Microsoft expands its way into the contact center

With the latest release of its Customer Care Framework, Microsoft is counting on SOA to move it into the contact center market.

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Microsoft today extended its foray into the contact center market with the latest release of the Customer Care Framework. The latest release of the software enables customers to more tightly integrate their service channels such as voice, instant messaging and e-mail to improve customer service levels.

Web services provide Microsoft an entry into the contact center market through its .NET development platform. The framework integrates Microsoft's Office applications, back office systems and contact center applications on the agent desktop, keeping agents from having to toggle back and forth between tools. It integrates through services oriented architectures (SOAs).

"It's a software product that enables operators to deploy service oriented architectures in their customer care environments," said Vish Thirumurthy, group product manager for the communications sector at Microsoft. "As the industry trend moves toward SOA, one of the drivers for us was to use the .NET platform on the stack. We have a rich presentation layer."

As contact centers grapple with an ever increasing number of channels through which they communicate with customers, integrating an e-mail and voice mail from a customer has become a significant challenge.

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"In the customer care space there are a lot of systems that store data -- CRM, trouble ticketing, order entry, order management," Thirumurthy said. "This data needs to be pulled out and made accessible to the customer care agent. We come into play where we are about seamlessly encapsulating the back-end systems and making that xml data available to front-end applications. It automates business processes moving away from manual."

For example, customers who have logged into bank portal and entered their account information will not have to reenter it if they launch a chat session. The Customer Care Framework 2005 features its own self-service portal and interactive voice response system that allows customer to access account and billing information, order new services or resolve business problems.

Microsoft first launched its Customer Care Framework in May and currently has 18 customers running 26 projects, according to Thirumurthy.

One of its early customers, BT Germany, which installed the Customer Care Framework in mid-2005 to support its mobile business, has seen the time it takes to process a new mobile phone contract reduced by 80%, according to Peter Hascher, head of IT development services at BT Germany.

With this release, Microsoft has also expanded its partnerships.

Microsoft has partnered with Accenture as its system integrator, with Genesys for speech and voice applications integration and CosmoCom for Internet protocol integration, Thirumurthy said.

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