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Aspect Communications Corporation (Nasdaq: ASPT), a leading provider of enterprise customer contact solutions, announced today the results of the 2005 Contact Centre Trends Market Survey, a study conducted on behalf of Aspect by STRATECO GmbH, an independent contact centre research consultancy.

The highlight of this year’s study is that “customer satisfaction” emerged as the highest priority key performance indicator (KPI) for interviewees in both German-speaking countries and in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The study, now in its fourth year, involved interviews with 520 contact centre professionals across Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Ireland and the UK.

In German-speaking countries, 36.8 percent of contact centre professionals said that “customer satisfaction” is their highest priority KPI. In the UK and Ireland, 29.8 percent agreed. This differs from last year’s survey in that the highest priority KPI reported was “adhering to service level.”

“Cost and profitability issues are still extremely important to contact centre professionals,” said Andy Sleath, Aspect’s marketing manager for Northern Europe. “However, the fact that ‘customer satisfaction’ is considered the most important performance indicator shows that happy and loyal customers who make repeat purchases could have just as big an impact on bottom-line performance as cost-cutting.”

Leading independent contact centre analyst Steve Morrell of research firm ContactBabel agrees, saying that there “is no doubt that organisations are increasingly moving to measures such as ‘customer satisfaction’ and ‘quality of service’ when assessing performance.” He added that ContactBabel’s own recent research, for example, shows that the percentage of call centre managers who think first-time resolution is “important” or “very important” grew from 47 percent in 2003 to 56 percent in 2004, and ContactBabel expects this percentage to rise even further in 2005.

The Aspect study also revealed that contact centres in the UK and Ireland lead the way in the countries surveyed in the adoption of integrated contact centre systems based on Internet protocol (IP) technologies. Of the companies surveyed in the UK and Ireland, 7.6 percent had installed an IP-based or voice-over-IP hybrid system compared with 4.7 percent in German-speaking countries. However, almost one-third of the companies surveyed said that they are contemplating or planning to implement VoIP systems within the next 12 months—suggesting that by the end of 2005, as many as 20 percent of all the companies surveyed, and about 39 percent of companies surveyed in the UK and Ireland will have either conducted IP contact centre trials or made the switch to IP-based contact centre systems.

Overall, the companies surveyed are pleased with market conditions experienced in 2004—with 73 percent of contact centre managers in the United Kingdom and Ireland and 58 percent in German-speaking markets stating that they expect better times ahead in 2005.

OTHER KEY FINDINGS OF TRENDS SURVEY:

1. Hot Topics in 2005

Interviewees were asked to grade 12 Hot Topics, or subjects, on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being of the highest importance to their businesses. “Further Coach and Develop Agents” is the most popular Hot Topic (rated 7.69 out of 10) followed by “Reduce Costs” (rated 7.26 out of 10).

Aspect found that companies surveyed in the UK and Ireland are more focused on “Improving Contact Centre Performance via Analytics” and “Increasing Customer Self-Service Options” than their German-speaking counterparts.

2. Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR)

Of all the companies surveyed, 24 percent use an interactive voice recognition (IVR) system (17 percent speech-based and 7 percent DTMF/Touchtone-based) with a further 31 percent planning to put in place an IVR service. Penetration of IVR systems is slightly lower than average in the UK and Ireland, where 15.1 percent of companies use a speech-based IVR system and 1.9 percent use a touchtone IVR system. Of the companies in the UK and Ireland surveyed, however, 56.6 percent said they are planning an IVR implementation—resulting in a projected market penetration in those two countries of around 70 percent by the end of 2005.

3. Computer Telephony Integration (CTI)

More than 50 percent of contact centres in the German-speaking countries and about 42 percent in the United Kingdom and Ireland have integrated their telecommunications and IT infrastructure (i.e., have carried out CTI). An additional 12 percent of German-speaking companies and about 10 percent of companies in the UK and Ireland stated that they are planning to implement a system in the near future.

4. Workforce Management (WFM)

Of the companies surveyed, 53 percent use a contact centre workforce management (WFM) tool, and a further 5 percent stated that they are planning to implement one in the near future. Half of those surveyed use a specialist industry WFM solution, and the other 50 percent use a customised in-house solution or MS Excel. The use of WFM tools was found to be more prevalent in the UK and Ireland where contact centres are typically larger. The penetration of professional WFM solutions increased significantly once the threshold of 75 contact centre agents was reached.

5. Integration of Communications Channels

Of the companies interviewed in the survey, 51 percent stated that their channels are integrated, while 12 percent stated that they had “some” channels integrated, and 37 percent said they had no channel integration. More than 50 percent of the companies with integrated channels have at least two or more channels integrated.

The aim of full channel integration is to allow management to centrally route and queue incoming customer contacts (via phone, e-mail, etc.) as well as to apply general business rules across all communications channels.

Typically the first channels to be integrated by interviewees are voice and e-mail, followed by fax and white mail (post). Based on low implementation of SMS/MMS and Web interaction for customer contact—19.1 percent in German-speaking countries and 12.5 percent in the UK and Ireland—integration of these channels understandably lags behind.

6. Outlook

The survey concludes that the key ingredients for a successful 2005 are the following:

- The innovative use of technology;
- A focus on coaching and developing agents;
- Adopting a clear organisational strategy and structure;
- Setting appropriate KPIs that match business needs;
- Commitment to providing a high quality service to customers.

Interviewees identified a number of technology investments that could assist them in meeting their business goals, including the following:

- Transitioning to converged voice and data services under IP;
- Adopting “virtual contact centre” technology and methods of working;
- Integrating customer contact channels;
- Adopting solutions that have a proven ability to reduce costs and improve agent performance and service levels (such as IVR, workforce management and reporting and analytics software).

STRATECO GmbH conducted interviews for the 2005 Contact Centre Trends Survey in November and December 2004. A full version of the survey can be downloaded from www.cc-trends.com.

About Aspect Communications

Aspect Communications Corporation is a leading provider of contact centre solutions and services that enable businesses to manage and optimise customer communications. Aspect's global customer base includes more than two-thirds of the Fortune 50 and leading corporations in a range of industries, including transportation, financial services, insurance, telecommunications, retail and outsourcing, as well as large government agencies. The company's leadership is based on two decades of expertise. Aspect is headquartered in San Jose, California, with offices in countries around the world. Aspect's UK offices are in Stockley Park, Uxbridge, Middlesex, and can be reached on 0800 ASPECT (i.e., 0800 277328).

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Aspect, the Aspect logo and the phrases and marks relating to other Aspect products and services discussed in this press release constitute one or both of the following: (1) registered trademarks and/or service marks of Aspect Communications Corporation in the United States and/or other countries or (2) intellectual property subject to protection under common law principles. All other names and marks mentioned in this document are properties of their respective owners.

Contacts:

Andrew Sleath
Northern Europe Marketing Manager
Aspect Communications
+44 (0)20 8589 1168
andrew.sleath@aspect.com

Michael Gray
Gray Associates
PR for Aspect Communications (UK) Ltd
+44 (0)20 8744 9168
michael@grayassociates.co.uk


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