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Tellme Shouts Out a New Aspect to Contact Center Offerings

Contact centers wishing to deploy either on-premises or hosted solutions to deliver quality customer service have major benefits in mind--and concerns to address. Bearing in mind the conversations revolving around upfront cost, control, security, and speed, Chelmsford, Mass.–based contact center solution provider Aspect Software and Mountain View, Calif.–based Tellme, a voice services provider and Microsoft subsidiary, are announcing today what they hope to be an end to those concerns with a new strategic partnership.

According to executives from both Aspect and Tellme, the two companies will be combining their solutions in order to provide what they say is a flexible, cost-effective contact center offering. Aspect will be integrating Tellme’s on-demand voice services platform into its Unified IP, according to executives from both vendors. Barry Russell, director of Tellme’s Partner Group, explains this will allow customer service hubs to take the best of both worlds. "Enterprise customers can leverage assets they have on-premises versus services they may not be able to access in the cloud," he explains.

Mike Sheridan, senior vice president of strategy for Aspect Software, says integrating Unified IP with Tellme’s voice portal is a natural progression for his company's ongoing unified communications (UC) strategy announced with Microsoft in March--and he admits that the March agreement kick-started talks about going to market with an integrated offering. "Tellme’s [offerings and capabilities]...are a natural bridge for UC and contact centers," he says.

Aspect will also be reselling Tellme’s voice services platform to United States–based customers. However, Sheridan is quick to point out that this latest announcement comprises much more than a mere go-to-market strategy. "We’re adding Aspect professional services, [consulting] end-to-end,...automatic call distributors (ACDs), predictive dialers, Aspect Unified IP, hosted [interactive voice response] capabilities, and scripting," he explains.

And Sheridan says that he believes this also opens the path to bring something new and fresh to the contact center solution space. "It’s a great opportunity to differentiate and provide the marketplace something [it] can’t get today--either [on-]premise or hosted--and in an integrated and unified way with underlying ACD and predictive dialer," he adds.

Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst of McGee-Smith Analytics, says this move makes sense for Aspect. "It’s a great proof point for those very large, significant customers still sitting on legacy Aspect [offerings]," she explains. "One of [this company’s] strategies is to move [organizations] to its current technology. The Microsoft partnership and Tellme piece are great for helping them to get that done and to have them less vulnerable to [competitors] like Avaya and Genesys [Telecommunication Laboratories]."

While this integrated hybrid contact center offering will only be available to customers in the United States at the start, Tellme’s Russell says the companies intend to move abroad with the combined solution in the next couple of years. "We continue to build out international plans, our minds looking to [the] future to launch worldwide with Aspect on the Tellme platform," he says. "We anticipate something would happen like that in mid-fiscal year 2010...certainly by 2011."

Before taking the combined solution worldwide, McGee-Smith points out that Tellme’s success is also correlated to that of Microsoft’s Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007. "To me, the success of [this company] hinges on the success of Microsoft OCS 2007," she says. "That isn’t to say Tellme isn’t successful today, but if in fact OCS goes on to claim a significant share of the [private-branch exchange] and contact center market, then Tellme becomes part of the solution and [the] reason why it goes forward."

For Aspect’s Sheridan, though, the immediate focus to follow through on this announcement is just that: following through. "The biggest challenge is making sure we execute on the plans that are in front of us," he stresses. "This is pretty ambitious--with both a [two-and-a-half year] roadmap and go-to-market approach we’re taking with the Tellme, Microsoft, and Aspect sales forces...we’re already seeing synergies today."

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