Call centres move towards IP

The networking giant Cisco hopes to shift IP-enabled call centre products through the channel and lure buyers away from...

The networking giant Cisco hopes to shift IP-enabled call centre products through the channel and lure buyers away from traditional automatic call distribution solutions.

Cisco is to launch a new version of its Intelligent Contact Management (ICM) 4.6 software and CTI Object Server in the third quarter of this year. Tim Stone, EMEA marketing manger for contact centre services, said, "We are definitely seeing a shift towards IP [Internet Protocol] within contact centres and we are best-able to meet that requirement."

Stone believes that Cisco's channel can sway data managers who already use Cisco switches as a way into the call centre market. "The only way we are going to be successful is to sell to data guys or the senior managers," he added.

Jamie Clyde, a senior consultant with call centre experts Round, said, "Cisco tend to make a lot of noise due to their success in the networking industry but it is still a very small player in the wider call centre market.

"Although data mangers may be seduced by the future promise of IP, at the moment few are prepared to trust mission-critical operations to the largely unproven IP telephony solutions."

Round helped to establish call centres for One-2-One, Virgin and Norwich Union and believes that IP telephony is suitable for some organisations but is not always the best solution.

"The big ACD players such as Lucent, Rockwell and Nortel have all invested heavily in research and development and most of the current system will have features which are often unused but are comparable to the current IP solutions," Clyde commented.

Clyde believes IP telephony solutions will rise in popularity and eventually eclipse ACD solutions but this is "still a long way off, maybe five years". Instead, he predicts that IP solutions will appeal mainly to "green field" sites or contact centres that are less centred on voice traffic.

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