LOOKING AHEAD with Kevin Beale - Vice President for Software, R & D
Amtelco’s Intelligent Soft Agent application is a central piece of Amtelco’s call center advancement strategy. The Soft Agent is a software-based operator application that links the Intelligent Series applications to Genesis soft switching or any of a variety of automated call distribution systems. It is important to begin your migration planning now to ensure that your call center is on track when it is time to convert to a soft switching platform.
Soft Agent has been available longer than many people realize. It was first developed and introduced to the market by Amtelco in 2008. It was created as Amtelco’s next-generation agent application built specifically for the Intelligent Series (IS) platform. Soft Agent was designed to link the Intelligent Series applications with the wide variety of switches and automatic call distribution (ACD) systems on the market.
Soft Agent can operate as an entirely software-based system and needs no proprietary switching hardware provided by Amtelco. Soft Agent works equally as well with an Asterisk-based soft switch, a Cisco Unified Call Manager system, an Avaya Aura Contact Center system, and similar switches. Amtelco has call centers utilizing Soft Agent with all of these platforms. Some of the call centers started with Soft Agent, while others migrated from Infinity to Soft Agent.
Amtelco went through a lengthy design process with Soft Agent to optimize and simplify the agent experience over the existing Infinity Telephone Agent interface. One of the major components designed as part of this process was the Sandbox. Sandbox provides a Google-type search and dial tool for Soft Agent. Sandbox proved to be so popular that it has been ported into the Infinity Telephone Agent application. Soft Agent also features a Home screen, which is essentially a default account. The Home screen enables agents to perform functions such as dialing, starting a script, accessing a directory or on-call schedule, and other functions without the need to Fetch an account. Our design research showed that a Fetch is not very intuitive to a new agent who has just been hired.
Another major design element of Soft Agent is the Agent Settings that are configured in IS Supervisor Client Setup. Agent Settings enable creating customized Startup Actions and Toolbar menu items for each client. Startup Actions can perform actions such as starting an IS Script, opening an Info Page, opening a Web page, and opening the Sandbox automatically when a client call is presented to an agent. The Toolbar items that can be customized for each client provide quick access to functions such as starting an IS Script, opening an Info Page, opening a
Web page, opening the Sandbox, quick dialing, quick client changing, and much more. There is no limit to the number of Toolbar menu items that can be configured for each client. These settings give the call center much more flexibility in the design and layout of the functions available to agents for each client.
Soft Agent has a configurable number of call appearances that can be set from one to six. Most call centers limit the number of live calls presented to an agent to one or two. Increasing the number of appearances provides flexibility in managing disconnected calls and other activities. Soft Agent also has an Activity List that enables agents to continue to work on a call-related activity, such as finishing up a script or message, after the caller has hung up. There is no limit to the number of activities that can appear on the Activity List. With Infinity Telephone Agent, these types of activities would require the operator to Hold and Park the call to keep it active.
Soft Agent has a Sidebar similar to the Infinity Telephone Agent High Resolution area. Agents can choose to display or hide the Sidebar according to their needs and work habits. The Sidebar elements include Adjust Volume, Switch Data to display calls in queue information, Agent Settings to manage Perfect Answer recordings, IS Messenger for chat conversations with other agents and supervisors, Client List, and Dispatch List.
Soft Agent has a configurable keyboard layout with an on-screen map that can be hidden or displayed by an agent. The keyboard assignments by default are set to match those of the Infinity Telephone Agent.
As you consider migrating your call center from Infinity to Genesis soft switching, you also need a plan to migrate your agents from Infinity Telephone Agent to Soft Agent. The migration can be accomplished in steps, by directing calls for specific clients to Soft Agent rather than Infinity. This model of migrating from Infinity Telephone Agent to Soft Agent may require maintaining separate groups of agents during the transition period.
The process of migrating to Soft Agent involves several steps. Any call center interested in Genesis soft switching and Soft Agent should have a migration plan in place. The primary focus of the migration plan is to convert all Infinity application functions to Intelligent Series functions. Amtelco’s Infinity-to-Soft Agent Conversion Checklist is available to anyone who is interested in getting started with Soft Agent.
Amtelco has been working on automating as many of the steps involved in converting from Infinity to IS as possible. This is accomplished with tools available in the IS Transformer application. We can review the automated options available with the IS Transformer with anyone interested in getting some assistance.
The main point I want to stress is to begin your migration planning now. Don’t wait until you decide that you want to go with Genesis soft switching to begin the migration. Every call center should be working each and every day towards becoming a fully IS-based call center.
Feel free to contact me directly for more information about Soft Agent and Genesis soft switching.
Kevin Beale is vice president for software, research and development at Amtelco, a manufacturer and supplier of call center solutions located in McFarland, Wisconsin. Contact him by e-mail at email@example.com.