Outsourcer rates Cisco's enhanced IP Contact Center

Cisco's latest enhancements to its Internet Protocol Contact Center (IPCC) software are paying dividends for customer support outsourcer vCustomer.

Automatic call distributor (ACD) call center systems can be expensive and inconvenient in a multi-location call center environment. Cisco has announced the latest enhancements to its Internet Protocol Contact Center (IPCC) software, which the company is touting as an alternative to ACD systems.

One of the enhancements to IPCC is the increased ability to integrate with other applications from the Cisco Intelligent Contact Management (ICM) 4.6 software. ICM can now plug into any kind of database, using Java, COM, C and C++, said Sam Kotha, senior manager of product marketing at Cisco's Customer Contact Business Unit.

"In traditional call centers, the call center has a specific location," he said. IPCC allows companies to implement the software at one site and use it across several locations.

vCustomer, which offers outsourced customer support, uses IPCC to connect its two 500-seat call centers in India with its Renton, Wash. center. The Seattle-based outsourcer implemented the software six months ago.

VCustomer's cost savings are about four times higher with IPCC than with traditional voice methods, according to Jeff Wasierski, vCustomer's director of telecommunications.

The company incurred the costs of putting in a data network. This included routers, switches and the cost of IPCC and licensing. The cost of IPCC is comparable to ACD systems, but the main component of IPCC only had to be purchased for one location, unlike an ACD system, Wasierski said.

Another aspect of the new IPCC is the ability to use private branch exchange (PBX) equipment in regional offices, Kotha said.

ACD phones usually cost $1,000 apiece, Wasierski said. With Cisco's call manager, vCustomer can use cheaper PBX phones but receive all the functionality of ACD through IPCC. Additionally, line costs are cheaper due to IP compression, upwards of four to one, he said.

As a future enhancement, Wasierski would like to see Cisco IP phones with an HTML-enabled liquid crystal display (LCD), to use a Web browser interface. This would allow the call center to use a screen on the IP phone and CTI-enable the screen. Agents would then be able to use the phone in addition to a desktop setup, he said.

A typical rapid deployment for a small to midsize call center is less than one week, Kotha said.

Because it is a much larger operation, vCustomer's implementation took 45 days and needed to work out some bugs, according to Wasierski. Most of the bugs were related to configuration, such as integrating the call center with IP phones.

"It surprised me how easy it was to use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology," Wasierski said. Overall, the integration and the user interface were easy to use, and the VoIP phones and the IPCC environment were user friendly, he said.

IPCC costs $50,000 and includes computer telephony integration (CTI) capabilities and 25 agent licenses. Each additional license is $1,100.

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