ShoreTel Recently announced the availability of Version 7 of the Enterprise Contact Center. It is not secret that I am a big fan of this product, so I was anxious to see what the new version had to offer. The product has a number of new features and capabilities that are both feature specific and impact the infrastructure of the product. Anyone who has worked with the ShoreTel iPBX for any period of time will become instantly comfortable with the new ECC system administration interface. It is now a browser based portal, very similar to the interface used for the iPBX administration. In fact I would be willing to bet that the new ECC portal will become the standard for the ShoreTel product line and the iPBX Shoreware Director will take on some of the characteristics of the new ECC 7 administration portal.
Another area in which the ECC has adopted the exiting iPBX paradigm is in the area of licensing. Early versions of the ECC required the installation of a hardware dongle on the server and each desktop that ran the Supervisor software. Dongles are a pain for everyone and beginning with Version 6, ShoreTel began to migrate away from this requirement by eliminating the dongle requirement for Supervisors. Previous versions of ECC required the installation of the USB Hasp on the server before installing the ECC application. No dongle, not ECC! With ECC 7, not only are the dongles not needed, you get the familiar 45 day grace period to run the ECC application and try all the features before you have to provide the license keys. The server key locks to the MAC of the server, in a fashion similar to the iPBX key. The ECC application also reads the BIOS serial number of the server for added software protection.
Other infrastructure changes include the support for Windows 2008 R2 64 Bit Servers. The ECC will support Citrix and WTS clusters and most importantly, roaming profiles are now supported. The system will now allow for 100 concurrent Supervisors and 1000 concurrent Agents, though you may define 2000 agents in the database configuration. The application support 400 DNIS reports and historical data can now be kept for 24 months allowing for year over year trend analysis.
An exciting new feature is the addition of Personal Queues. I am sure we have all had the experience of working with an “agent” on a particular customer service issue, maybe given a “home work “ assignment only to call back and have to start over with a new agent. The concept of a “Personal Queue” makes it possible for inbound callers to reach specific agents, if you desire that option. In this way, after completing the “home work” assignment, you can call back in and queue for the agent that originally handled your call in the first place. Agents can move high priority calls to their personal queue with a simple mouse click. Historically, if you wanted this option you had to configure a group and service for each agent that required a personal queue. With Version 7, this process has been streamlined with the creation go a new entity that defines how the caller should be handled while in the personal queue. A very powerful option and very useful in direct selling environments.
The familiar graphical scripting tools has not changed and scripts are generated using the established procedure. The Diagnostic console has been upgraded and is more usable for trouble shooting at the System Administrator level. I am particularly excited about the creation of a Lab SKU, something I would like to see ShoreTel do with the entire product line. The Lab SKU makes it possible for you to purchase and run a small scale Contact Center along side your production environment. In this way you can create new scripts, strategies, call flows and of course, test new upgrades before putting them into your production environment!