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Avaya and others are making wearable devices for the call center

Erika Morphy | Sept. 15, 2014
Call center technology provider Avaya has been working on prototypes of wearable hardware and software for use in the call center. It is now moving some of these developments from their labs into customer trials, CITEworld has learned.

Call center technology provider Avaya has been working on prototypes of wearable hardware and software for use in the call center. It is now moving some of these developments from their labs into customer trials, CITEworld has learned.

Headset-maker Plantronics is getting set to release its next iteration of the Encore Pro on Oct. 1 that will include a number of interesting upgrades. But the sleeper news at the company is that it is getting ready to launch a second prototype of its wearable concept headsets that could, for example, alert a call center manager that one of his reps is experiencing stress in a call, giving him the option to provide back up or coaching.

Call center vendors, in short, are, as intrigued by wearable technology as everyone else — and they are moving forward to incorporate it into the contact center ecosystem.

Not that they believe it will happen any time soon.

"Call centers are pretty slow to adopt new technology," Christopher Thompson, vice president of Enterprise Product Marketing at Plantronics tells CITEWorld. "So I would first expect wearables to show up on the edges of the formal call center, such as help desks over the next two years. I would say it will be closer to five years before we see a large-scale deployment of wearables as part of the infrastructure in the formal call center."

Which is just as well because these early initiatives are exactly that — early. The vendors are feeling their way to a viable business case by taking measured steps. Plantronics' release of the Encore Pro next month, for example, is not exactly a bona fide wearable headset — although as Thompson points out all headsets should be considered — but some of its innovation will provide information that will lead to the next generation of headsets that will be.

Mute detection, for example, will be one feature on the Encore Pro. Mute detection refers to an agent who has muted his or her line to catch up on work or wrap up a previous call. Unfortunately the next caller is still routed to him but all the caller hears is static noise. "It is bad behavior frankly and by detecting when it happens the supervisor can be notified," Thompson said. "Perhaps the agent needs coaching on the workflow or perhaps it is happening inadvertendly." The data gathered from mute detection will be parlayed as the company considers its moves into wearables.

"We are working with partners like Avaya, Genesysis, Cisco, Interactive Intelligence, Aspect, and Alcaltel on exposing context into applications like the ones we described," he adds.

Wristbands versus headbands

 

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