Aspect Communications: A Little Static

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2004-12-01 Print this article Print

Aspect Communications has dramatically improved customer relations in the past few years, though some say its technical support is subpar.

Aspect Communications, a veteran of nearly two decades in the call-center game, leaves some customers positively upbeat—but others are less than enthusiastic.

Under recently appointed CEO Gary Barnett, the company has greatly improved customer relations, says Jesse W. Jackson, director of call-center operations at BancTec, a Dallas electronic data processing and computer services firm that has used Aspect's products for 15 years. "The joke was, three years ago at the Aspect user conference, you'd need a search warrant to find a member of the senior management team," Jackson says. "The past two years, you almost need a restraining order to keep them away from you."

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Lisa Diggs, a business systems analyst at United Illuminating, an electric utility in New Haven, Conn., says Aspect delivers capabilities ahead of her group's needs. "As we had ideas about what we wanted to do, Aspect was going in the same direction," she says. For example, its software allowed her to set up a group of Spanish-speaking agents but also include them in a "super-group" that handles general billing calls in either Spanish or English.

Diggs also says Aspect's support services are excellent: "They're very responsive, and they provide a lot of different methods to contact them."

But not everyone's thrilled with its technical support. Carmen Hodges, workforce scheduling manager in Citigroup's mortgage services group, says that Aspect "sometimes takes a couple of days to call you back and figure out how to help you. I don't think they are properly staffed." (Aspect says most customers are "extremely satisfied" with its tech support.)

In some cases, Aspect has made upgrading its software a real chore. Frank Muzzi, operations manager for consumer cards at American Express Canada, oversaw the upgrade this summer of Aspect's eWorkforce Management application from version 4 to 6.5.

The new software, Muzzi says, has helped managers more closely track whether agents are meeting their targets. But the initial setup of the system took more than three months—whereas initially Muzzi thought it would be about a month—primarily because data from the old version of the software couldn't be automatically imported into the new version. As he explains: "It was a lot of manual labor to get that up and running."

Call-Center Software

Aspect Communications
1310 Ridder Park Drive,
San Jose, CA 95131
(408) 325-2200


Employees: 1,281

Gary E. Barnett
President, CEO
Named to the top spot in August 2003 after serving as chief technology officer. Before that, he was a founding engineer with Octel Communications, a developer of voice-messaging systems now part of Avaya.

Paul J. Farrell
Chief Customer Strategy Officer
Responsible for business development and improving customer relations. Previously in charge of business development at America Online.

Uniphi combines call distribution, interactive voice response and computer-telephony integration features. Call Center can process 200,000 calls per hour, routing them based on agent skills and other criteria. eWorkforce Management tracks employee performance and forecasts staffing needs.

Reference Checks

American Express Canada
Frank Muzzi
Operations Mgr., Consumer Cards
Project: Credit card provider, based in Markham, Ontario, uses eWorkforce Management to monitor 250 agents.

Jesse W. Jackson
Dir., Call Center Operations
(972) 450-7790
Project: Data processing and computer support services firm uses Call Center to handle 4,000 calls per day for 80 agents. Also uses eWorkforce Management for forecasting.

Brink's Home Security
Rick Seeley
Workforce Manager
Project: Irving, Texas-based provider of home security services uses eWorkforce Management to track 450 customer-service representatives, who handle 280,000 calls per month.

Chris Roche
Mgr., Customer Care Operations
Project: Cable TV provider uses eWorkforce Management in its 300-agent call center for the Dallas market.

Design Within Reach
Vince Barriero
Project: Furniture retailer uses Aspect's Iphinity call-center suite to route calls among 20 agents in its San Francisco headquarters and six in Kentucky.

United Illuminating
Lisa Diggs
Business Systems Analyst
Project: Electric utility in New Haven, Conn., uses Call Center and Aspect's interactive voice response system, which lets customers check account balances and other details.

Executives listed here are all users of Aspect's products. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.

Aspect Operating Results*

Gross margin60.0%57.4%9.1%
Operating income/loss$48.87M$49.24M-$74.93M
Net income/loss$43.49M$36.73M-$108.30M
Net margin15.9%10.1%-27.3%
Earnings per share$0.46$0.39-$2.06
R&D expenditure$33.83M$49.25M$56.84M

* Fiscal year ends Dec. 31; YTD reflects first nine months
Source: company reports

Total assets $319.41M
Stockholders' equity $137.22M
Cash and equivalents‡ $183.28M
Long-term debt $0.18M
Shares outstanding 59.37M
Market value, 12/3 $665.02M
**As of Sept. 30, 2004, except as noted
‡ Includes short-term investments


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