Allstream carries Cisco bid in contact centre

Late last month, Winnipeg-based MTS Allstream Inc. announced it had partnered with Cisco Systems to offer a new IP-based enterprise contact centre system.

At least one analyst sees the move as Cisco playing catch-up to competitors like Avaya Inc.

“This is Cisco trying to get into the call centre market,” said Brian Sharwood, principle with the Seaboard Group in Toronto. “Avaya leads the call centre market, there is no doubt,” he added. Sharwood believes Allstream went with Cisco because Avaya is not as well known as a telecommunication company as Cisco.

“It is a win for Cisco, as Allstream will offer this as the lead bid product when somebody wants a contact centre from Allstream,” he said, According to Ron McKenzie, executive vice-president, marketing and business development at Allstream, the partnership with Cisco is a natural one to help evolve Allstream’s existing contact centre offering and migrate it to a full IP-based service.

“What we are bringing to market is not just an IP multi-media service, but offering that in a hosted environment, as well as providing managed services that go with it and professional services that allow us to implement that and evolve that from existing customer implementations,” he said.

McKenzie added that the multi-media functions went beyond voice, including not only interactive voice response (IVR), but also seamless integration with e-mail, Web chat, fax and the ability to have skill-based routing.

The benefits of the solution, according to McKenzie, include increased contact centre productivity, improved customer service levels and reduced costs.

Allstream also announced a partnership with Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co. (HP). McKenzie said HP was helping Allstream extend its professional and managed service capabilities by assisting in IVR design and server management.

“Going to market with HP allows us to scale and size [the product] to multi-national companies across North America,” McKenzie said. Sharwood said partnering with HP would help Allstream’s cause in the contact centre space. “HP brings a certain set of customers that are comfortable with them,” he said.

However, when comparing the Cisco-Allstream product to competition from Avaya, Sharwood said customers may be hesitant because Cisco was not as experienced in contact centres as Avaya.

“If you’re a customer running a complicated contact centre, then experience matters.

“It’s not that Cisco’s stuff doesn’t work, but rather that Avaya has been doing it for longer and with more complex solutions,” Sharwood said.

The new IP-based system is currently available and Allstream is implementing it into their own contact centres across Canada. McKenzie hopes to have implementation complete by the fourth quarter this year.

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