Cisco Sets Sights on Call Centers

The San Jose, Calif., telecom gear maker upgrades call center software to help companies better manage traffic over advanced networks.
Cisco Systems is introducing new versions of two Internet protocol applications to help companies better manage ever-evolving call center models.

Until recently, a call center consisted of scores of agents in a central facility answering phones. But new online help tools and ability of network managers to add off-site agents during peak times have altered the equation.

"The beauty of (Cisco's approach) is that it embraces the extension of traditional centers with expanded capabilities, as well as a leading-edge center with a distributed, IP-based customer service infrastructure," said Sheila McGee-Smith, president of McGee-Smith Analytics, a Pittstown, N.J., research firm.

"We were looking to add a large number of agents to our existing call center, while expanding and increasing our ability to interact with our customers through channels other than the phone," said Frank O'Connor, CTO of YHD Foxtons, a fast-growing real estate company that tested the offerings.

Specifically, the products are: IP Contact Center (IPCC) Enterprise Edition 5.0, featuring contact routing, network-to-desktop computer telephony and multichannel contact management for centers with 50 to several thousand seats; and Intelligent Contact Manager, providing advanced reporting, routing and streamlined administration capabilities.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company said the products will be available for shipment in late February, 2003. Pricing begins at $1,000 per agent.

Cisco believes there is potential in the call center market as large companies seek to reduce overhead costs and deal with customer questions and complaints more efficiently.

The deal comes after Cisco announced a partnership with Yahoo! to target small and medium businesses, which previously may have avoided its networking hardware and software because of cost concerns.

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