The Challenge of Multi-Application Agent Work Environment

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A few months ago I wrote about the success that some contact centers are having with unifying multiple applications into one space.  In that instance, the organization made a big move to Salesforce.com and condensed more than a dozen systems into one.  The gains they made in efficiency and contact resolution in the contact center were significant.

Unfortunately those types of gains end up out of the reach of many organizations.  There are a few reasons for this:

  • Cost:  It may be simply too expensive to undertake migrating several systems into one.  I’m not suggesting that it may not be worth the cost, but that the organization simply cannot undertake the cost for financial reasons.
  • Function:  There are some cases where it may not make sense to unify systems.  An example of this could be an inventory and shipping system:  while it makes sense to integrate data between the CRM and the Inventory Control System, those two systems are quite different functionally and often the organization doesn’t choose the system (or cannot influence that choice).
  • Application:  Some app’s don’t play well with others.  Increasingly everything is going to the browser.  Consulting shops have been doing  business converting old legacy apps or at least fronting those app’s with a .NET front end that runs in the browser.  But there remain plenty of cases where two applications that run in the browser don’t run well together in the same browser for a variety of reasons.

What I do see happening with increasing frequency is that contact centers are investing in more and larger monitors, and faster machines so that agents who use multiple applications can have them up and in front of them as they handle calls.  Falling prices on larger monitors and faster computers has accelerated this trend.

To top it all off, the ACD client application typically adds yet another open window to the equation.  So agents are managing more desktop real estate and toggling between the ACD app, the CRM, the ticket system, inventory system, etc.  While I have seen some agents become very skilled at this, those that excel don’t tend to stay agents; they move on or up.

What is needed is an agent client that runs alongside the multiple applications that agents use.  This would be my ideal:

  • It can run in multiple instances so that the agent has instant access to ACD and call control; all integrated to his/her application interfaces.
  • Call control and agent state are synchronized across the instances.
  • It’s “aware” of the applications that it’s running with in order to enable screen pops, click to dial, data capture for a quick SMS message or email, etc.

This is the kind of thinking that is guiding a lot of the integration strategy that I drive at inContact.