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Contact-center platform supports bank's collaboration vision

HarborOne Bank needed a tightly integrated Skype for Business contact-center platform. CTO Wayne Dunn discusses the bank's collaboration and contact-center roadmap.

Organizations that deploy Skype for Business must rely on Microsoft partners for contact-center capabilities. For HarborOne Bank, which standardized on a Microsoft environment, the challenge was finding the right contact-center partner that could meet the collaboration needs of agents and support future plans.

HarborOne, based in Brockton, Mass., has undergone significant change in the past few years. In 2013, the bank transitioned from a credit union. In 2015, it acquired a mortgage company. In 2016, the bank became publicly traded. HarborOne needed an integrated contact-center platform that could grow with the company.

HarborOne CTO Wayne Dunn discusses how the bank's vision for unified collaboration required a migration to a new contact-center platform and its plans for the future.

What business problems were you looking to solve when evaluating contact-center platforms that integrate with Skype for Business? And how did you choose your current platform?

Wayne Dunn, CTO, HarborOneWayne Dunn

Wayne Dunn: We looked for a platform integrated with the Microsoft environment and could take advantage of things like presence. [The bank's previous contact-center platform] Aspect Unified IP was sold to us as: 'We integrate with Skype and have a technical relationship with Microsoft.' It never really met the promise of what they hoped to deliver. It turned out we could have someone do one chat or one call, but couldn't do both at the same time. Maintaining the platform took an inordinate number of servers, including an appliance.

Last year, we implemented a new call-center platform. We looked at Clarity Connect and the Enghouse Interactive platform. In the end, we liked what Enghouse had to offer -- not only on the contact-center platform, but also things like workforce management. For us, it was being able to support everything in a virtual environment. We could reduce servers, there were no special appliances involved and they demonstrated tight integration with Skype.

It's very easy for us to maintain from a technical and business perspective. With the workforce management that's integrated, we have features like prioritizing queues and changing modes like routing calls to COCC [HarborOne's core systems provider and internet service provider] during a snow emergency.

How was the migration to the Enghouse platform?

Dunn: When Enghouse came to the table, we asked what the transition looked like. We were given a 60-day time frame; it was done within the time frame, I was pleasantly surprised. We started to go through the process, watched it closely and it was tracking very well. We planned the implementation, and I pushed for someone from Enghouse to be on site for three days.

That person worked through the final configurations, and we geared up for problems. It was a nonevent; there were some minor things, like users getting comfortable with the system and adjusting queues. 

Because we were moving to a call-center platform that was designed to work in today's environment, Microsoft servers and things like VMware, it was a matter of, 'We're eliminating an appliance; we need servers in specific locations. Now, walk us through how failover works.' We actually reduced the number of servers required to support this platform in half from the old platform.

What benefits have you seen from standardizing on a single vendor?

Being on a single vendor offered everything we needed: web conferencing, video conferencing, enterprise voice.
Wayne DunnCTO, HarborOne

Dunn: Being on a single vendor offered everything we needed: web conferencing, video conferencing, enterprise voice. You've seen a number of environments that use GoToMeeting in a Cisco environment; it's expensive and doesn't always play nice. We had a good experience on the Microsoft platform, and we've been able to build on that.

We are looking at introducing video chat to our customers -- our goal is to introduce a pilot at the end of the second quarter. We want to choose a platform that not only integrates with the Enghouse call-center platform, but integrates with Skype for Business. It was something we could do easily with a collaboration environment using a Microsoft suite of products.

Do you keep services on premises, in the cloud or a mix of the two?

Dunn: We use some cloud platforms that are considered private cloud in the sense that a lot of it is maintained at COCC, and we have a private connection to them. Our core platforms are hosted there. But because we're in the financial services industry, we need to be very careful about vetting. 

The FDIC [Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.] expects that, whether it's on premises or hosted, that all the security controls they expect to see and test are in place. When we go to a third party, we need to make sure they provide those same controls and assurances. We have a blend of some things hosted and on premises. But when it comes to things like collaboration and the phone system, we like to control it.

We have a blend of things hosted and on premises. But when it comes to collaboration and the phone system, we like to control it.
Wayne DunnCTO, HarborOne

One of the other advantages to the Microsoft platform and Skype for Business is we could take a hybrid approach. We acquired Merrimack Mortgage, and they're used to operating somewhat differently as a mortgage company. They have a couple main locations where Skype for Business on premises will easily translate.

They also own a number of remote offices where they have their own phone system and controlled their own environment. We're now changing that, and it may not be the best model to say, 'We're going to have you come back to a main location for your phone services.' Though we haven't made a final decision yet, we have the option of using a hybrid environment -- having Skype on premises but also combined with Office 365 and Skype in the cloud, where it may make sense to do that for some of these smaller offices.

Besides video chat, what other plans do you have for your contact-center platform?

Dunn: The foundation of Skype for Business in conjunction with the Enghouse call-center platform is a seamless transition for customers. We're taking the same approach as we start to look at our future branch designs. When you start a transaction online, whether it's on your mobile phone or PC at home, we don't want you to have to start again when you come to the branch. Those are the types of things we're looking at in our future design to integrate a lot of the platforms we already have.

Next Steps

Managing Skype for Business voice traffic

Comparing hosted and on-premises contact centers

Preparing for a Skype for Business deployment

This was last published in May 2017

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