Thursday, September 24, 2009

Contact Centre Expo 2009 - Day Two

I meant to get this post published yesterday, when it really was the end of Day Two of Contact Centre Expo. Sadly, the lack of a wireless connection on Virgin Trains meant that it has had to wait until now for me to get the post up onto the blog.

In my previous post ("Contact Centre Expo 2009 - Day One"), I raised the question as to whether there was much innovation to be seen at this years CC Expo. I was very please to have my question taken up by Plantronics (see the comments to Day One's post) on stand D17, who suggested that if I was interested in innovation I should come and have a look at their stand.

I'll admit that I was slightly unsure, as while I was sure that headsets could be improved from the days when I was an agent (back in the late '90s), I just didn't know what was possible. In fact, an awful lot is possible, and 'headsets' was a totally misleading concept.

Two of Plantronics products showed innovation that got me very interested:

Plantronics IP40 Audio Processor - The name is all a bit deceptive. What Plantronics are really talking about here is a SIP endpoint that gives all the benefits of a phone handset to an agent without the cost (and space) of having to buy each contact centre agent a traditional phone handset. After all, a contact centre agent usually drives their telephony environment through the CTI user interface on their desktop computer and so doesn't use most of the buttons that a phone provides. This rather neat little device gives the agent all the controls they need while saving on space, power and cost. The use of SIP was, I thought, particularly intriguing as the this opens up a lot of software to device options that could stretch beyond the traditional contact centre. It's potentially a very disruptive technology as it attacks those contact centre manufacturers who have relied on high-priced handsets to subsidise the cost of their core software technology. It's potentially very interesting and for a little device it may be much more disruptive than it looks.

Plantronics Savi Office - I've encountered wireless headsets in the past, but generally these had been unsuitable for the contact centre as they'd run Bluetooth. I was much more taken with the DECT based options that I saw on the Plantronics stand. These headsets were reliable enough for proper contact centre use, but allowed the agent to move away from their computer for an extended period. I wouldn't see this as suitable for the majority of agents, where the agent handles so many short duration calls that they need to be close to the screen and a cable makes little difference over wireless, but for higher end agents (such as financial planners), I could see this working well. This type of agent that has longer duration, very high value calls may well need to move around or get information that's away from their desk and this sort of headset is definitely the way forward for that type of role.

Other stands that caught my eye were:

  • CCC - Another interesting outsourcer, this time focused on Germany and Central Europe. The CCC stands for Competence Call Centre and they had some interesting ideas around BPO and how to add value when running contact centres in a high cost country.
  • Eptica - An interesting company focused on the web and e-mail parts of multi-channel customer service. What was interesting for me was that being European, they instinctively understood the need to manage channels in multiple languages, something that the more US-centric start-ups sometimes forget.
All in all, a good show (at least for me) and I think perhaps more valuable for me than last year.

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