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Independent Vertical Solutions CRM Software Review


CRM Customer Service Software Solution


Vertical Solutions delivers contact center and service management solutions, including VContactCenter for contact centers and VServiceManagement for customer support, field service and mobile. The scope of this CRM software review is largely focused on the contact center solution.

The company developed its Vertical Services Platform (VSP) in 1996. VSP is a SOA-compliant, multi-tenant SaaS-based platform, that support Business Process Management and offers customer choice in software deployment as the application can be delivered as a service or on-premise in a private or public cloud.

VContactCenter and VServiceManager are built on top of the VSP framework; the first is designed to handle complex inbound contact center case management and customer resolution while the second handles complex field service environments.

Case Management

Vertical Solutions case management software is pretty routine regarding ticket management or incident resolution—including sourcing, recording, assigning, prioritizing, routing, escalating and resolving cases. The user interface is a no frills customer experience, but simple to understand and gets the job done.

The company does posses some uniqueness and competitive advantage in customer case management using group collaboration. Perhaps an opportune capability given the aforementioned study by Computer Economics which fingered collaboration tools as a top trending adoption and investment technology in enterprises.

VContactCenter has done a respectable job in handling multi-channel communications with equal emphasis and in automating interactions between entities, databases and groups. Much more remains to be done with social networks and social channels, as the contact center product is clearly lacking in this expanding area.

The Business Process Management platform adds real strength to customer case management. BPM permits configurable work flow events such as email alerts, notifications, approvals, escalations and routings. A simple drag-and-drop interface, and the reuse of workflow templates permit call center managers or business users to create their own automated business processes and workflows without IT intervention. This makes VContactCenter one of the more efficient and useful contact center solutions on the market. Such flexibility allows a call center to capitalize on all of its internal talent and rapidly respond to opportunities. Further, integrating BPM with case management can support a systematic approach in contact center operations which improves process consistency, more easily permits best practices adoption, reduces cycle times (such as first call resolution and call handling times) and achieves predicted results.

Knowledge Management

Leveraging, reusing and sharing knowledge is a hallmark of an effective contact center and significantly contributes to key performance metrics such as first call resolution and customer satisfaction.

VContactCenter's Wiki-based knowledge management is unique in a crowded contact center software market and empowers call center agents to simply and quickly create Wiki articles from closed cases, append articles using standard formatting and tagging, or even create custom folksonomies. As with case management, the BPM tool can be applied to knowledge management records. Contact center managers can also select which agents they want to be able to collaborate on the system as well to build a quick start system of tips and best practices for the entire call center agent base.

Contact center managers can create more than one knowledge base and assign permission levels to each agent providing a strong security and governance control. Versioning and editing is tracked under the history tab and articles can be scored and ranked by agents based on their usefulness—and then displayed in that order.

All told, knowledge creation, management and sharing is simple to use, requires minimal training, is effective and efficient, and generally needs little to no customization.

Customer Self Service

The VContactCenter software offers three self help portals for clients, consumers, and dealer/third party support. All three offer both extranet and Internet access and embedding as an option to deliver and control the self service application from within the company's website. Each of the self service applications can be configured with data types to make available and multiple levels of self-help. The self service portals lack the cosmetic and structural design capabilities of some other CRM contact center applications, but are uncomplicated and sufficient for basic customer self service needs.

The company reports that the Consumer Portal is a transaction based licensing model and is billed monthly, quarterly, or on an annual basis. Whereas the Client and Dealer Portals authenticate users and use a more traditional software module licensing model.

Social Media & Social CRM

The VContactCenter software application supports a very basic level of social CRM. The contact center application provides direct access to both internal and external social networking sites (Twitter) and automatically monitors them for keywords or phrases. Automated (RSS) feeds permit monitoring and responding (directly on the social network) and allow for a quick means to request or route a follow-up internally. The internal social network permits agents or other staff to subscribe to call center records such as customers, contacts and cases—and uses a push model to keep subscribers updated in near real time. This internal social network model can also be used as a social media tool to build mentoring between new and experienced agents or to speed problem resolution via community collaboration.

Unfortunately, except for the internal social network tool, Vertical Solutions social CRM offering is extremely light. There is a notable social CRM product absence for key tools such as a peer to peer social network, social monitoring, ideation collaboration, social contact append service and highly integrated social streams integration.

Workforce Management

VContactCenter's focus on fostering collaboration and team communication among agents goes far not just in resolving customer cases, but also in reducing agent turn-over and burnout, and reducing training times. The Wiki-based knowledge management also helps lower learning curves, cut down on agent stress and increase problem resolution. Other contact center tools offer situational guidance for call center agents.

Further, the combination of a simple system, intuitive navigation and custom workflow automation collectively deliver a powerful method with which standardized processes and best practices can be created, implemented, managed and matured over time. The payback of engineering business processes throughout the call center is reduced cycle times, enhanced outcomes and reduced workload stress on agents and managers alike. It also relieves strain on IT resources.

While adept at routing customer cases based on simple criteria and managing call center workflow processes for workforce management benefits, Vertical Systems CRM software does not offer more advanced workforce management capabilities—such as demand management and workforce scheduling—available in some higher-end call center software applications. It's quite possible that these later referenced workforce management features may be available from an integrated HRMS (Human Resource Management System) or even an ERP system.

CRM Reporting & Analytics

Users can view data and drill down for specifics using configurable dashboards with security-driven roles. VSP also supports integration to Microsoft, Crystal and Cognos among other reporting technologies.

Multiple reporting options, including ad hoc and standard key performance indicators (KPIs) reporting, are delivered as standard with the call center software. Exporting data from one report to another is easier than is found in many competing CRM software products.

VReport Wizard, an ad hoc report writer powered by Exago, supports reporting designs and makes report bursting easier by allowing users to generate one report and distribute as many sub-reports. Custom reports can also be generated with SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), but this option requires IT support. SSRS reports can be embedded inside VSP applications using the Microsoft reporting services support tool.

The net take away is that Vertical Systems CRM software delivers comprehensive dashboards and reports, and permits a basic level to create or modify reports, however, does not directly venture into advanced reporting technologies such as data mining, data warehousing, online analytical processing (OLAP) and predictive modeling.

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