Spec Out Your Infrastructure Properly

Sometimes you see businesses overspend for one part of their infrastructure, leaving the rest to suffer. Sometimes the importance of a particular component isn’t recognized until it’s too late. We’ve seen it happen over and over again. I’m here today to tell you that your agent desktops are important. Scrimping too much there can leave your agents waiting around and inefficient. Continue reading Spec Out Your Infrastructure Properly

Running the Beachfront Call Center

In 2004, we had a client with a call center in Northern New Brunswick.  For a dozen seats, he required thousands of dollars in telephony equipment, including the Pika board required to wire in the multiple incoming telephone channels, CTI server and a server to manage the leads and agent interaction. A few years later, and after a downturn in the economy, he was able to repurpose the equipment. He moved it to his basement, kept a few call center seats there, and used DSL to connect to a SIP provider. If he were to start today, he wouldn’t need the telephony card, the servers, and the wiring. He could start in his basement, using the Cloud,  and only move to an outside office when his growth demanded. Continue reading Running the Beachfront Call Center

Four Keys To Soft Phone Delight

A colleague once visited a client site, and found their server room to be a nightmare. Among other things, they had insisted their telco give them a PRI connection due to the improved reliability they thought they’d get. They had also decided to use a PRI to SIP connection in the server room to allow the flexibility of moving the telphony connection from one server to another if needed. When Justin got there, he found a SIP to PRI device on the telco side, and a PRI to SIP device connecting in to Asterisk. Continue reading Four Keys To Soft Phone Delight

One Way to Stop Overloading Your Telephony Server

There is a subset of your staff doing most of the work. This is the well-known Pareto Principle, where 80% of results are achieved by 20% of causes. 20% of your employees are doing 80% of the work. 20% of your clients are responsible for 80% of your profits. Understanding how this works in your cloud-based call center can help you be more efficient. Having 20% of your telephony servers handling 80% of the calls can be a recipe for disaster.

You may have one number that comes in on one trunk, and use smart IVR routing to get calls to the right spot. That’s pretty common. Your SIP provider may only allow one IP to communicate with it. That’s also pretty common. If you just point it to the first of many telephony servers, though, that server is going to be doing a lot of work. One strategy is to have agents distributed across multiple servers to spread things out. Another is to have multiple trunks. None of these solutions is ideal for heavy usage cases. On commodity or Cloud hardware, you will reach the capacity of a server, and be stuck. It’s worse if you have occasional bursts of activity over one trunk or another.

Load balancing is very important under heavy call volumes. For telephony, this is usually accomplished by having a load-balancing SIP Proxy in front of your telephony servers. Handling the media (voice, usually) is the hard part of a Voice over IP (VoIP) call. Signalling is fairly lightweight. Telling the server a call is coming in, accepting it, saying “Yes, I’m still here” is really just some text being passed back and forth. Taking the audio, encoding it, breaking it into packets and sending it off, possibly recording it, is the hard part.

One interesting fact about most VoIP traffic, such as SIP, is the signalling and media can happen on different servers. In the case where only one server is allowed to connect to the provider, this almost always means the signalling. The media can, and often does, connect to a different server.

On inbound, a SIP proxy handles the easy part. It can also decide which of the available servers will take the next call, and arrange the details between your server and your service provider. This way, there’s not one single server in a multi-server call center that’s struggling with 80% of the call volume.

For outbound, the usual solution is to have your trunk proxied, and the outbound load distributed evenly. This usually means spreading your agents out so the outbound call volume doesn’t overwhelm the server. Again, your SIP proxy looks like the trunk provider to each of the servers using the proxy. The call gets dialed, then the media is processed as normal.

In either case, whether inbound or outbound, you can avoid having the Pareto Principle cause disruption. The better you do with call distribution, the fewer complaints you’ll have with call problems.

Crunch Time is Coming

Crunch time is coming. You can prepare for it and sail through it, or you can let it overwhelm you and lose the respect of your clients. Some call centers handle crunch time poorly, no matter how far in advance it’s known. April 15 comes at the same time each year, after all. So does Christmas, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day weekend, Labour Day, the end of the year. Continue reading Crunch Time is Coming

Your Call Center MVP

Your MVP has been a topic of discussion in startups and small business for a few years now. The phrase usually means “minimum viable product” – the smallest set of features and functionality that can get you off the ground and have customers buying your product. There’s an MVP for your call center as well. Continue reading Your Call Center MVP

Call Center Load Balancing with Kamailio

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) hasn’t officially been crowned king of call center technologies, but it has become ubiquitous. The wide availability of SIP service providers and the way Asterisk is pushing Open Source technologies into the call center has made it undeniable. Especially now with the widespread adoption of Cloud-based call center software and remote agents, SIP is cementing its importance. Continue reading Call Center Load Balancing with Kamailio

Decision 2015: Call Center in the Cloud?

In Decision 2015: On-Premise Call Center? we looked at some of the trade-offs with on-premise call center solutions. At one time on-premise was the only viable solution, but in the last few years the march to Cloud solutions has had the momentum. Continue reading Decision 2015: Call Center in the Cloud?

Decision 2015: On-Premise Call Center?

The old gatekeepers are stumbling. The momentum behind the change to the Cloud has caught them off-guard. That’s not to say that the Cloud is the right solution to every problem, but it is increasingly a solution for call centers that must decide how to allocate their resources in the future. Having said that, decision-makers must weight the advantages and disadvantages of Cloud-based contact centers and on-premise solutions. Continue reading Decision 2015: On-Premise Call Center?

Trunk Selection and Cost Control – Simple Least Cost Routing

A priority for any new call center installation, once calls are being successfully dialed, is making those calls at the lowest cost.  Trunk usage charges are a very visible number, and a tempting target for savings.  It is vital that call center software offer a means of ensuring that calls get dialed in an economical manner.  An Asterisk Cloud-based call center should be no different. Continue reading Trunk Selection and Cost Control – Simple Least Cost Routing