Setting up next generation contact centers with Asterisk

Before we get into aspects of setting up a contact center, it is important to clarify what I mean by “next generation”? I am referring to the infrastructure and technology associated with a contact center. What is so important about it? Technology evolution is a by-product of the demands placed by users to enhance productivity, offer flexibility and reduce the overall cost of acquisition and operation of contact centers.

Key aspects associated with a contact center build-out are the Telephone switch, ACD and Dialer software, hardware infrastructure and the telecom connectivity. Let us review all of these from a  next generation perspective.

Phone switch (PBX) is the single most important and expensive portion of any contact center. It controls the switching and allows the rest of the world to communicate with the contact center. In the last ten years we have seen incredible advancements in the field of telephony with VoIP slowly becoming mainstream. TDM phone lines like ISDN PRI (T1/E1) are still available but are steadily giving way to SIP. There is a very good reason. SIP is available on-demand and SIP does away with the need to plan and commission like a PRI. This allows contact centers to grow their capacity on-demand.  Also, SIP does not require special phone lines like PRI because it is IP based. A contact center PBX switch has to be a hybrid PBX with seamless integration between VoIP and TDM. One of the best known hybrid switches is Asterisk which will definitely qualify as a top of the line next generation PBX for many reasons. It is an open source switch with incredible features that proprietary telephone switches can hardly keep up with. Not going with Asterisk would have tremendous cost and feature related implications that very contact centers can afford. There are other advantges like voice recording and CODEC availability which are intrinsic to Asterisk.

ACD (Automated Call Distribution) and Dialer are the key drivers of any contact center operation. If you have chosen Asterisk, you will require an ACD that is capable of working and scaling with Asterisk. ACD and Dialer are distinct software layers on top of the phone switch that can provide important features like Skills based routing and Predictive dialing. Q-Suite is a unique multi-tenant contact center software that works with Asterisk and provides a feature-rich and scalable ACD and Dialer functionality.

If you have chosen Asterisk and Q-Suite as the technology platform for your contact center, you pretty much control the hardware selection. You will not require to buy any proprietary hardware and instead can use servers from known brand names like IBM, Dell or HP. Even better, you can opt to lease the hardware from data centers.  This gives you the opportunity to deploy in a reliable data center “Cloud”. Here there are options of running the system on Virtual machines. The other advantage of deploying in the Cloud is the option of choosing VoIP and SIP for your Telco connectivity. This is especially useful if you have to scale on-demand.

IP communication has propelled SIP into its dominant position. SIP offers great advantage to contact centers for telco connectivity as long as there is sufficient bandwidth and the latency is within prescribed limits. Latency is the time it takes for the voice packets to travel to a destination.

Setting up a contact center requires detailed planning and having good professional help for evaluating the technology stack is essential.