Getting the Story Right: Whose Call Center Was Introduced?

The Call Center introduced this week for Skype comes from a Skype Extras Partner, not from Skype itself!

Two posts this morning talk about a new offering exhibited at VoiceCon in San Francisco earlier this week. However, while one post eventually notes that this is a third party offering, another post blatantly assumes that Skype developed the service. (Full disclosure at this point: OnState Communications is a client for my professional services involving market research of the Live Chat market space where I have previous experience. Also note that this post has not been reviewed or cleared through OnState.)

Fact: At VoiceCon this week OnState Communications introduced and demonstrated their recently announced Live Chat feature that works within their overall OnState ACD for Skype offering. As stated in previous posts (here and here), OnState’s ability to deliver their basic ACD (“Auotmated Call Disribution”) service was inhibited until Skype’s Call Transfer function became available in June. As a result they developed a Live Chat feature that can run independent of the Call Transfer requirement. With the availability of Call Transfer for the past two months, OnState is now able to offer both Call Center and Live Chat services or both; this is what was exhibited this week.

So Russell Shaw is correct in his title “New call center soluton unveiled for Skype”. However, I would disagree with his statement: “You may not realize this, but Skype has vivid aspirations of being a major player in the call center game. Skype is doing this through Skype for Business.” In practice, Skype looks to its Extras Partners to provide third party solutions such as a Call Center.

  • Developing a Call Center requires unique experience, technology and expertise that Skype internally cannot hope to match, given the demands on its developer and product marketing resources just to build the basic Skype service across multiple platforms.
  • At the Skype DevCon in Las Vegas a year ago June, I had a long discussion with David Clarke of Pika Technologies where he educated me on the requirements for a fully capable call center offering.
  • Russell then does go on to acknowledge that OnState’s offering is a third party solution; in fact, OnState is participating in the Skype Extras program.

Then Gokul Gopalakris, with reference to Russell’s post, goes onto Smith on VoIP and puts out a post “Many Companies Don’t Understand the Call Center Business”. To put it mildly the statements in this post need to be addressed::

  • The OnState team brings over 20 years of developing and providing Call Center services. They developed the GeoTel service that was acquired by Cisco Systems a few years ago. They now bring this experience to the Skype ecosystem.
  • OnState uses the Skype client as only one component of the overall system. You can initiate contact with a Call Center agent from any website via Skype, Live Chat, or a Call Back process.
  • The OnState cloud assigns the call to an appropriate agent, based on his/her skills and/or responsibilities. The Agent sees the overall picture in a separate web-based window generated by the OnState cloud; an example of this Agent Call Management screen is shown on the right and in Russell Shaw’s post.
  • This Call Management window is independent of the Agent’s Skype client through which s/he operates chat sessions, voice conversations, call transfer to other agents and conferencing involving agents, their managers and the customer, as appropriate.
  • The OnState cloud will generate a browser/operating system independent chat window on the calling customer’s PC; this is the key feature that triggered OnState’s press release. This feature allows OnState to address the very vibrant Live Chat market space for which Live Person is the current market leader.
  • The Call Center market space and Live Chat market space are two separate market spaces that can both be addressed by OnState’s ACD for Skype, thereby bringing a degree of convergence to what will evolve into a Real Time Customer Conversation space.
  • They did hire some expertise to look into the Live Chat market space.

To summarize:

  • Skype itself recognizes they have neither the resources nor the experience to address the Call Center market; this demonstrates a reason for their Extras Partner program.
  • The offering announced is coming from a third party, namely, OnState Communications
  • OnState brings a wealth of Call Center experience to the Skype ecosystem
  • The Agent operates through both a Call Management window and a Skype client
  • And I’m sure there will become some connectivity with CRM and other solutions. (Skype even contracted out the development of their Skype for Salesforce offering.)
  • OnState brings Call Center functionality to small businesses that previously would have had to pay six figure numbers ($100K to $200K) for the basic PBX and Call Center software before even starting; With OnState there is no capital investment, IT management or other infrastructure required. A one person organization could start at $30 per month.

Tags: OnState Communications, OnState ACD for Skype, OnState, Russell Shaw, Gukol Gopalakris, Smith on VoIP, Skype, Skype Extras, Skype Partners, Skype for,VoiceCon 2007, OnState Live Chat, Skype Call Center, , Live Chat

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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