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Are business processes the resolution solution?

Call centers should turn to a business process approach to drive down costs and increase sales opportunities, according to one analyst. With its Resolution application, Kana is hoping to provide the answer.

With many customers touching a company through different channels in search of different products, it's difficult providing a consistent level of service.

According to Esteban Kolsky, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., the solution lies in a customer interaction hub, where all transactions across all channels pass.

"You need to take a business process approach to customer service," Kolsky said. "It's not just giving agents money and having them answer e-mails."

Yet, few organizations have made the transition to this approach, and CRM vendors are slow in providing an application that fully embraces the model, he said. However, Kana, in Menlo Park, Calif., has made the first step with its new Resolution application, Kolsky said.

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"This is not as much a feature release as a business model," Kolsky said. "All transactions across all channels should come through a central hub. Kana's release is the first step."

Resolution helps call center agents by leveraging processes and its knowledge base to reduce the cost of service while improving consistency, said H.A. Schade, vice president of products. The application extends an agent's reach beyond informational interactions.

"What we've added is the need to take it to the next level and actually do the business process we had just guided the agent through," Schade said.

For example, a wireless telephone customer who is moving to another state and needs to transfer their cell phone to a new number would need an agent to go into a knowledge base and open multiple transactional systems to accomplish the request. Resolution provides a transactional engine that can read through other enterprise applications and execute the task, Schade said.

In the past six months, Kolsky said he has seen the idea of a business process-focused call center gain momentum.

"We've been hearing about this from a large number of our clients who aren't calling it the same thing but are coming up with same requirements," Kolsky said. "They're saying, we need a business process approach, we have too many products tied together."

A centralized, process-driven solution to resolve issues can reduce costs. A customer returning an airline ticket online typically is left with only a confirmation code and doesn't know immediately if they've had they're money returned or when a refund ticket could be used, Kolsky said. On the other hand, by contacting a call center agent, they get all the information they need, thus driving more people to the costlier channel.

With improved process management, call center times go down, ultimately reducing the cost of live agents. Also, agents can have quicker access to the information they need and can be guided more easily and consistently. It also provides opportunities for suggesting intelligent up-sell and cross-sell of products, Kolsky said.

"For financial services, that's the biggest reason they're taking on these projects," Kolsky said. "They're embedding cross-sell and up-sell. It's the same thing for communications. They want to be able to create this concept of packages but they need this multi-channel solution."

The up-sell opportunity is what has ADC Telecommunications, a telecom equipment provider in Eden Prairie, Minn., interested in Kana Resolution. ADC has been using Kana IQ for the past five years, but now relies on individual agents to determine the appropriate offer, said Candyce Anderson, project manager.

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