Microsoft updates software for call centers

Microsoft releases an update to its software for call centers that adds new functionality for customers to interface with customer-care agents.

Microsoft has released an update to its software for call centers that adds new functionality for customers to interact with customer-care agents, according to the company.

Previously, Microsoft's software for call centers was Contact Center Framework, and when it was released in May 2005 it mainly enabled customer care agents to unify the way they access their applications on their desktop, said Vish Thirumurthy, a group manager for Microsoft's communications group.

The new release, which has been renamed Customer Care Framework (CCF) 2005, now allows customers to communicate with call-center agents in a variety of ways through the software, he said. CCF does not require companies to rip out any existing applications they use in their call centers, but provides an interface for aggregating and accessing the applications they already have, Thirumurthy said.

When a call center deploys the updated offering, a customer can use e-mail, a self-service Web portal, interactive voice response or live Internet-based chat to communicate with call-center agents, he said. The first release of the product only allowed peer-to-peer chatting between customers and agents, Thirumurthy said.

In addition to the changes to the customer experience, CCF also includes technical enhancements to help call-center agents. The new software now can integrate Citrix-based applications into the unified interface, he said. In addition, Microsoft has added a new agent desktop workflow that helps an agent through the process of serving a customer, Thirumurthy said.

"Typically, an agent will go through five or 10 applications, such as CRM [customer relationship management], billing and order entry," he said. "This walks them through that process. They don't have to remember every task, every workflow, everything they need to do and in what order."

A typical deployment of CCF, which costs US$100 per user seat and is available now, also requires licenses for Microsoft's Windows Server and SharePoint Portal Server software, Thirumurthy said.

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