One of the industry's largest suppliers of automatic
phone-answering technology is upgrading to an open-standards-based platform that will
provide cable systems with more features, including self-programming capabilities.
However, it may also force low-tech users to spike their
DOS-based programs, which run on 286 computers.
Syntellect's new product, "Vista," will move
users into the Windows NT environment, integrating third-generation
interactive-voice-response units, interactive Web response, predictive dialing,
computer-telephony integration, fax-on-demand, speech recognition and agent
"We will continue to support lower-tech
[applications], but we won't be adding any new features," said Roger Reece, vice
president of marketing for Syntellect.
In the past, Syntellect developed "templates"
that were compatible with the billing technology that each cable system employed, and it
then tried to customize the phone-response-system application from there. Operators had to
depend on Syntellect to integrate the telephone-system components and to write code.
The new product is based on Microsoft Corp.'s
Web-based "Enterprise Management" architecture. Vista's other open
components are a Java application-development engine, Dialogic CT Media, a Sybase database
and Intel Corp.-based computer hardware.
Syntellect executives said companies with large or multiple
call centers can configure the software to reside on multiple or networked servers; or
small companies can have everything on just one computer.
The VistaGen graphical and object-oriented application
generator is based on the "wizard" concept, and not the flowchart or spreadsheet
methods used by most graphical-user-interface tools. This means that nonprogrammers can
develop, manage and maintain applications for multiple-call-center technologies, such as
IVR, CTI, the Web and agent desktops, from a single tool.
A third component, "VistaView," allows managers
to monitor phone performance and functionality off-site, if needed.
Company executives said upgrade costs will vary according
to system or call-center size and number of features included.
"Operators actually have been pushing us for improved
[automatic-number-identification technology], fax servers and other functions," said
Bo Chance, regional vice president of sales for Syntellect.
For instance, he said, operators want cable-modem customers
to be able to access the host computer via the Internet for Web-based transactions.
The company and a top 10 MSO are testing a large-vocabulary
(20,000-word) speech-recognition module, executives added. The technology will respond to
full sentences, such as, "I want to know my account balance."
The same program would allow technicians to verbally
activate and deactivate converters via telephone from the field, replacing a touch-tone
technology that was prone to entry errors. Successful deployment could allow operators to
pare dispatch staff, Syntellect said.