Open Standards in the Contact Centre: Why You Should Care: Aspect Software

Author: Aspect Software

Date: 3rd March 2009

SIP...HTML...VoiceXML...SOAP... You hear these acronyms and many more bandied about with great frequency. But what do they really mean and why should you pay special attention to these particular terms versus any others? From my and my employer’s perspective, these are exceptional because they are all acronyms for standards.

Open standards are particularly valuable to contact centers because they deliver increased compatibility between components, enabling true interoperability. In doing so, they make it easier, faster and less expensive for companies to implement new and emerging technologies that have the power to greatly enhance customer experiences and improve customer loyalty.

Most importantly when vendors provide standards-based applications, it opens the door to selecting those vendors not based on the product’s bells and whistles, but more importantly on the services, support and training they provide after you buy their products. This paper highlights the value that open standards-based applications can bring to the contact center and why you should be demanding them from vendors.

What are Standards? The Time-Tested Answer

At the risk of stating the obvious, let me level set why one should bother with standards. Open (non-proprietary) standards are simply publicly available specifications, that dictate how a standard must behave, and enable disparate computer hardware and software to easily “speak” to one another. Anyone can obtain and implement a standard and users can generally download implementation guidelines for free via the Internet. Users then develop their own code or buy third-party code that incorporates the specifications of the particular standard and works in concert with intended applications, systems or platforms.

A standards-based application or system must be built to certain specifications, just like a house. A home builder is required to follow established parameters, but the ultimate look-and-feel of a house can be customized, just like a standards-based solution, depending on the needs, wants and tastes of the builder or the prospective homeowner.

Standards are not a radical new concept. In fact, it is reported that standards can be traced as far back as 7000 B.C. when the Egyptians used cylindrical stones as units of weight. Standards have become very prevalent across the entire high-tech world, not just in contact centers. Open standards provide a common platform upon which computer hardware and software can “speak” to one another. They deliver increased compatibility between components and enable true interoperability. For example, open standards are providing an important common platform that is enabling the merging of telephony and Web services, and allowing multiple applications and systems to communicate with one another, regardless of whether they are voice, chat, instant messaging (IM), audio or video, as long as they all conform to the same standards.

Open standards are particularly valuable to contact centers because they eliminate the idea of “black boxes.” In the past, companies were required to buy one big “black box” from one vendor, containing all of the basic application components they needed. When the company wanted new functionality, they had to go back to their vendor and have them add and integrate new software or hardware with the applications. This was a time-consuming and sometimes cost-prohibitive process that limited enterprises to only purchasing additional solutions from the one vendor that was building their “black boxes.”

The recent advent of standards-based applications has given contact centers the newfound power to disaggregate the components within those “black boxes” and provide them the freedom to choose the solutions and vendors they want to work with, and the ability to easily interoperate various systems and applications. This increased flexibility and efficiency means that contact center agents can be more versatile and effective as they handle customer inquiries received via multiple channels – voice, email, and chat. These factors then have the potential to increase agent and customer satisfaction, reduce complexity and costs, and potentially provide a healthier bottom line.

Aspect Software

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