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Customer interaction centers in 2002

2001 has been a year of economic upheaval and uncertainty in all sectors of IT, and CRM was no different. SearchCRM asked its resident experts to weigh in on the changes that have taken place in their area of expertise over the past year, and to make their predictions on what will be hot in CRM and business intelligence in 2002.

SearchCRM: What are your predictions for customer interaction centers in 2002?

Bryant Downey:I expect strong growth in Customer Interaction Centers (CIC) over the next 18 months. This growth will primarily come from two areas: e-mail and VoIP.

The volume of e-mail continues to grow. Companies of all sizes, large and small, are struggling with how to effectively manage this influx. This is the single largest opportunity for CICs.

VoIP will start to hit its stride over the next 12 to 18 months. Unfortunately, we have heard so much hype over that last several years that some have started to doubt whether VoIP would ever become mainstream. I believe that we are finally getting the hype behind us and companies that have been trialing and testing VoIP will begin to perform actual implementations. The value proposition for VoIP is not "Click-To-Talk" (the capability for a customer browsing at a web site to click on a button and speak with an agent through their microphone/headset). The value is in being able to cost-effectively network multiple CIC locations together and take advantage of human resources that were previously not available.

SearchCRM:What was supposed to be a big deal in customer interaction centers this past year, but sort of fizzled out?

Bryant Downey: VoIP. In the consumer space, adoption of broadband technologies has been much slower than was predicted. This is evidenced by the number of DSL providers (DSL is needed for effective VoIP) that have disappeared over the last 12 months.

Without broadband capability, a consumer is limited on the types of Web and data-based communication services that they can utilize. VoIP over a 26K dialup connection is just not up to par as far as CIC's are concerned. Even cable modems lack the upload speed to make VoIP effective. So capabilities like "Click-To-Talk", etc. are not available to enough of the market to make them viable.

From the enterprise perspective, there is significant value in being able to network CICs. VoIP permits this to be accomplished far more cost effectively than using traditional PSTN technologies. The challenge in the enterprise has been the knowledge divide between voice and data technologies. Companies are recognizing the need to train or acquire people that are knowledgeable about both technologies. This will permit the rate of VoIP based implementations to increase.

For more information, check out searchCRM's Best Web Links on Call Center/Customer Interaction Centers.

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