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Cisco Contact Center Express Delays and Disappointments with Cisco

The one thing that has become very evident through-out the Internet community is the lack of resources and discussion focused around Cisco Call Center solutions.  Whether it is white-papers/data sheets from company web site to even message boards.  You ask a question about Call Center, no one really answers. This includes any training materials.  Maybe the need for a Call Center solution is becoming rare or being outsourced.

Cisco Systems has a Call Center product line aligned for SMB to Large Enterprises.  There is Cisco Contact Center Express (versions 5 and 6) and Cisco Contact Center Enterprise.

Cisco Contact Center Express, also known under a different name IPCC Express, is a very popular Call Center product solution that can be integrated with your Cisco CallManager Express or Cisco Unified Communication Manager (CallManager) environment.

It provides basic to advanced scripting for your call center that meets your requirements, calls forwarding into call queues, calls forwarded based on agent skill sets, and a lot more.

So that is some basic understanding of the product line.  On to the delays and disappointments.

We purchased Cisco Contact Center Express 5 (CCX5) for a Microsoft Gold Partner Provider who currently has Cisco Unified Communication Manager 5 and using Exchange 2007 for Unified Messaging.   The CCX5 would provide a more robust solution for their current technical support center than what they are using today.

We purchased the server, software, licensing, and support back in June 2008.  The server, software, and smartnet arrived in about a week.  Except for the licensing.  One month has passed and the order for the CCX licensing was still open and not shipped.  We called in to see what was going on.  Cisco said that the item was on a New Product Hold.  They have no ETA on when it will be ready.   Well, I had no idea what they were talking about, but assumed that few weeks it would be clear.  The customer wasn’t in desperate need to deploy the solution.  That would soon change.

However, two more months did pass and the item was still open.  The customer was now very upset which was escalated from the CTO then to the CEO.  We were going to loose this project and this customer.

We called back into our disty (our distributor, Ingram Micro) for an answer right away and for this to be escalated. I wanted an ETA on when this will be shipped.  Again, Cisco did not give any ETA nor have any information to give.  So, we were suppose to go back and tell the customer that we have no updates or any idea on when the licensing will be available.  Wrong answer!  Cisco should know better.

We got Cisco Gold Partners involved and spoke with other Cisco SE from other channels to see what they can do.  There was nothing they could do either.  With no ETA or information the customer demanded an alternative solution.

Luckily, there Call Center needs were basic, and the Cisco Attendant Console within there CallManager appliance provided what they needed.

As of now, 4 months has past and the item is still OPEN.  If you purchase the CCX5 today from any vendor or partner there will be delays due to the NPH.

So basically a “New Product Hold” can last between 3-6 months.  No escalation or pressure or anything can change the manufacturing of the product any sooner.  There are no ETAs  or any additional information provided.

Our recommendations for other consultants and companies is to first determine the lead time on any Cisco product that you order.

Try to avoid any direct shipment from Cisco.  If it’s available at the disty’s wherehouse then that is a better and safer bet.

If the product is out of stock or backordered or on a “New Product Hold” determine the availability on that item from your disty or Cisco.  If they have no ETA of useful info to provide take note of that.

If an item is on a New Product Hold communicate that with the customer, discuss what that means, that 6 months or longer the product won’t be available with no info or updates you can provide.  Determine possible alternatives and solutions that can still align with the business requirements.

This is very disappointing on how Cisco handles New Product Holds.  If the customer we were working with was, Microsoft or Lockheed Martin, and involved a million dollar project I think the results would be different.

Cisco claimed they are making strong efforts to attract the SMB and Small Business markets more.  This is one way, the only not to go about to do this.  Cisco needs to seriously change there process and policies for how they handle these type of issues.  And providing more information back to customer for what is going on should always be consideration Cisco needs to provide.

So keep those considerations in mind and be careful because you mind not be lucky as we were!

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