iSeries-centric Call Center Suite Renamed iNspire
April 19, 2005 Dan Burger
In most organizations there are silos that separate the resources applied to data assets and those that are applied to telecom. Therefore it is not surprising that the two sides do not understand one another well. The goal of call center technology is to merge the resources of these two departments so that customer service is enhanced through efficiencies gained by data accessibility. One of the prominent companies doing this in the iSeries market is iMessaging Systems.
Management of the call-flow–how and where calls are managed–requires application development skills. The development is done in a scripting language that controls the destination of calls and the voice response to calls. In the case of iMessaging, the application development process is done by either RPG or COBOL programmers and the management of the call center is handled on the iSeries. Obviously, this is why the company is well known in shops where the iSeries is the predominant platform. For companies that have the bulk of their data in iSeries databases and are happy to find more workloads for the iSeries, iMessaging has many benefits. And there’s a lot to be said for working within your comfort zone.
Because of the expanding functionality and custom-built nature of call centers, iMessaging recently renamed its telephony product suite to reflect its emphasis on full-service solutions rather than individual products. The call center suite now goes by the name iNspire. (My word processing program hates that capital N, but I guess it makes the lower case i stand out and draws attention to the iSeries-centric focus. In the days before iSeries, this product would probably have been named Inspire400, and I would have liked that better.)
“This product was developed as an interactive voice-response platform, which was called iVoice and it remains the iVoice Call Management Server,” said Rich Ollari, iMessaging’s marketing manager. “When we started bringing on more of the call center functionality, we needed a new name that described the new functionality that went beyond iVoice. We had other call center services–call management, call routing, the interactive voice response, the ACD (automatic call distribution that places calls in a rotating queue and sends them to the next available agent)–that fit into the complete picture. This renaming better explains the product and services we provide.”
In addition to iVoice, the iNspire Call Center Suite also includes iAgent. iVoice provides call controls such as call-management and call-routing. It is not uncommon for iMessaging to sell iVoice as a stand-alone interactive voice response (IVR) product. iAgent supplies the integration modules that allow features such as ACD queuing, agent control and delivery of custom “screen pops” that deliver information to customer service representatives as they talk on the phone.
According to Ollari, many small to medium sized companies are running call centers with as few as three to five customer service reps or as many as 100, but with little or no integration of telephone systems and data systems. “They are taking calls blindly,” Ollari said,. “answering what they can and passing the call down to the next guy for things they can’t answer.”
To provide better customer service, Ollari finds most companies are looking for a simple implementation, a project that often begins with a simple screen pop for a small group of customer service reps. “This is how a lot of our customers get their feet wet before building their call centers with more functionality.”
Because of increasing demands on the IT staff at many organizations makes deployment and implementation of new projects difficult, iMessaging is frequently called on to jump start projects and getting them up to speed quicker than if the company had to squeeze it into already tight schedules. Ollari estimates this occurs in 30 percent to 40 percent of the installations.
“Many companies don’t have the IT department human resources to get the application running as quickly as possible,” Ollari said, “so we will handle the project management, the creation and design of the call flows, as well as the programming and development in either RPG or COBOL. We go on site and implement and deploy the solution, with the assistance of the IT staff. We also do the education and training of staff to take over the programming and maintenance.”