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Author's profile photo John Burton

Is Your Call Center Stuck in the Nineties?

/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/blog_grunge_plaid_173926.jpgThe 1990’s were a great time – especially if you were a fan of boy bands or grunge music and flannel shirts.

All jokes aside, the 1990’s was a time of technological revolution with the advent of the Internet and mobile phones forever changing life (and business) as we know. It was during the ‘90’s that a computer – IBM’s “Deep Blue” – first defeated the reigning world (human) chess champion. And let’s not forget, it was also during the nineties that Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – both as a business strategy and as a package software solution – first gained a foothold.

And finally, who among us doesn’t enjoy an occasional chuckle at embarrassing ‘90s photos of current celebrities? Fast forward a couple of decades and not everything has completely changed. Skinny jeans, flannel shirts, and day-glow Wayfarer sunglasses are all back in style. However, thankfully most artifacts of the nineties have been gracefully retired – like teased hair bangs, or wearing Lycra bike shorts with high-top basketball shoes.

Sure, we might occasionally glance back at the nineties and reminisce about how cute we looked in our Jordache jeans and  oversized sweaters. And who doesn’t have a couple pair of “MC Hammer pants” hanging in the back of his closet (or is that just me?)? But if we are honest with ourselves, the technology of the nineties – much like the fashion of the nineties – was unsightly, over-sized, and cumbersome.

For example, while the Sony Walkman was a marvelous innovation, I doubt anyone really misses having to manually wind their music cassette tapes back up with a pencil after all the tape came unwound.  And while at one time every street corner in every city was littered with payphone booths, I personally enjoy no longer having to walk around with pockets full or quarters and a pager/beeper to keep in touch with friends and family. And thankfully, it no longer takes us twenty minutes to load a webpage or download an email attachment using AOL and a 200 baud modem. Booting… connecting… downloading… beep, beep, beep, beep. Ah the good old days.

It seems like everything took longer in the Nineties. In that pre-Starbucks, pre-Wifi, pre-digital era, you couldn’t download an album or movie – on your phone – in a coffee-shop while the barista  whips you up a soy vanilla latte like you can today. Such was the stuff of sci-fi movies.  Heck, even renting a movie required a lengthy car drive to a video store (and usually culminated in several dollars worth of late-return fees). And I distinctly remember routinely having to wait on hold for several hours just to speak to a customer service agent! I’m not sure what kind of CTI software and CRM system companies were using, but I certainly don’t miss it!

However, it seems that not all organizations have embraced the latest trends in computer telephony. Many organizations, for one reason or another, are still running their contact centers using old TDM-based hardware. While hardware-based PBXs/ACDs were the de facto standard during the nineties and the first half of the following decade, such technology has quickly become antiquated. Most new CTI products and contact-center infrastructure being sold today are Internet-Protocol (IP) based software solutions. And increasingly, these software solutions are hosted in “the cloud” and delivered via software-as-a-service.

As recently as just five or ten years ago people were still debating, perhaps rightfully, whether voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) was ready yet for mainstream business usage. How stable was it? Would the industry ever standardize on a single protocol? How expensive was it to deploy? Could the company’s IT department support the bandwidth requirements? Today, these questions have all been satisfactorily answered and companies have been rolling out not just voice over IP solutions, but complete multi-channel communications systems based on IP including telephony, corporate directory and presence information, email, Web chat, internal instant messaging, and more.

SAP offers such an IP-based multi-channel communication system – SAP Business Communications Management (SAP BCM) – that is fully integrated out of the box with SAP CRM, including the Interaction Center. SAP BCM enables companies to route customer telephone calls, emails, or Web chats directly to the best-suited available agent who has the expertise, language skills, and product knowledge to help the customer and resolve their issue. Using BCM, Interaction Center agents can reach out to other experts in the organization and request assistance, or even transfer the customer (as well as the customer record and any open sales orders, service requests, etc.).

SAP BCM is available in a number of different deployment models and options. You can, of course, download and install the software locally on an in-house server. Additionally, an “express” version of the software is available from SAP as a “Rapid Deployment Solution” that is delivered and installed by SAP using best-business practices. Other options for deploying BCM include both a “BCM-in-a-Box” and “BCM-in-the-Cloud” deployment models delivered by certified SAP partners such as Covington Creative. If you are interested in using SAP BCM with the SAP CRM Interaction Center or have further questions, please feel free to contact John Burton at

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      Author's profile photo Paul Hardy
      Paul Hardy

      In the Australian SAP User Group Forum in 2012, in Melbourne, I attended the presentation on BCM as I was very interested in how it could improve on thrid party solutions which have thus far integrated external phone systems with SAP.

      Our call centre is the lifeblood of our business, which is naturally why I cared so much.

      The good thing was that the talk was not by SAP, it was by a customer - who supplied goods to the medical industry - Device Technologies Australia - who were was the first one to go with this solution in Australia.

      As always, if you are interested in this, it is best to have a look at someone who has implemented it before, and see if SAP have ironed out all the bugs yet. That sounds a bit negative, I will expand.

      For example, the gentlemen presenting from Device Technologies Australia had nothing but praise for BCF, but admitted he had serious delays in go-live due to things not quite being ready yet, and at the time of his speech, phone integration was not yet working - for his company at least. That would be a show stopper for us,

      This is the risk you always take being an early adopter. I am going to presume all the problems he faced have now been solved.

      If they have, I will be the first dancing around the room! Pleas tell me everything works fine now....

      Cheersy Cheers


      Author's profile photo John Burton
      John Burton
      Blog Post Author

      Hello Paul,

      Thanks for reading, and thank you also for your comments. I'm not personally familiar with the details of the BCM implementation at Device Technologies Australia, but I have asked a colleague to look into it and get back to us. While I am quite confident that SAP BCM is completely ready for prime time, I don't want to discount any issues that the the aforementioned customer may have run into on the project, and I certainly acknowledge that with so many moving parts on any implementation, there may often be wrinkles that need to be ironed out. Hopefully my BCM colleagues can clarify the situation and get back to us soon. Thanks again.



      Author's profile photo Rob Delnoij
      Rob Delnoij

      Hi Paul

      Hope you are well.

      I am looking after SAP BCM in Asia Pacific & Japan and work closely with DTA on their SAP BCM implementation.

      The reason DTA has delay the go-life with the voice in their contact center is due to the readiness of their internal network. Their current infrastructure was not set-up to handle VoiP telephony and DTA is working with their telco provider to upgrade their network. As soon as the network upgrade is finalized DTA will go-live with voice.

      We have a large number of customers in this region who are using SAP BCM to run their call centers. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions or would like to discuss this in more detail.


      Rob Delnoij,

      SAP Australia