is a lot going on in the CRM/ e-CRM world today; from strictly Web-based applications to enhance your site to traditional CRM companies bringing their solutions to the Web. Although I do not have a model to cite for integrating the applications you mention, several companies have products that will integrate with traditional CRM solutions.

I would like to point you to several resources to help you narrow your search.

First of all, I would recommend reading our pair of June 26 Test Center analyses on e-CRM (see www.infoworld.com/printlinks).

You may decide to add one of these solutions to provide support and service on your Web site. Both Brightware (www.brightware.com) and Kana Communications (www.kana.com) can be integrated to already-existing systems such as CRM. Kana, specifically, can connect to market leaders such as Siebel, which you have, as well as to others such as Remedy, Vantive, and Clarify.

Our April 3 Test Center review may also be helpful; it discusses online customer service with a focus on Talisma Enterprise Edition 2.02, which can be integrated with CRM, call centers, and help desk solutions (see "Powerful Talisma Enterprise Edition raises the e-CRM bar," www.infoworld.com/printlinks).

There are other resources that go in to great detail -- including an interesting discussion on Compaq's Web site (www.compaq.com/solutions/communications/ens/web-telephony-integration.html).

You may also be interested in what's going on at www.voicexml.org, a site that discusses Voice XML -- a new standard for making Internet content available by voice and phone.

Brooks: You're on the right track when you note that Siebel Systems is using Sybase on the back end. Once you get to a common database platform, your options really are limitless.

Depending on what kind of integration you want with your current Web application, you might consider developing the solution yourself. If you're using a Web application server and already have a personalized Web experience, you could do some really cool stuff by writing your own CRM integration piece.

Java is certainly a popular solution, but there are alternatives. It will probably depend on what application server, if any, you're already committed to.

Off-the-shelf solutions, of course, will probably be easier and cheaper than an in-house development effort, although they will probably offer less complete and custom integration. I've heard good things about both Brightware and Kana, which Lori mentioned.

Either way, tying e-mail communications to your CRM system is certainly a good idea, and if you can move quickly on it, you'll be ahead of the pack -- which is the whole idea, right?

Report from the Baker Street Irregulars

We had several interesting responses to our July 10 column about spontaneous, unexplained NT server reboots. Dan Dunbar writes to suggest checking the air-conditioning schedule to make sure the server isn't overheating because the air-conditioning is shut off at night. Rick Carlton wisely notes that the server might have been installed with the 120-day evaluation copy CD, which causes the server to reboot itself daily after the evaluation period is over.

Peter Daigle says he had a similar problem that was caused by errant Hewlett-Packard NetServer Agent software. Robert Hendricks and Rick Nelson both suggest checking that the UPS (uninterruptible power supply) battery hasn't gone bad. Finally, Mike Parker and "pretzelogic" offer that janitorial workers might be at fault, either by accidentally knocking a power plug or by plugging vacuum cleaners and other electrically noisy equipment into the same circuit as the server. Thanks, everyone, for your assistance!

Brooks Talley is senior business and technology architect for InfoWorld.com.

Lori Mitchell is a senior analyst in the Test Center. Send your questions for them to testcenter_rx@infoworld.com.

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