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Siemens sets sights on SMBs

The telephony and electronic giant enters the SMB space with a tool that allows call center agent and management collaboration.

Siemens Information and Communication Networks Inc., a Boca Raton, Fla.-based subsidiary of the German global electronics company, today announced a new application for the call center that's aimed at small and midsized businesses.

HiPath ProCenter Agile includes collaboration, call routing and some basic interactive voice response features. Its key selling point is simplicity; it's easy to install, use and manage, said Al Baker, vice president of product management for Siemens' global eCRM solutions group.

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The application's collaboration tool allows users to find expert help in real time. For example, an agent speaking with a customer who has a billing question can see on the screen which billing department staffers are available. Then the agent can either conference an expert into the call or get the necessary information offline.

"For most small and medium-[sized] enterprises, their competitive advantage is their service," Baker said. "Without fail, agents need help."

The user interface, which is designed to work like Microsoft Outlook, helped agents at the Texas Association of School Boards take to the application, said Rick Tillotson, the association's program director. Its call center serves the 1,044 school boards in the state of Texas.

"These agents who used to be afraid of technology are falling in love with the technology," Tillotson said. "The ones we expected resistance from are the ones showing other agents, 'Look at what I found.'"

The association began testing the application two weeks ago and hopes to add remote agents to the call center through an IP system, Tillotson said.

In addition to the collaboration tool, HiPath ProCenter Agile offers drag-and-drop tools to revise call queues and workflow, Baker said.

Ken Landoline, vice president and director of telecommunications research for Westport, Conn.-based Robert Francis Group, called the application "leading edge."

"I'm anxious to see how the market reacts," he said. "[Siemens] is going to have their work cut out for them explaining the concept to traditional telephony people."

HiPath ProCenter Agile will be available in the next fiscal quarter and will cost between $400 and $500 per desktop, depending on features.

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