Until recently most organizations deployed systems on their own premises to build communications and contact center infrastructures, which often required them to integrate products from several vendors. In the past few years many vendors have moved their systems to the cloud, and others have begun as cloud-based suppliers. This trend has opened up the opportunity for more organizations to take advantage of modern communication systems and contact centers. Using the cloud for either, or both can save money and resources, reduce risk, and make available more integrated, multi-channel systems. While the adoption of such systems has undoubtedly increased and is likely to continue to do so, our benchmark research into next-generation contact centers in the cloud finds that many organizations still prefer to remain on premises, and adoption of cloud-based systems occurs on a case-by-case basis. In addition, many organizations look for vendors that support multiple models so they have the option of starting out using one model but transitioning later to another, including to a hybrid model in which some systems are on-premises and others are cloud-based..
ShoreTel is a vendor that supports all these options: on premises, hybrid or fully cloud-based. Founded in 1996, it began by addressing the complexity of deploying and maintaining enterprise telephone infrastructures. Its initial platform replaced on-premises, propriety telephone systems with computerized IP-based systems that could be easily distributed across the organization. Today this has been replaced by ShoreTel Connect, a single platform that uses the same code base and single user interface to support enterprise-wide communications on-premises, as hybrids or fully cloud-based. Its extensive integration capabilities range beyond simple telephony to support desktop call control, speed dialing, visual voice mail, conference call management and scheduling, and integration with popular applications such as Microsoft Outlook. The latest developments also support real-time communication from a desktop or a mobile device, and allow seamless transfer between voice, video and instant messaging. All these capabilities combine to form what is popularly known as unified communications – the ability to interact internally and/or with customers through any channel on any device, all of them computer-based.
Through internal development and acquisitions, the company has extended its product range to include contact center systems, which it also makes available in on-premises, hybrid or cloud-based forms. ShoreTel Flex Contact Center has contact center capabilities that support voice, email, chat, IVR, workforce management and integration with popular CRM systems such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. Its call recording capabilities allow recording of all calls or a subset of calls based on predefined rules, desktop recording and quality management capabilities monitor and assess agent performance. There is also what ShoreTel calls an agent interaction center, which is a user-friendly desktop that provides agents with a complete view of the customer (including previous interactions), the ability to pop up information as it is required, workflow tools to guide the agent on how to resolve an interaction, and performance management dashboards so agents can monitor their performance against key performance indicators. There are both historic and real-time analysis tools that collect data from ShoreTel’s and third-party systems to provide users with personalized analysis of key performance indicators, trends and thresholds. All of the capabilities are managed through a single set of administration tools called Contact Center Director.
To deliver omnichannel customer engagement, our benchmark research into various aspects of contact center systems highlights the need for integration of channels, between communication management and contact center systems, and between contact center systems and business applications, all of which should be supported by analytics capabilities. The combined products from ShoreTel address these issues and make them available through multiple supply models. Organizations seeking to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their customer interaction handling should include it in the list of vendors they evaluate to support such efforts.
VP & Research Director Customer Engagement