Recently I completed a benchmark research project into the adoption of a contact center in the cloud, which I defined as the combination of contact center-related communications, applications and analytics in the cloud. Furthermore I defined communications in the cloud as the systems to manage interactions, inbound and outbound, through different communication channels: telephony, email, post, web-based chat, mobile chat, web-based messages, video, mobile apps and social media. The research shows that organizations are increasingly adopting cloud-based systems to support customer expectations to interact through the channels of their choice. At the recent Ventana Research Innovation Summit I outlined why I think the only practical and affordable way for organizations to meet these objectives is to adopt integrated, cloud-based communication systems and services from one of the increasing number of vendors coming to market with such solutions.
One such vendor is Altitude Software – not one of the best-known vendors in this market, probably because it is originates from Portugal. It has operated since 1993, now has offices in 17 countries (mostly in Europe and South America) and has 1,100 live installations in approximately 80 countries, with 300,000 users. All its systems have been developed in-house so have the advantage that they are tightly integrated. Its main product is Altitude uCI 8, a modular set of applications that manage phone, email, chat, SMS/text and social media (Facebook and Twitter). All of these are managed from a single queue that uses a single set of rules to route each interaction to an available agent with the required skills to handle that type of interaction. The rules are at the top end of what I term intelligent routing and can be built to route based on agent skills, customer data extracted from a CRM or other system, or previous interactions – for example, an inbound tweet can be routed to the person who replied to similar tweets from the same customers or tweets in general. The applications can be integrated with a range of existing ACD/PBX systems, plus the product also includes its own software-based, SIP-based virtual switch. The product also includes a unified dialer that can work in predictive mode to optimize outbound call campaigns.
Altitude has partnered to develop an innovative solution that integrates Facebook and Twitter into an organization’s customer service activities. Customers can submit service requests through Facebook and Twitter, on a fixed or mobile device. Requests go into the universal queue, and each is routed to an agent that has the skills to deal with the request. Agents are presented with all the current and historical information they need to resolve a request, which can then be posted back to the customer on their Facebook or Twitter page. Supporting this as an end-to-end process, plus integration though the universal queue, means that social media service not only becomes a realizable capability but it is managed within an overall multimedia customer service strategy.
To achieve this integration, Altitude uses another of its distinguishing capabilities – its unified agent desktop, which allows organizations to build desktop systems that enable users to handle multiple types of interactions, including social media, all through a user-specific, single-user interface. It supports access to information stored in other applications, such as CRM and knowledge management, alongside current and historical information needed to resolve a customer’s issue. My recent research into the unified agent desktop shows the ability to consistently manage multiple communication channels is vital to the customer experience, so the combination of interaction management and the desktop goes a long way to support companies in these efforts. The product also includes an extensive workflow capability that allows users to employ a drag-and-drop process to define how different interactions should be handled. It allows agents to initiate offline tasks for back-office employees and route internal tasks back to the agent.
The final capability is reporting and analysis that allows users to see what is happening in real time and provides a historical perspective as well. I especially liked the capability to define business-related metrics that can be calculated on data extracted from multiple systems; for example, in the demonstration I saw, the software was able to produce a metric showing how much business an agent had closed per hour. Organizations can define their own metrics, allowing them to monitor business outcomes and operational efficiency.
All of these capabilities are managed through a single management portal, making the software easy to set up and operate. In one of its latest developments, Altitude has gone one step further to make things as easy as possible. It has released Altitude Cloud, a cloud-based service that makes the product available on demand, in the cloud.
Handling customer interactions and providing excellent customer experiences has become a lot more complex in the last 12 months. I advise companies evaluate what Altitude has to offer and how it can help with these efforts.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director