Microsoft buys its way into call centers

Tim Greene, Network World (US)
09 Apr 2008

Microsoft and Aspect Software are working on a unified communications-based contact center that integrates with Microsoft's Office Communications Server 2007, potentially pushing the joint products into use in Fortune 100 companies that are already Aspect customers.

The two companies announced at VoiceCon Orlando 2008 that they have made an alliance to develop the interoperability and for Aspect to push it as the lead call-center option to its customers. Microsoft has also made an equity investment of an undisclosed size in Aspect, the companies say. (Learn more about IP-based contact centers.)

Aspect already has a free-standing unified communications contact center software platform called Unified IP. Microsoft's OCS is voice-enabled and can act as the primary voice server as well as adding presence and unified messaging to the mix.

These two factors can tell call agents seeking help answering callers' questions what experts are available and by what means. So an agent could instant message an expert while on the line with a customer to get an answer. The agent could also conference in the expert or transfer the call.

The value to businesses using the platform would be a better batting average for resolving customer issues on the first call, which is a benchmark for effective call centers.

The OCS-interoperable Unified IP platform will be available later this year, the Aspect says. It will take longer to incorporate Microsoft's voice capabilities in the platform, the company says. The goal is for the two platforms to scale to large deployments.

Aspect would continue to provide call center features such as call distribution and quality management as well as reporting capabilities.

In order to help deploy joint Microsoft-Aspect platforms, Aspect is setting up a service organization that will tune the software to the needs of individual businesses.

Aspect Software is majority owned by Golden Gate Capital, a San Francisco-based private equity firm.

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