The Connections Magazine Innovation Awards are given for significant product developments and services occurring in the past year. Although it was not possible to completely review every product or service from every provider, we did our best to consider what each vendor has to offer. Many noteworthy developments have occurred and we regret not being able to cover all of them. Here are our picks for the best of the best.
Platinum Innovation Award
Professional Teledata — PInnacle is a scripting and dispatching system for a telemessaging environment. It is an integration of PI-2000, a scripting and order-taking program, with all of the features needed for telemessaging and dispatch. PInnacle offers a turnkey, single platform solution with integration to the Eon digital switch products and FMDS-3 for fax, email, alpha, and two-way paging delivery. Alternately, as a PI-2000-software-only adjunct, PInnacle can be used with an existing telemessaging switch or ACD.
The intent of PInnacle is to make the agent’s job easier and to reduce errors. Accounts can be programmed and configured without the need for a programmer, Webmaster, or database administrator. Also, the system’s open architecture works with standard hardware and affordable and/or existing telephony components.
Another goal for PInnacle is for agents to incur less keystrokes and fewer “modes.” Since information is stored in alphabetical indexed help topics, page flipping through information screens is not necessary. The Windows format allows the agent to see more information on the screen at one time. And all of the features of PI-2000 are also supported in PInnacle.
PInnacle allows for flexible dispatch distribution. Whether agents dispatch their own calls or pass calls to dispatchers, PInnacle does both. Also, dispatch assignment is based on account skill level, physical position, operator, and existing dispatch in progress. To assist in the management agents, supervisors can view, track, or re-assign dispatchers’ priority tasks. Dispatch can be automatically activated based on response criteria. Time of day, on call information, nature of call, and other information can be combined to automatically select who to reach and how. Dialing strings, pager numbers, and message disposition can all be pre-programmed.
Other features include:
- Scripting: The power of PI scripting, unlimited fields, logical branching, data entry control, database lookups are all available in a message template
- Self-documenting: Every transaction from an alpha page to a dial out is automatically documented with time, date, and agents’ initials. The message history provides a complete audit trail on every message including edited field changes
- Definable message templates: Within each account, multiple message displays, the fax export, the alpha message, and the printed message are custom defined from the message database
- Screen configurability: Each workstation has its own custom configuration for window size, position, colors, fonts, and pitch, field choices in message index, action screen index, message history, and answer phrase
- Programmable hotkeys: Hotkeys and descriptions customized to your own description and your own choice of keystrokes. An easy guide is available at the touch of the space bar so that operators self-train on learning the commands
Gold Innovation Awards
idea! Communications Group — Virtual Telecommunications Staff. Enhance your company by adding a “Virtual Communications Staff.” As the telecommunications industry continues to reinvent itself, a trend is to form a new relationship with an agent. Agents are typically former industry experts, continuing in the industry by selling the products and services of many carriers, not just a single supplier. A good agent relationship becomes a partner, the call center’s “virtual telecommunications staff.” This allows options to be examined from a single non-biased view, by a partner who will help based on your criteria. Large and small businesses can benefit from this shift in the market.
A successful agent will have multiple direct relationships with major carriers, both local and long distance. In addition, they will have negotiated relationships with other agencies that fill in the rest of the direct relationships. Services can be priced and sold anywhere that carrier offers service, domestic and international. An agent is rewarded by the products and services that are implemented. Each carrier compensates its agents each month for the services installed. Not only does an agent augment call center technical staff, but also the agent does not have a direct cost. With an agent, there is the option to off-load the tedious tasks associated with managing telecommunication services, focusing on running the call center rather than trying to understand the telecommunications industry.
Having reseller agreements with most traditional and alternative phone companies, idea! Communications can become a call center’s single telecommunications contact, by placing orders, interfacing with the phone company, and providing customer service, including local and long distance.
Call Response Software – TAS Call Response Software (TAS CRS) is a Windows-based telemessaging system using the TeleVantage phone switch from Artisoft. It provides a complete telemessaging solution without the expense and frustration of dealing with proprietary hardware. It operates on Windows-based operating systems (Windows 2000 is recommended) and utilizes standard PCs and servers.
Call Response Software’s “point and click” user interface allows programming of basic features, such as automated on call scheduling, fax scheduling, Web enabling, and emailing of messages and voicemail recordings. Advanced features include employee staffing and tracking, account and dispatch color coding, pop-up alerting, remote agent routing (VoIP), follow-me call forwarding, voice logging, and one-step dialing and paging,
Call Response Software integrates with Artisoft’s TeleVantage platform, a software-based phone system that provides advanced communications technology. TeleVantage is an open systems architecture and uses Intel hardware. As part of Artisoft’s Open Communications Alliance, TAS CRS is sold in 400 offices worldwide.
In addition, local tech support is available through Artisoft’s VAR (Valued Added Reseller) network. TAS CRS also integrates with QuickBooks Pro 2003, providing a comprehensive business management tool which offers paperless invoicing deliverable via fax and email.
Silver Innovation Awards
Alston Tascom — Evolution Talk-to-Me speech recognition. Add speech recognition to IVR scripts. Callers can transfer to an agent at any time.
Amtelco — Just Say It offers voice recognition IVR in which caller responses are automatically entered into an eCreator form, along with agent entered calls.
Exacom – HIPAA server is a physically distinct server with a lockable access panel, which stores voice logs for medical accounts. The HIPAA server allows for separate retention and backups of protected information.
Startel — Intelligent Transfer allows one procedure to be used for any type of call transfer. The type of transfer is determined by the switch, based on trunk type, condition, or programming. ISDN Intelligent Transfer also provides the ability to free up valuable trunk resources by connecting two callers together, then transferring this call off the call center’s local switch back to the central office switch. The two lines that this call would typically consume are now available for receiving other customer calls while enabling the two joined parties to continue to converse for as long as necessary. This allows clients to get the features and services they want, while the call center can cut its cost in providing this service. Plus, built-in intelligence has been incorporated into this feature so that the call center can maintain control of the call. This includes the ability to determine if the call patching was successful before transferring the call to the local phone switch. Answer supervision enables non-completed calls to be rerouted and sent back to the call center for further assistance.
Bronze Innovation Awards
Almond Hill Enterprises —Turbo-On-Call is an on-call scheduling tool for the medical professional. It is a stand-alone system that allows a medical office staff to maintain the physician’s on-call schedule in a Web-centralized calendar. It offers secure, real-time accessibility by the office, the physician, and call center. It provides month, two-week, week, and day views and delivers easy navigation with full reporting and exporting features. Turbo-On-Call requires no capital outlay, no special hardware, no software to load or maintain and works with any Internet-enabled telemessaging or call center equipment. It also integrates with TurboSchedule to create a unified scheduling system.
Amtelco – eConferenceLink provides webinar conferencing. As an Amtelco hosted Web-based service, eConferenceLink is available to any call center with Internet access. Users can purchase time for conferences by selecting the number of seats needed. Call centers can then rent these seats to their clients, providing a profitable new service.
eConferenceLink can be used to have multiple presentations or training sessions active, with up to 20 participants in each conference. eConferenceLink provides a slide view, a share screen view, and a Web share view. Voice conferencing is available using Amtelco’s Infinity conference bridge.
Amtelco — Infinity Enhancements, including high-resolution Windows telephone agent, message spell check, TTY/TDD interface for hearing impaired, and unified reporting. Version 5.2 is the latest release in the Infinity series and includes new features designed to make call centers more efficient and more valuable to your clients. These new features include high-resolution Windows Telephone Agent, which features a high-resolution mode allowing all current information to be displayed, plus new information, and features such as operator and supervisor chat, a new real-time bulletin board, reader board, account in use with more information, ANI name, and much more.
Amtelco – T1/E1 ISDN Board is a high-density, single-slot PC card capable able to handle ISDN-PRI, T1, and E1. The card comes in four-port and eight-port configurations.
Phone and Wireless – CenturiMessenger offers messaging in one platform including conventional unified messaging functions such as voice mail and unified communications such as call screen, follow-me services, one number access, and conferencing.
SqueezeMeIn — Multi-language online scheduling provides the ability to view an online schedule in multiple languages. Agents can take appointments their native language and users can access the schedule in their language of choice.
Startel – Online training includes two agent-training modules accessible from any Internet-connected PC. To help customers make the most out of their systems, Startel is creating a series of interactive online training lessons. Whether instructing new personnel or existing staff, the training is designed to enable users to access instruction from their own environment when it is most convenient for them. These lessons can be used by Startel system owners to help them and their agents stay current with all of the features and functionality that the system offers.
TASbiller — Since the introduction of TASbiller’s Windows version in June 2002, many new features have been added. One of the more important ones is the new graph feature, which creates a line chart of several statistical items. This feature allows users to visually observe historic call activity on any customer account, and profitability, instantly at the click of a mouse. It is also available on a business analysis window, allowing the TAS owner to see trends in his or her overall business activity and profitability. This is in addition to the popular profitability analysis and “what if” rate changes.
[From Connection Magazine – September 2003]