Washing machines aren’t making their own calls for repair service yet, but Tom Goodmanson, president and CEO of Calabrio Inc., a call center workforce optimization software developer, said the Minneapolis-based company would be ready when they do.

Such machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is just one of the many channels, including phone calls, texts and social media, that firms will need to integrate in what Goodmanson calls the “Contact Center of 2020.”

In his washing machine scenario, which he estimates will be a reality in three to five years, sensors on the appliance will report problems to the manufacturer, which will e-mail the customer while a virtual customer service agent schedules a service call.

“When your washing machine calls the call center agent, we’re going to be ready to take that call and schedule that automatic repair,” he said.

Creating that more automated, virtual and predictive contact center of 2020 is the rallying cry of what Goodmanson terms the second act of Calabrio, which in 2007 spun off from Spanlink Communications Inc., the Golden Valley-based designer and builder of customized Cisco contact center solutions. Soon after, Calabrio closed on a round of $8 million in venture capital led by Minneapolis-based BlueStream Ventures and Split Rock Partners.

Calabrio’s first act featured a 2009 “left turn” into direct competition against two much larger competitors, a market-disrupting move that Goodmanson said has paid off in rapid growth.

Revenue is projected to rise 60 percent this year to more than $40 million on sales of Calabrio One, the company’s Web 2.0-based workforce optimization suite, which integrates call recording, quality management, workforce management, performance management and speech. Staffing is expected to go from a recent total of 158 to more than 180 by year’s end.

‘Visionary vendor’ recognition

Contributing to Calabrio’s growth and rising profile, he believes, was its second consecutive recognition, in December, as the only visionary vendor in a Gartner review of contact center workforce software companies.

The Gartner recognition and a growing number of enterprise accounts, from early adopter FedEx to Polaris Industries, Allianz and Cisco, likely helped persuade more than 400 companies to switch to Calabrio last year, Goodmanson said.

The company’s first-act success, he said, hinged on approaching the market as a more nimble, disruptive force and focusing on service, training and building software that is easy to use.

For its second act, Calabrio is “taking ‘smart’ to another level,” he said. That means preparing to help companies handle and mine the rising flood of data from call center contacts, transactions, social media posts and devices that already communicate.

“It’s one thing to record the call,” Goodmanson said. “It’s another thing to tie that all together and make good, solid predictions and analysis.”

With the right analytical systems, companies can perform “real-time root-cause analysis” of what’s happening in their centers while also having “a reliable decisionmaking engine, providing directional guidance for the road ahead,” Goodmanson recently wrote in an industry journal.

Lauren Christiansen, dealer support and customer service manager for Polaris Industries, said Calabrio’s performance and quality management software, used in centers with 90 agents, has been good, while Calabrio’s training has been “stellar.”

“They have the flexibility to work with the big companies that are quite sophisticated and to partner with lay people such as ourselves. We love the fact that they’re in our back yard,’’ she said.

Calabrio’s price and integration with Cisco’s network hardware helped prompt AAA of Western and Central New York to adopt the company’s workforce and quality management software, said Alexander Awareham, manager of analytics and planning at the 850,000-member organization.

“Calabrio has provided the highest level of support I could ever imagine,’’ Awareham said. “You don’t have to wait days — it’s usually minutes to get an answer.”

The expert says: Mike Harvath, president and CEO of Revenue Rocket Consulting Group in Bloomington, said Goodmanson’s vision for Calabrio and his ability to put together a leadership team that can execute on his plans has the company positioned to do well for the foreseeable future.

That should serve the company and its disruptive technology well in a competitive, growing market, Harvath said.

“They’ve got a great niche,” Harvath said. “Leading-edge contact center stuff like this and customer service in general seems to be hot right now. A vision like this built by Tom and his management team has a lot of legs.”


Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.