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TMC[TM] Labs review.

Over the past several years we've all heard about the benefits of PC-based PBXs (PC-PBXs) also sometimes called "communications servers." But what about PC-based predictive dialers, one of the core components of any outbound call center? Until recently, most predictive dialers were still very closed and were very specialized proprietary systems. That is ... until now. StrataDial. VC2 is an open platform, PC-based software/hardware package that performs automated outbound dialing. In fact, VC2 can also run outbound campaigns without live agents by automatically delivering recorded messages to both customers and answering machines. In addition to automated predictive dialing capabilities, it can also perform inbound call routing via their IVR or their ACD. In fact, with StrataDial.VC2's built-in IVR and ACD functionality that routes inbound calls, this product is PBX-independent--users do not need a separate PBX with this solution.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

StrataDial.VC2 includes skills-based routing tables so customers will always be talking to the best available agent. These tables can be based on language skills, training level or any other criteria-based functions. Agents can have specific extensions as well as their own voice mail.

StrataDial.VC2 comes with several critically important features, including dialed number identification service (DNIS), which allows the system to intelligently route calls based on the 800 number dialed. On digital systems, automatic number identification (ANI) is supported as well. Agents can even get "screen pops" of the customer record. Also, StrataDial lets users build diagrams of the layout of the call center. From the diagram, you can view the status of the agents; i.e., on a call (and with which customer), idle, etc.

Dialing Capabilities

Additionally, StrataDial has very powerful dialing capabilities supporting both predictive and preview dialing that can be set at an individual campaign level. Predictive dialing allows you to increase your calling productivity by delivering only "live" call recipients to your agents. StrataDial claims its patent-pending algorithm is comprised of 27 different variables that adjust calling behavior based on campaign demographics and agent calling patterns. Preview dialing is ideal for business-to-business campaigns that require an agent to review pertinent details about a call before actually placing the call. Once the agent reviews the record, he or she may tell the system to initiate the call, or the system may be set to time out after a certain period and automatically place the call for the agent.

Agent's Client Software

The agent's client software of Stratasoft is very powerful and one of the more unique aspects of this product. Unlike many competitors that require third-party add-ons for screen customization capabilities, Stratasoft comes with one included. Its screen designer software package is very powerful, and allows users to customize screens in every way. This tool allows a supervisor to design and customize screens and scripts to meet the needs of the campaign.

We were able to simply drag and drop various screen elements (text boxes, database fields) onto the designer screen (see Figure 1) to quickly create new screens. The screens designed by the user allow for agent input, formulas and field validations to ensure that agents fill out all the required fields. The StrataDial Agent software will not only display the screens you designed, but it can also display an embedded browser window at the bottom of the customized screens. Therefore, scripts can be written with any HTML-based software and easily implemented. A user can even embed external data into an HTML script and display the information within the browser section of the agent software interface.

Customer data may be stored in any ODBC-compatible database format, such as Microsoft SQL, Access, etc. In addition, scripting is written in HTML and is compatible with ASP, PHP, XML and Java scripting. Further, due to its HTML support, you can embed images, video clips and sound files within the script. Conditional branch scripting is very easy to set up to take care of customer objections. We should also point out that if a user changes the script, it doesn't require downtime--the agents will receive the new script and begin using it on the very next call.

DynaCall

DynaCall is a unique, dynamic call list management system within StrataDial. Every call center manager has experienced a time when he or she has burned through an entire call list and is looking for records to give agents to call. Well, DynaCall has the ability to merge and extract phone records based on user-definable criteria, allowing the call center manager to easily and quickly manipulate phone campaigns. Users can set up the workflow in advance to call specific times, as well as recycle telephone numbers to be called at times when prospects are more likely to be available to answer the phone. It also features a self-maintained do-not-call file to ensure those numbers will not be dialed again, user-defined call disposition codes and more.

One other worthy feature of note is that StrataDial claims to support the FTC's compliance regulations. They state that by that by simply checking the "FTC compliance" checkbox in the options screen, users will be FTC-compliant and avoid government fines.

Another important module within StrataDial is StrataQA, which allows supervisors to record, evaluate and analyze agent interactions to ensure quality performance. From the StrataQA desktop application, a supervisor can select any number of agents to view in real-time. Using advanced screen refresh techniques, which capture only the changed areas of the screen, the utilization of network resources can be minimized. StrataQA can also be configured to record essential customer interactions based on user-defined business rules. Manual recording of the voice as well as the screen activity is also available. In addition, supervisors can create agent scorecards for scoring the agents' performance.

Other nifty features include VoIP support, database independence with ODBC compatibility and multilingual support. In fact, this last feature is pretty impressive. StrataDial.VC2 has the unique ability to translate all of its product suite's interfaces into virtually any language in the world. Rather than relying on Unicode for character/language translation, Stratasoft has gone to great lengths to ensure that its product can work in a multilingual or multinational organization. A translation table is provided for the user to create an agent interface that translates the contents of the Agent Screen so agents can view their campaign screens, scripts and call control buttons in their native language.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

Reporting Tools

Powerful reporting capabilities include productivity reports, telemarketing sales journals, sales analysis reports and third-party reporting packages. One of the most useful real-time reporting modules is the Agent Statistics screen (see Figure 2), which displays pertinent agent statistics. The online reports include pertinent information about the campaigns running, telephone line status and agent information including total calls, average talk time, break time, number of pitches, number of sales and percentage of closes and actual sales, all of which can be exported for analysis in another program.

Application Programming Interface

StrataDial.VC2 has an application programming interface (API), which allows any third-party developer or third-party application to easily and seamlessly connect to the dialer. Customers and application developers can use StrataDial.VC2's ActiveX, OCX and COM objects to essentially control the StrataDial.VC2 engine via a third-party application. A terminal emulator may also be imbedded into the agent screen, capable of utilizing DDE (dynamic data exchange) to a legacy application.

Conclusion

It's a Windows-based PC-PBX, call recorder, quality assurance package with loads of call center functionality all rolled into a single platform. What more could you ask for? TMC Labs was very impressed with StrataDial's breadth of features, powerful graphical designer screen utility and user friendliness, and we would not hesitate to recommend this product.

StrataDial.VC2

Stratasoft, Inc.

6401 Southwest Freeway

Houston, TX 77074

Ph: 800-390-1157

Web: www.stratasoft.com

Price: Pricing starts at $26,000 for four seats. Includes the dialer with Dialogic voice boards, the server software and the software on agents' PCs.

RATINGS (0-5)

Installation: 5

Documentation: 5

Features: 4.75

GUI: 4.75

Overall: A

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For information and subscriptions, visit www.TMCnet.com or call 203-852-6800.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Technology Marketing Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:TMC[TM] Labs
Publication:Customer Interaction Solutions
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2004
Words:1381
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