It’s That Time of Year Again…
Philip Fuller, President
After finishing the first quarter of 2010 I am honored to be able to provide all of you, our valued customers, with this edition of the VEXIS Voice Quarterly Newsletter. Thanks to the addition of several new customers and the continued business from our existing customers VEXIS enjoyed continued growth in the first quarter of 2010, up 30% from the same period in 2009. On behalf of everyone at VEXIS Systems we thank you for your patronage and for allowing us the opportunity to continue to assist in the growth and improvement your business. We continue to see strong growth in our new product lines from Genesys and Avaya as well as the explosive growth of our Envoy product suite. We are continuing to expand our business partner relationships and our solutions experts continue to achieve new certifications across all of the manufacturer products we support.
As always we strive to include relevant topics and information that we think are useful to all individuals, not just those who handle the technical aspects of the contact center but also business users who are looking for ideas to improve application performance and analytics. To that purpose we have compiled several articles in this newsletter and we invite you to follow these links to read more about new solutions and information that can help improve your business:
• To find out more about our schedules at upcoming industry trade shows such as the Genesys Users conference (G-force), and Avaya’s User Conference (INAAU) check out David Baker’s article.
• Read Jacob Martin’s article to see how an Extended Application Warranty can help make your support dollars go further and provide more bang for the buck.
• Keith Rolle, our resident Speech Solutions Guru, bucks the industry trends and explores the principles of Data-Driven VUI Design and why it so important to the success of your speech solution.
• Richard Wolff has the latest update on the Envoy product suite and focuses in on the extensibility and portability of the Envoy SoftPhone.
• Andrea McCasland revisits the discussion on CTI in the Contact Center and the impact of leveraging a SoftPhone to improve your ROI.
Finally, if you are new to our newsletter or just need a refresher, I recommend you go back and check out some of the other great articles that your VEXIS team has provided in previous newsletters, I promise it will be worth your time.
Thanks again to all of our customers for entrusting VEXIS to deliver and support your contact center solutions. We look forward to the opportunity of working with you to achieve all of your contact center goals and objectives this year.
Key Reasons an Extended Application Warranty Makes Sense
Jacob Martin, Vice President of Operations and Solution Services
In 2009 we announced significant enhancements to our Extended Application Warranty Program. These enhancements are designed to add even more value and convenience to the high quality service and support that our customers have grown to expect from VEXIS Systems. Since that announcement, we have many new customers and new contacts within existing customer organizations. Therefore, I’d like to take some time to reiterate many of the key benefits that are included in our Extended Application Warranty Program.
Platform support is very important to protect your investment; however, it is just as important to protect all parts of the solution including the applications. Self service applications tend to be thought of as a one-time development effort and after the applications are deployed, the systems transition into IT operations mode where only system availability and basic functionality are monitored. If the systems are up and taking calls, little focus is placed on the actual performance of the application functionality.
Much time is spent gathering requirements and designing the self service application. However, it is impossible to forecast exactly how your customers will interact with the application once it has been deployed. A plan for maintaining your self service applications is just as important as the initial design. Just like live agents, self service applications need to adapt. Live agents are constantly trained on how to efficiently and effectively serve your customers. Likewise, applications need to be regularly reviewed and tweaked to make sure task automation and customer experience are optimized. VEXIS recognizes this need and has bundled many of the services our customers need to keep their deployed applications operating correctly and at peak performance into the Extended Application Warranty program.
At VEXIS, we utilize our proven VIP methodology for application maintenance, including application support, system upgrades, application enhancements and speech tuning. Typically, we begin with a full system and application checkup, then corrective maintenance, evolving to adaptive and preventive maintenance. For speech applications, a complete maintenance speech tuning cycle is also included to ensure the existing grammars are optimized and performing at the highest recognition rates. Our years of experience with a wide range of contact center technologies ensures that this methodology works and is adapted to your company’s specific requirements.
Benefits of an Extended Application Warranty
• Increased predictability and performance of applications
• Significant reduction of application maintenance costs
• Takes the guess work out of budget planning
• Lowered risks of extended system and application outages
• Faster deployment of moves, adds and changes to existing applications
• Opportunities for new self service applications and technology are uncovered
A VEXIS Extended Application Warranty provides the most cost-effective method for maintaining your applications.
By budgeting for and including the Extended Application Warranty as part of your annual support plan, not only can you ensure your applications are functioning correctly and free of defects, but you can keep your applications up-to-date and properly tuned.
According to our most recent customer support audits, we discovered many customers may have inadvertently let their application support coverage lapse, so please be on the lookout for more information from your VEXIS account team.
Data-Driven VUI Design – Look to “The Data”
Keith Rolle, Chief VUI Architect
When you decide to build a speech-enabled IVR application you hear a lot about the Voice User Interface, or VUI, and the process of designing it, which we call VUI Design. You hear that good VUI design is a critical success factor for your speech application. So you’d like to know a little more about what constitutes good VUI design and how you can be sure your VUI will get it.
Unfortunately, there are lots of ideas about what constitutes good VUI design, and lots of arguing about who is right. Most likely there is no single “best” approach to VUI design. The one thing that everyone does agree on is that good VUI design is user-oriented.
We want to use speech because it is so easy and natural, but computers have no native talent for it at all. A caller’s patience runs out fast when any two year old could have understood what they just said, but the computer cannot. That’s why VUI design is a key success factor for your speech application. Done right, it increases both automation and customer satisfaction. The question is how to get it done right. The answer is to embed the caller viewpoint into the entire design process, from start to finish.
The VEXIS Data Driven Design™ Process
Let’s leave VUI design aside for moment, and talk about our overall design process, which we call VEXIS Data Driven Design. It has a simple mantra: “Follow the data.” What this means is: Focus on the data at every step of the design process.
When we say “the data”, we mean exactly that – the actual data elements that the application will read and write to/from your databases, such as DateOfService, MailingAddress, CurrentBalance, etc. We also mean the data transactions that will be used by the application to access those elements.
Why focus on the data? There are three good reasons:
Reason #1: Your data encapsulates your business. Think about it. What you store on your backend is exactly the information you need to conduct your business. Furthermore, your business rules are already built into the ways you access that data (such as CSR desktop, or web server) and give customers access to it (such as mailed statements, or web GUI).
Reason #2: Data Driven Design is not new. It is a well-established software design practice. From a software perspective, “the data” is simply the inputs and outputs from the application, which always play a central role in software design:
• The core of a high-level functional design (the first stage in the Data Driven design process) is the list of data transactions that are in scope for the application.
• The next design stage, the callflow design, lists every piece of data that is input by the caller and every piece of data that is played out to the caller or used to drive the application logic. It defines the inputs and outputs for each data transaction, and shows the order in which it all occurs.
• The final design stage, the Detailed Design Specification which provides the complete application design, is really just the full details about “the data”. We specify the application logic according to data input by the caller or retrieved about the caller. We write out the exact scripting of the prompts based on the data we want to get from the caller and the data we want to announce to them. Every single fact about every piece of data that we need to know to build the application is included.
Reason #3: There’s one more really great thing about Data Driven Design – when you apply it to VUI Design, it produces straightforward and simple designs which are highly usable and efficient for the caller.
VUI Design By “The Data”
We were surprised to find that a software design methodology worked well for VUI design; which is supposed to be all about “human factors”. But it’s an obvious approach if you think about it.
The reason is that your callers already know “the data”. Even if they have never used the IVR, they know what the data elements are from interacting with CSRs and from the way the data is presented in mailings and on the web. In order to make your business work, you have already organized “the data” in a way that customers can understand, and you can leverage that now.
However, the caller’s view of the data is usually much more simplistic and intuitive than the view of the data from an Information Technology (IT) perspective (which is the reason you need VUI Design in the first place). In order to account for this within our Data Driven Design process, we add the user view into “the data” that guides the entire process.
For example, in the functional design, the data transactions must be as clear from a user point of view as they are from a logical point of view. Keep them familiar whenever possible (i.e. do the same kinds of things a CSR would do). And keep them simple and understandable.
In the callflow design, make sure the data elements are ones the callers are familiar with and present them in a familiar order. Only collect relevant data. Use the same name for a data element that is used by the CSRs and in your mailed materials.
In the Detailed Design Specification, focus the scripting on clear elicitation of the data you want the caller to input (for example, don’t put too many options in one menu) and clear announcement of the data you output to the caller (for example, repeat confirmation numbers a couple of times in the outgoing message).
By adding the caller’s viewpoint of the data to the Data Driven Design process, we build usability into the process itself. If you stay focused on the data from the caller perspective, the VUI Design almost takes care of itself.
I like to imagine one day every year at VEXIS where the design team would all come in wearing fur shorts and carrying huge clubs that say “It’s the data, stupid”. Then we would proceed to bash each other over the head with the clubs to remind us to focus on the data for the next year. Of course, we don’t do this – we’re not allowed to wear fur shorts to the office. But, seriously, at VEXIS, when we encounter design issues, we do always try to remember to look to “the data” for understanding and inspiration!
David Baker, Vice President of Sales
April will be a busy month at VEXIS as we prepare for G-Force (Genesys Users Group Conference) and INAAU (International Alliance of Avaya Users, Inc.).
G-Force will be held at the Chicago Hilton from April 13th-15th. VEXIS will once again be a Bronze Sponsor at the event. We will also have a booth set up so if you plan on attending the event please stop by and say hello and get caught up on all the latest happenings at VEXIS.
INAAU will be held at the Colorado Convention Center from April 18th-22nd. This year’s event will be even bigger than past events due to the acquisition of Nortel by AVAYA. They are estimating over 4,000 attendees for this year’s event. VEXIS will be walking the floor at this conference. If you plan on attending INAAU please let us know so that we can schedule some time with you.
If you are unable to attend either of these events but would like to learn more about how VEXIS can deliver a Genesys or AVAYA solution for you please contact your local sales person or contact our corporate headquarters at 918-663-8080 and say “sales”.
As always, thank you for your continued business and support. We strive for excellence each day with our customers and prospects.
Envoy® Updates – Building a “Better” Soft Phone, Part One
Richard Wolff, Director of Software R&D
The concept of the “soft phone” has been around a long time – so why do they all still look the same (boring) and why do they still support basic call control only? Sure, you can put software running on your agent desktop that offers some call control functionality, and maybe it even incorporates a data display for data that is associated with the active call. But does that soft phone work as if it were a part of your custom desktop applications? Can you add new call data fields to it with no programming required? Can you embed it in your custom applications? Can you make it “alert” other applications on your desktop about CTI related events from the switch? Can it exchange data with your other applications? Can you continue to use it if you were to move your phone system to another switch vendor?
If you answered “no” to any of the questions above, you are not alone; unfortunately most call centers have to “put up with” a vendor specific soft phone. A soft phone that is a separate application – that is necessary – yet gets relegated to doing nothing more than logging your agent into an ACD and perhaps being used for some basic call control features. But why should you “put up with” an application that runs on all your agent desktops and is one of a handful of critical touch points within your business’ customer interactions? What if, you could have a soft phone made for your environment – what would be on your wish list?
Event Driven – The Envoy® Soft Phone is very efficient because it operates within an architecture that supports the “push” model. So rather than the normal soft phone being “blind” to the switch state and thus trying to issue a command to the switch and synchronously wait for a response, Envoy® Soft Phone is “notified” about events happening on the switch; it stays “informed” – after all, telephony events can occur at any time. Envoy® Soft Phone stays synchronized with things such as call states, data changes associated with a call, CTI link status, it can even be notified when other agents join or leave the monitored domain. A great advantage of the push model is also that the efficiency of the network is improved; rather than clients polling the CTI link for “new” events – unnecessarily putting more traffic on the network – the Envoy® Soft Phone is alerted to events only when the events actually occur.
Event Subscription – Building upon the above stated support of event driven code and the push model architecture, we can further optimize a soft phone client of the framework such that it only requests to be notified of specific events. In other words, the Envoy® Soft Phone can subscribe for events on a named basis so as to only be notified of events it is interested in receiving or processing. Event subscription allows for further reductions in network traffic – for instance, a soft phone may be interested in a “Conference” event while an IVR port running the same soft phone application logic may not want this event because the IVR will never do a conference. So the IVR can choose to set its’ “event mask” to inform the server to filter out conference event notifications; this will not only save network traffic but will also reduce server side processing as the server would otherwise process the event and build a notification to be sent to the client.
Event Actions – In order for a soft phone to show a status or call state, the telephony event (that happened to change the status / state) is going to need to be transported from the switch to the CTI link and finally to the soft phone in order for the display to be accurate. So why settle for simple display only logic? The Envoy® Soft Phone combined with advanced event processing logic in Envoy® Server can be configured to perform operations – based upon events – thus taking full advantage of the fact that the event “occurred”. The results of this “event action” can be transported up the wire to the soft phone just as easily as the original event notification. The Envoy® Soft Phone takes full advantage of this built in event notification mechanism that is already in place to provide more power to your desktop applications.
Custom Data Integration – Using the previous building blocks above – one can see the true power of a push model combined with configurable “event actions”. Now your previously passive soft phone is an active desktop element – receiving telephony event notifications that can be associated with results of “event action” operations. So why not make this “fact” of telephony events work for you? Use event actions combined with your own data stores. The Envoy® Server can efficiently manage a pool of connections to your data store. This model is much more efficient than having every single desktop client connect to your data store. Not only can Envoy® Server manage the connections for you, it can route data sets to a specific clients much the same way the telephony event itself is delivered to the correct agent desktop. In a “normal” soft phone (with no event action capability), once the soft phone is aware of the inbound call, a backend system must be queried (usually by a secondary application, not the soft phone) for associated data. With Envoy® Server the backend system query can be done when the event occurs, prior to delivering to the agent desktop. Now think about it – less clients hitting your data store and also less network trips to get the same data. What if an IVR, a visual event monitor (or reader board), and a supervisor panel are all interested in the same event? This would usually mean the CTI Server or CTI link would need to produce three events and send them to three different clients. Why process an event three times and then build the same message three times, once each for the IVR port, the event monitor, and the supervisor panel? Envoy® Server processes the event one time, builds the notification one time, and then multi-casts the notification to all interested parties. Envoy® Server multi-cast – the data store and network optimizations really stack up fast now! Couple that with better data integration…
Hang on to your seats for Part 2 of this article and then stay tuned for additional “Envoy® Updates” in the next VEXIS Voice!
Call Center Technology – Making Your Screen “Pop!”
Andrea McCasland, Senior Project and Quality Assurance Manager
So, a few months ago the VEXIS Voice discussed the benefits of CTI in the article Contact Center Technology – So What!?! Let’s Talk Benefits! Let’s Talk CTI! One of the many benefits profiled was screen pop technology. If you recall, a main benefit of screen pops is “hard” dollar savings in the reduction of agent talk time. Also mentioned were “soft” dollar savings of customer satisfaction. Well, what if you could make screen pops even better by adding additional dollars to the bottom line and better customer service just by adding a complementary technology to it! You’d say, “Unbelievable!” Right? Well, it’s true! By adding a softphone to a screen pop – you add a “one – two” punch to your call center savings and customer satisfaction! Just what the ROI needed!
Okay, so now you ask “Is there a “one – two” punch screen pop and SoftPhone out there that will work with MY call center technology?” And, we at VEXIS say “Yep, there is!”
Over the last few months you’ve been getting updates in the VEXIS Voice by Richard Wolff, VEXIS’ Director of Software R&D on VEXIS Envoy® and VEXIS Envoy® Softphone (ESP). This is the “one – two” punch you’ve been looking for your call center!
Okay, let’s back up. First, why screen pop? Second, why screen pop with a SoftPhone? And third, why Envoy®?
First: Well, as you know from reading the Let’s Talk CTI article, there are many benefits to screen pop technology that hit the bottom line directly. From a reduction in agent talk time to savings in telephony costs the hard dollar savings absolutely cannot be discounted. They can be significant! Also, screen pop technology can be flexible. For example, how about saving even more agent talk time and increasing customer satisfaction even more by adding a flag to the screen pop that shows the caller has already been authenticated!?! Even more, how about having options of the screen pop data to display to the agent screen? An example of this is that the displayed data can be data of your choosing! So, if you don’t want ANI to display, but would like to display only Account Number, you can do that. Further, configurable options to transfer the caller and related call attached data to either another agent or even back into the IVR. Flexibility to meet your call center’s needs is the type of flexibility that a screen pop package should offer.
Second: Now that you’re convinced that screen pop IS the way to go for your call center, let’s add a softphone. What if you didn’t need that hard phone on the desktop? What if all the call control could be right on the agent workstation? From logging in, to entering AUX codes, to ACW, softphone adds flexibility for your agents. Your agent can now do everything on the workstation with no need to move between the mouse and the hard phone! The whole point of the SoftPhone is to not only improve agent productivity, but to SUBSTANTIALLY improve agent productivity.
So, how easy is would it be to set up a home agent with a softphone package? There’s some hard dollars savings right there! If you never considered home agents because of the cost, now you can.
Along with agent satisfaction from an increase in productivity, a SoftPhone can increase customer satisfaction. Your customer interaction with your agent is also more productive because your agent has everything needed to assist that customer right at his/her fingertips, so to speak.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a very large benefit of the SoftPhone and that is reduced telephony costs. Not only are there savings in toll charges due to increased productivity, but there are also savings in hardware – or desktop phone sets. So, with agent satisfaction and productivity increasing, customer satisfaction increasing, and costs decreasing, you can see why adding a softphone to your screen pop is the “one – two” punch you have been looking for to benefit your call center.
Third: Why VEXIS Envoy® and VEXIS Envoy SoftPhone (ESP)? The best thing I can say is for all the points made above. The Envoy® suite of products WILL increase your agent’s productivity, deliver customer satisfaction, reduce telephony costs AND more! The ESP is a flexible tool for your call center. It can not only control your calls, but also can be your screen pop of customer, call attached data. If you have a screen pop within your organization, the ESP can facilitate your screen pop, while allowing call control. ESP also makes excellent use of the agent workstation “real estate” by having a hidden key pad. The agent can expand the keypad when ready to use it. As well, many features of the ESP are configurable to your business needs. AUX codes can be specific to your call center, as can ACW time and/ or whether an agent is auto-magically put into ACW for a determined amount of time. But, best of all, how about a configurable transfer list; configurable to agent, agent group, or to an IVR queue for IVR reinsertion points! I could go on and on about the benefits of the VEXIS Envoy® suite, but I would take all the fun from your VEXIS Account Executive.
So, call your VEXIS Account Executive for your VEXIS CTI assessment and find out how the VEXIS Envoy® suite of products can provide your call center with a “one –two” punch for savings and customer satisfaction!
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