Concerto, Aspect Merge To Create Call-Center Powerhouse

The merged company hopes to help call centers better manage workforce scheduling and the use of outside experts.
Concerto Software Inc. and Aspect Communications Corp. on Tuesday unveiled plans to merge, creating what they claim will be the world's largest vendor solely focused on call-center software and services.

Concerto is acquiring all outstanding shares of Aspect and will take the company private when the deal closes, expected as early as September. Concerto went private in March 2004. Both vendors offer call-center software, including applications for workforce management and optimization.

Concerto's shareholders--Golden Gate Capital, Oak Investment Partners, and the company's management team--will pay $11.60 for each share of Aspect, making the deal worth about $1 billion. The per-share price represents a 15% premium over Aspect's average share price over the past 30 days, but only a 1.4% gain compared with Tuesday's closing price of $11.44.

Executives of the two companies say the combined entity will be better positioned to offer the technology needed to create a closed-loop call-center process that simplifies adoption of voice-over-IP and workforce-optimization applications, and the use of experts outside of the call center for helping to answer callers' questions. "Both companies share a passion to serve our customers better," says Brian Gentile, chief marketing officer for Aspect. "Being larger will allow us to become better at solving more problems for more customers."

The growing tendency to have subject-matter experts--such as brokers, insurance adjusters, or nurses--provide spot support has created some complicated problems for call centers. Call centers can't track calls forwarded to experts, and they're also unable to ensure that the outside experts are upholding the call center's standards for dealing with customers. "As soon as the call leaves the contact center, all of that is gone," says Mike Sheridan, VP of strategy and marketing for Concerto. "Those kinds of process problems can be uniquely solved by this combined company."

Meanwhile, call centers are trying to get control of their biggest cost--people--by employing workforce-optimization tools that help them speed up the handling of calls and plan their staffing levels to match expected call volumes. The combined company plans to develop a workforce-optimization suite that would handle agent scheduling and management, call analysis, training, and feedback, Gentile says.

The two companies have not established any specific plans for when such a suite--or any other joint product offerings--would be available. Gentile says the combined company will be lead by Concerto CEO James Foy, and should have more details on its strategic and product road maps once the deal is closed.

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