Monday, October 22, 2007

e-mail in contact centres, process driven or response driven?

One of the interesting things I'm seeing around e-mail in the contact centre is debate on how to manage it.

With a phone call, things are relatively straight forward - you answer it. You might need to queue it, or gather some intelligence for routing but fundamentally you are talking about something that is real-time and a synchronous form of communication and contact centres handle that well.

By contrast, e-mail is not real-time and is an inherently asynchronous method of communication. It can be answered at an agent's convenience and an agent can handle multiple e-mail sessions concurrently. Furthermore, the agent can be given a lot of prompting and guidance (even scripting) from knowledge sources to help them respond. Furthermore, the text based nature of the medium makes it much easier to integrate content into other applications.

To date, most of the focus on e-mail management for the contact centre has come from specialist players like Kana and eGain. These applications provide the necessary functionality for e-mail, usually provide chat and often web co-browsing. My personal preference is for the eGain suite (and not just because Cisco OEM parts of it), but for Genesys users Kana has a number of attractions, not least that execs at one have often worked at the other. In my view the first phase of e-mail management is almost over and the niche vendors are starting to align with the CTI (Computer Telephony Integration) vendors. This may be quite a loose alignment (e.g e-Gain and Kana can be paired with a whole range of CTI applications), but none the less the debate is largely over as to whether e-mail should be managed as a stand alone application or integrated with the telephony control application.

The second phase that I suspect to be just beginning is the debate whether the CTI or CRM system manages e-mail. Most CRM systems today have an e-mail capability and try to integrate e-mail with the wider CRM process. By contrast the CTI systems focus on the process of finding the right person to answer the e-mail, getting it there and monitoring how long the agent takes to write the answer.

I suspect that both approaches will prove complimentary, but there is sufficient overlap to make it unclear as to which application will eventual dominate the e-mail space.

Ofcourse, there is a wildcard in the form of SOA. If it becomes more prevalent as an architectural approach in the contact cnetre, then talking about applications 'controlling' functionality will be redundant. But SOA would be a third phase and although I see signs of the foundations being laid now, it is not yet a reality.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting ideas, but will e-mail not just end up as a part of the CRM apps? That's where the business value (& majority of the customers IT spend) sits.