AltiGen, Cisco Update Contact Center Wares

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AltiGen Communications and Cisco Systems are expanding the capabilities of their IP-based contact center offerings, which solution providers said will improve the viability of IP telephony for their clients' customer service and sales departments.

AltiGen this week plans to introduce its first stand-alone contact center product, AltiContact Manager (ACM), a turnkey system of hardware and software for small and midsize businesses. Previously, the vendor only sold AltiServe Contact Center, a software module add-on to its IP-PBX product family that supports up to 50 agents.

Targeted at contact centers with up to 500 agents, ACM adds advanced features to AltiGen's contact center product line, including skills-based routing, interactive voice response and the integrated management of voice, e-mail and Web communications.

Each Microsoft Windows 2000-based system supports up to 128 agents and includes AltiGen's ACM 4.6 software and a chassis with RAID 5 redundancy and dual power supplies.

Customers can distribute multiple systems worldwide, link them together through voice-over-IP and centrally manage them, said Richard De Soto, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at AltiGen, Fremont, Calif.

With its more sophisticated feature set and expanded capacity, AltiGen partners can use ACM to compete against legacy systems and target higher-end contact center customers than they could in the past, said Darrell Murray, president of Netsystems Communications, an Orlando, Fla., solution provider. "We're finding that pretty much every [contact center] deal is IP-related, either in connecting an organization's locations or in adding remote agents," Murray said.

AltiGen plans to offer a "stringent" certification program around ACM to ensure solution providers have the skills and integration services to support the more complicated product line, De Soto said.

The product is slated to be generally available early next month. ACM costs between $525 and $850 per agent.

Meanwhile, Cisco last week introduced Internet Protocol Contact Center (IPCC) Enterprise Edition 5.0, which includes universal queuing, a function that creates a single routing point for multichannel transactions, whether they are voice calls, e-mails or Web chat sessions. Also added are multichannel reporting and administration features, as well as management for outbound calls, according to Cisco.

"For certain organizations, outbound calls are becoming extremely important," said George Sullivan, CTO of Vista Information Technologies, Herndon, Va. "Until now, there hasn't been an easily digestible way to deal with them in the Cisco framework," he said.

Pricing for IPCC Enterprise Edition 5.0, scheduled for availability later this month, starts at $1,000 per agent.

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