Aspect Communications: A Little Static
Aspect Communications, a veteran of nearly two decades in the call-center game, leaves some customers positively upbeatbut 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."
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 monthswhereas initially Muzzi thought it would be about a monthprimarily 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."
Aspect Operating Results*
* 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