Friday, October 31, 2014

From Call Center to Contact Center


The changing marketplace is quickly bringing about new technologies for communication including e-mail, Twitter, and SMS. Increasingly, consumers are moving to these new mediums and expecting businesses to do the same. Staying on top of these fast growing channels of communication can provide an edge to the contact center of the future.

Roughly 85% of generation Y is already using a smartphone as their main tool of communication. This gives them access to not only voice, but SMS and other text based communications such as e-mail and various forms of social media.

Integrating non-traditional forms of communication into an Asterisk based contact center can be difficult, but the rewards can be great. A single agent that was once able to answer only a single phone call at a time, can now respond to multiple non-verbal mediums simultaneously. This reduces overall handle time and increases the number of contacts a single agent can handle. Responding to clients in their chosen medium will also help improve their impression of the customer service.

Traditional telephony ACD will still be a necessity to handle the more complex interactions, but is looking less likely to be the first point of interaction as the marketplace evolves. Calling will likely shift from inbound to outbound, as agents proactively respond to these types of inquiries.

These changes have the potential to transform the industry from call centers with many low skilled agents into a contact center with a handful of highly skilled agents. To leverage these changes, the new Q-Suite 6.0 offers full integration for both email and Twitter, with plans to include SMS and other non-traditional mediums in the future. Agents will have the ability to multitask multiple non-realtime channels, while still being able to take inbound calls from a queue or dial a client directly.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Influence of Asterisk on Cloud call center landscape

Cloud based managed service providers are rapidly growing. The most recent financial statements from inContact and Interactive Intelligence point to this trend. Most call center software vendors are making a concerted effort to move from selling hardware and software as a product to selling an on-demand service. This move is being thrust upon them by the rapid change in networking and infrastructure. But the biggest threat to their survival comes from technology companies that leverage Asterisk and other open source elements for the technology stack.

The per seat cost for establishing a sophisticated call center ACD with IVR, skills based routing, multi-channel ACD, and outbound predictive dialing, had dramatically decreased in the last decade. The use of VoIP, especially SIP, and hosted infrastructure grew during the same decade. With the evolution of hosted infrastructure, organizations were able to establish a geographically distributed workforce through centralized cloud contact centers. This was made possible by the adaptation of many associated technologies that make up the necessary stack for cloud computing. Many of these technologies are open source driven and are becoming more sophisticated by the day, exerting downward cost pressure on players with proprietary legacy technology.

Linux, Asterisk, MySQL, and Apache are open source technology heavyweights that directly impact the economics of  cloud contact centers. Call center software leveraging this technology stack will exert tremendous pressure on legacy firms. The open source driven innovation in telephony will drive growth in cloud contact center services. This can be seen at asteriskexchange, the market place promoting products and service revolving around Asterisk.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Auto Provisioning VoIP Phones for Contact Center ACD

Unlike a standard telephone, voice over IP (VoIP) phones require special configurations to connect to the telephony server across your network. These settings can either be entered manually, or through a process called auto provisioning. Auto provisioning provides a central location for all the phone to access the configuration files necessary for them to register to your local telephony server, whether the server is on premise or in the cloud. This adds to ease of administration and reduces the overall cost of maintaining mission critical infrastructure for an Asterisk based call center.

Many popular phones come with auto provisioning capabilities, including many Polycom and Cisco models. When selecting which phones to use, it is best to choose from a reputable vendor and ensure all phones on your network are identical. This add simplicity to the auto provisioning process.

Auto provisioning VoIP phones works similarly to how the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) functions and even makes use of DHCP options. Each phone begins by contact a DHCP server to identify itself and receive the location of the provisioning server through option 66. The phone then contacts the provisioning server which provides a set of configuration files for the phone to use. These files contain everything from the bootrom necessary for the phone to operate to the graphic files that will be displayed on any visual interfaces attached to the phone.

Depending on the type of VoIP phones being used, provisioning is commonly done using the file transfer protocol (FTP) or the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP).

Configuring many VoIP phones manually is a time intensive process that can be prone to user error and often requires the attention of administrators. Having a central location to administer the configuration saves both time and money. From the perspective of the employee, they are simply handed a phone that will function no matter where they plugged into the network.

Additional benefits to administration come into play if the phones require a firmware update or change in basic functionality; which can be easily applied the next time the phone provisions itself.

Advanced Contact Center ACD products, such as Indosoft’s Q-Suite, includes features for auto provisioning many types of phone. The process is as simple as uploading the provisioning files to the server, configuring DHCP option 66, and assigning each phones MAC address to a specific employee or extension.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Building a Basic Inbound Contact Center ACD

Implementing an inbound contact center using Asterisk can be simple or difficult, depending on the needs of the center. This post is going to focus on creating a basic inbound campaign that will incorporate a direct inward dialing (DID) number, an IVR, and a few queues.

First, you will need to acquire your DID from a provider. The provider should also supply the inbound gateway or trunk, so that phone number gets routed properly to the ACD. Once you have obtained the DID, you can then assign it to your desired inbound campaign.

We are going to need an IVR now. Using the Q-Suite's visual dialplan builder, we can quickly and easily construct an elementary call flow. All we need is a type of menu component that plays an audio file outlining the available choices to the caller, which will redirect the caller into an appropriate queue based on their selection.

The queues that we create will be the end points of the IVR. Combined with skills-based routing, your inbound agents will receive the queued calls once they are or become available.

The complexity of your inbound contact center depends on many factors. It is very possible that an IVR could contain hundreds of components, multiple dialplan pages, and numerous queries to external sources. On the extreme end of the spectrum, sometimes all you need is a menu of options and a couple of queues to send callers to. If you have the means to keep it simple, keep it simple.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Call Survival and Contact Center ACD

The rapid pace of innovation in Voice over IP (VoIP) technology and telephony software has been a blessing to contact centers around the world and has spurred a surge in deployment. The advantages of fully featured applications and low costs have been offset by the possibilities of service interruptions. The US patented Q-Suite Call Survival feature allows deployment of Asterisk based contact center ACD in a mission-critical and high value environment.

Call Survival and the Overseer Watchdog have been introduced by Indosoft, allowing contact centers to continue production in the instance where a portion of a site's local or cloud based infrastructure may be compromised. Combined with database replication, multi-server ACD, and load balancing of SIP trunks via the HAASIPP product, the Call Survival feature allows center reliability to go hand in hand with scalability.

When the availability of your contact center ACD is of the utmost importance, call survival is a must-have feature.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Contact Center ACD and Call Recordings

Contact center ACD and call recordings go hand in hand. Call recordings are an invaluable tool for center operation. They can be relied upon for training purposes and they can be referred to for accuracy and completeness if any sort of customer dispute may arise.

Asterisk has built-in recording functionalities and is typically quite adequate for what most centers may need. However, Asterisk in no way, shape, or form is 100% guaranteed to capture any and all recordings. Certain factors may contribute to this, such as higher than expected call volume or extremely slow write speeds of the hard drives on the server. In these cases, where recordings are crucial, a separate third-party solution may be a viable option.

Indosoft's Q-Suite has accommodated this type of situation and has the built-in functionality to support OrecX out of the box. OrecX is an open source recording suite that is housed on a stand-alone server that listens and records all calls. With a separate recording device in place, it is possible to completely turn off Asterisk recording, which leaves all of the available server resources to handle taking and making calls.

Friday, September 26, 2014

VitalVox Chooses Q-Suite

As mentioned in a previous post, it has now been officially announced that the hosted provider VitalVox has chosen Indosoft's Q-Suite as its contact center software.

The press release detailing this newly formed partnership can be seen here.