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Mobile call-center management still a stretch, expert says

Siemens gets high marks for its mobile call center applications from at least one CRM industry watcher.

Siemens is aiming to gain ground in the CRM call center space with several recent product announcements. New products include HiPath ProCenter Office, HiPath ProCenter Workflow and a package of mobile CRM enhancements for its HiPath ProCenter Standard and Advanced Suites.

HiPath ProCenter Office Products are designed for small to medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs.

"SMEs don't have the resources that large enterprises do, but they still need to maintain the appearance of having those resources," said Kathy Heilmann, a marketing manager with Boca Raton, Fla.-based Siemens Enterprise Networks.

Heilmann used an example of a real estate agency that has several small offices throughout a metropolitan area. Using the software, agents would be able to field calls, e-mails and faxes based on their knowledge and area of expertise, over as many as four different offices, so that each customer inquiry is handled most efficiently.

Another option, the HiPath ProCenter Workflow, is designed for small, informal contact centers with up to 50 agents. While it's not designed for sophisticated reporting or heavy call volume, this native IP (Internet protocol) platform provides an easy way for small companies to handle Web chat, e-mail, calls and faxes, all in an IP environment, according to Siemens. This new IP technology is aimed at companies looking for a cheaper and simpler alternative to the traditional circuit-switched PBX (private branch exchange) call center products, Siemens said.

In addition to these two specialty products, Siemens recently released some mobile CRM enhancements to its mainstream contact center packages, the HiPath ProCenter Suites. This new breed of software allows supervisors to attend meetings, handle personnel issues and move freely about the office while keeping on top of quality service parameters.

"It allows you to do your job while doing your job," said Heilmann.

Reports and alerts are specially formatted and delivered to mobile devices, such as a WAP enabled cell phone or Palm Pilot. More advanced versions of the software enable supervisors to respond to the alerts by changing call center settings or redirecting agents, or even send and receive customized CRM reports, all via the same wireless device.

"The completeness of the mobile applications that Siemens is offering is more advanced than what other competitors are doing," said Kelly Spang, a senior analyst for Current Analysis. "I think that in general, mobility, wireless access -- these are things that everyone is experimenting with. But enabling managers to actually do their jobs from a mobile device I think is a little bit ahead of its time."

In May, Siemens also released another product called the CRM Ready Kit. The kit is designed to provide HiPath ProCenter customers with out-of-the-box integration between their call centers and one of four CRM business applications: Siebel, SAP, Remedy and Goldmine.

Pricing for all products depends on the individual customer, according to system requirements, packages and options.


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