Integrating Your Contact Center

Where, oh where, is your agent phone rung?

Do you know where your agents are? What if the agent is a supervisor or key person who may handle some calls, but may also have to move around the building? Your business may be issuing tablets or laptops so that people can work as they move. You don’t want to force them to use their cellphone all the time, or use a headset on their iPad. Continue reading Integrating Your Contact Center

Sharing the Load

The history of the World Wide Web is the story of server-side versus client-side software. When things started to get going, the Web was largely a set of static files that were served up from the server. The browser displayed those files in as presentable manner as possible, but didn’t do any extra processing on its own that wasn’t part of the rendering process. Dynamic content was animated GIF files and the <blink> tag. Continue reading Sharing the Load

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

The Startup Call Center – Be Nimble, Be Quick

“Moving at the speed of business” is a cute slogan, but if you’re trying to get your venture off the ground quickly, that may be too slow. You’ve got dozens of things you’re trying to get going at the same time, and you can’t wait. Odds are you’re using the Cloud for a large part of your infrastructure. Your customer service line shouldn’t be any different.
Continue reading The Startup Call Center – Be Nimble, Be Quick

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

Buy or Rent? Finance or Lease? The Contact Center Edition

Buy Or Rent ConceptI have a scenario approaching quickly with regards to this topic. My previous two vehicles were leased. My third was financed, with the end date of the loan coming up, which means no more direct vehicle payments. This end goal was very appealing to me, hence the purchasing of the most recent vehicle as opposed to leasing it. Maintenance costs are going to crop up, but those are unavoidable. I did truly like the convenience of having a leased car, mostly because if anything at all went awry in the lifetime of the lease, the dealer covered almost any and all expenses. This is not the case with owning of course. This leads me to the actual topic here: Should I lease my contact center or should I buy it?

Continue reading Buy or Rent? Finance or Lease? The Contact Center Edition

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?

The March of IP Telephony – Part 2

It’s startling to realize how quickly IP telephony did get accepted. Even in 2008, when Rajan posted The March of IP telephony – Part 1, the bulk of our clients were using TDM boards. Digium and Sangoma hardware were our go-to choices. Innovators like those two companies were blowing up the market. This allowed Asterisk to continue to build on its foothold. Clients looking for stability were increasingly able to choose Asterisk, but still connecting via PRI. Selecting a quality VoIP carrier was a difficult process for those not sharing a colocation facility with a reputable provider.
Continue reading The March of IP Telephony – Part 2