Does Your Call Center Need More Hair Care?

March 20, 2014

With the release of Cisco Unified Contact Center Express 10, Cisco has brought the Finesse desktop for agents and supervisors to Express from the Enterprise version of contact center.  Is this good?  Is this bad?  Have we resorted to using hair care products to improve customer care?  Maybe, let’s find out.  Keep in mind that this post is specifically about the new Finesse and not the other changes in UCCX 10.  Maybe in a future post I will tackle those.

Before I get into whether we are using more hair spray as a customer service tactic, I should probably talk about what Cisco Finesse is first.  Cisco has decided that it’s time to replace the existing Windows only Cisco Agent Desktop and Cisco Supervisor Desktop applications with a web based interface that will work on Windows and Mac computers provided that they have the proper version of Web browser.  This new interface is called Cisco Finesse and at first look it does look quite a bit more attractive than the old Cisco Agent Desktop.  You can see why Cisco is leading this in their demos, it’s definitely prettier than the old agent/supervisor desktop software, if you’re into that kind of thing.

finesseThe Good

Every new release of software has got to have it’s share of good and bad and we’ll cover both.  You have to start somewhere though, so let’s start with the good so we have a nice warm feeling as we go into the bad section.

Multi-Platform

I said it before in the introduction but I think it warrants saying again.  I’ve had a number of customers over the years that have really wanted to use Mac computers in their call center.  Up until now the answer has always been “no” or “run it in a virtual machine” or some variation of that.  Now, as long as you have the supported browser, you can have agents using either platform in harmony.  Supported browsers for the 10.0.1 version of Finesse are Firefox version 24 or later or IE 9.  From what I understand, support for IE 10 will be skipped completely in favor of supporting IE 11.

Go Go Gadget…

Being that this is a web based client, you can do more to add functionality to a client than just adding a web browser frame into the bottom of the application.  Finesse adds in the concept of Gadgets.  Gadgets can utilize Finesse REST APIs to provide stateless, client-server cacheable communications protocols that are accessible natively by browsers.  That was a mouthful, but if we boil it down it just means that we can put parts into the interface that can retrieve and show data to the end user.  There are several sources for gadgets including the Sample Gadgets page on Cisco’s DevNet as well as many third party providers.  Additionally, because of the existing Finesse API, developers can code agent functionality into other applications like 2Ring’s compact agent for Jabber that allows you to use the Jabber client as your agent desktop software.

E.164

This is really more of a function of version 10 of UCCX, but it is worthwhile to say that Finesse supports E.164 agent DNs now where CAD agent does not.  If you’re using this in your organization it might be helpful.

Upgrades

While I haven’t really heard many people talking about it, the one thing that I think will become and advantage of Finesse is that you no longer have to worry about whether or not the CAD software on each agent PC will upgrade correctly.  Since this is a web interface, all you have to make sure of is that the browser version is supported.  That being said, I used IE 11 in the lab on my Finesse trial and had no issues crop up that were resolved by going to IE 9, it’s just not officially supported yet.

The Bad

OK, we’ve had enough time talking about the good stuff with Finesse, let’s address the bad, because there is always room for improvement.

Feature Parity

Let’s start out with the nitty gritty.  The things that won’t be there on version 10.0.1 of Finesse that you might be used to using in CAD.  Here’s the list:

  • Outbound Support
  • Multi-line
  • Localization
  • Agent Email
  • Agent to Agent Chat
  • Certain Workflow Events & Actions
  • Blind Transfer
  • Recent Call List

I know that I will get a note from a friend on Twitter if I neglected to point out that there are third party gadgets that will help out with some of these.  One that comes to mind right away is Agent to Agent chat.  If there are just one or two features that are missing that would be a problem for you, check out some of the third party gadgets to see if they would help out your situation.  Some of these, like multi-line I see as being a potential show stopper, a lot of call centers I have seen have an “agent” extension as well as a “personal” extension on their ph0ne.  According to Cisco you can currently only configure one extension per phone, so keep that in mind moving forward.  Some of the feature differences are supposed to be resolved in 10.5 and some are rumored to be on the list for 11, however I would be just guessing at what they would be and how they would be fixed until it comes out.

Cisco Doesn’t Go Both Ways

If you have a call center and you are considering using Finesse you may want to have a group of agents use the software while the majority of your agents continue to use CAD.  In my mind, this would be a wise choice because you can see what works and what doesn’t to make the decision before dumping everyone onto a new platform.  Unfortunately this is an area where Cisco and I disagree.  While you CAN run both Finesse agents and CAD agents at the same time, it is not supported and Cisco has stated that it could cause some pretty serious performance issues.  I haven’t checked it out myself, but most people tend to avoid serious performance issues with their call center environment.  Keep in mind with this that per Cisco’s direction CAD and Supervisor Desktop will no longer work as of version 11.  Let’s hope that they get most of these issues on the bad list taken care of between now and then.

The Work Doesn’t Flow That Way

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and move your agents over to Finesse.  You’ve activated the service and you’re ready to go, right?  Wrong.  If you have workflow configurations in your environment, like many do, then you’re not quite ready because you will now have to re-build all of those workflows for Finesse.  The CAD workflows are completely separate from Finesse workflows and there is currently not a tool to migrate over the Agent Desktop workflows into Finesse, so you’re going to be recreating those by hand.

Failed Failover

If you’re using UCCX in an HA environment, it’s probably important to you that your call center stays up and running.  And yes, if the CCX Engine fails on the master then your Finesse clients will failover to the secondary node and everything will continue humming along.  Sounds great, right?  Well that part is, but let’s talk about some scenarios when a failure will leave you dead in the water even when you have a perfectly functional backup server:

  • CCX Notification Service Crashes: the CCX notification service is important to the functionality of the Finesse Desktop, so much so that if it stops working Finesse will stop working.  It will also cause it to not failover to the secondary server.  So if this service dies, your agents will no longer work because the Finesse services on the HA server will remain OUT_OF_SERVICE.  When the notification service comes back up, agents will have to re-login.
  • Finesse Tomcat crashes: Much like the CCX Notification Service, Finesse Tomcat is required for the operation of the Finesse Desktop, however if it crashes the Finesse instance on the HA server will still remain in OUT_OF_SERVICE state.  When the Finesse Tomcat service comes back up, all stuck client sessions will automatically resume.

It seems like we could use a little bit of extra communication to allow for a failover in the event that these services fail, but I guess you’re also somewhat limited by the fact that it is a web application.

Wrapup

I’m going to end there.  I know that there are features on the good side and the bad side that I could have easily added, but these were the ones that happened to stick out in my mind.  Should you go to Finesse for your agent desktop?  I think that’s largely going to depend on your organization and what features matter to you.  If you have a large Mac install base and having those users as agents is more important than the features that you will be missing out on then Finesse may be right for you.  If you have a large base of users that are already using CAD and are tightly tied into the features available, my guess would be that you will definitely want to wait until at least 10.5.  I’m a little torn on if someone is a new customer.  I don’t want to give them a client that doesn’t do everything that they need it to, but on the same token I don’t want them to get used to CAD only to get kicked off of it once they upgrade to 11.

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