• June 1, 2009
  • By Leonard Klie Editor, Speech Technology and CRM magazines
  • FYI

AT&T Launches Multitenant Hosting on Call Center Technologies

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AT&T has launched a fully managed service that provides U.S. businesses with a virtual contact center hosted in AT&T Internet data centers. The telecom services and technologies giant has offered hosted solutions for dedicated customers for a number of years, but this is the first time the company has put out a shared tenant offering available as software-as-a-service on a per-port or per-seat basis. 

The solution, AT&T Hosted Integrated Contact Services, is based on the contact management suite from Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories and includes intelligent call routing and management capabilities, such as delivering calls to the first available agent, identifying and routing calls to the agent best able to handle that call, and distributing calls based on callers’ touch-tone or natural language responses to prompts. 

The service, available since mid-April, also includes the flexibility to add more agents or phone ports on demand, and to automatically increase capacity up to 20 percent above installed levels to handle unexpected bursts of traffic. 

It can handle calls over traditional time-division multiplexing lines or the Internet via AT&T IP toll-free, local, direct inward dialing, and Megacom toll-free, routing them via the AT&T multiprotocol label switching network to the hosted infrastructure. Remote agents can log in and receive information from the hosted platform through AT&T Managed MIS-PNT or through the Internet. 

Depending on customer needs, the service also can include advanced speech recognition, text-to-speech, and routing for Web, email, and chat applications, according to Mario Persico, director of product management for AT&T’s contact management services unit, which will oversee the new hosted platform.

Other features include: 

  • a Web-based drag-and-drop graphical user interface to build, deploy, and maintain routing schemes;
  • network-based automatic call distribution, providing call queuing, skills-based routing, agent-available routing, time-of-day handling, etc.; 
  • music-on-hold or flexible announcements to provide callers with instant information; 
  • multichannel services, such as email, chat, and Web collaboration, so agents and callers can communicate in the best possible media; and
  • prepackaged IVR options, including auto attendant, store/services locator, and order entry/order status. 

The service is currently available only to U.S. businesses, but AT&T plans to move it to international markets, Persico says. He also notes that service is currently being operated out of AT&T’s data center in Mesa, Ariz., but the company will add a second data center on the East Coast in late summer or early fall as the customer base grows.

The service requires no up-front installation fees; customers pay monthly fees based on the number of call center agents or ports involved. 

“In this economy, there’s a real need for this kind of service,” Persico says. 

In its report “Market Trends: Forecast for North American Hosted Contact Center Market, 2007-2013,” Gartner estimated the baseline revenue of the market for hosted contact services will reach $175 million this year.

“In addition to the economic advantages of not needing a large capital budget, hosted contact centers provide competitive advantages to businesses regardless of size,” concluded Daniel O’Connell, research director at Gartner, in the report. “The hosted model gives companies without deep IT teams access to the latest call center technologies and management tools that lead to greater agent utilization, while at the same time providing callers with a quality customer experience.”

Persico adds that the service was originally geared toward small and midsize businesses with limited budgets and IT departments. “But what we’ve found—and I think it’s as much the state of the economy as it is an overall industry trend—is that larger companies are coming to us because they don’t want to be bothered managing their call centers anymore,” he says. “They’re also looking to take advantage of the operating expenses aspect [of a hosted offering].”

Many of those larger enterprise customers are turning to hosted solutions to add a satellite center, handle special promotions or seasonal calling peaks, or to fill technology gaps in existing centers, he says.

But regardless of why a customer chooses it, “AT&T manages the contact center 24/7, which frees the customer to do what it does best, which is run its business,” Persico states. 

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