As many of you know, I have extensive experience in VOIP architecture and systems. I’ve decided to write this post about how to select the proper PBX or Call Center System while lowering cost of implementation and ownership.
Call Center systems are some of the most complex application systems in the field of Technology due to the specific technical and functional demands they place on their owners. This article addresses proper call center architecture in the Enterprise. As many of you know, I always concentrate on Enterprise systems (that’s my backyard). I just wanted to point out that even if you’re not a large enterprise, It doesn’t exclude you from implementing the same processes and concepts in your systems I discuss in this article.
I am writing this article with a focus around Voice Over Internet Protocol technology, because this is where all call center and telephone technologies have been heading over the past 10 years.
There are a few core principles in good Call Center Architecture:
A Very Important thing to consider when implementing a VOIP Infrastructure is a solid network infrastructure. Many enterprises tend to neglect this single fact, because they take the attitude that a “network is a network”. This is definitely a false statement. VOIP based infrastructures require very low latency networks and QoS implementation.
Must Haves: A good Core Switch, Low Latency Internet Connectivity (If you’re using a SIP provider), Rock Solid Hardware, Good Phones
Nice To Have: VLAN for Voice Infrastructure separate from other network traffic, QoS internally between multiple subnets, Power Over Ethernet (POE) for phones, Bandwidth Optimization Technology for Network
Servers / PBX Systems
An underpowered server running your PBX software will most definitely be the bottleneck in any system. This can lead to bad call quality, dropped calls, phones disconnecting (inside your office), lost voice mails, and other weird things that just happen to “not work”.
Proper Server Sizing: This is something that is hard to figure out as each telephone system / Call Center PBX is different based on it’s needs. The number of Queues, Phones, Calls (Trunks), specialty functions you use all require CPU and Memory. Let’s not forget Call Disk Space and Access Times. Put it all together and it gets very confusing and complex very quickly. While each environment is different, the only true way to properly size a system is to hire a consultant to help you put together a proper system. Many consultants out there don’t sell you the properly sized solution for your needs. They’ll sell you what is most profitable based on their current vendor relationships. If you’d like, I can help you size your system properly based on your needs. I would need about 3-4 hours of your time and I don’t need to be onsite to do it. We can do it over the phone / Skype / email.
Like the server, the phones you deploy on the enterprise are important. Which type of phone, brand, it’s functionality, and most importantly, it’s “supportability”. If you deploy 500 phones on your enterprise (or more) and making one change requires a person to run around reconfiguring the phones, it can get very messy very fast. It’s important to get a phone that you can send a “rapid refresh” signal to that will effectively tell it to reboot and pull a new configuration. Most phones support tftp these days, but in some situations, tftp just won’t work. There are phones out there that will support http (pull), ftp, and web configuration.
If security is high on your list (as it should be), there are phones that will support encryption as well. This is also an important factor for many types of call centers (healthcare, finance, government). Some phones can support PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) technologies, while others support basic shared key encryption tech.
What about wireless and headset support? This is an important thing to consider as well. While not all of your agents or employees will need a headset, there are quite a few that will. The secret to choosing the right phone is to give each employee what they need (with a bit of room for growth) without breaking the bank.
It doesn’t make sense to put a $500.00 telephone on a call center agent’s desk. It would make sense to put a $150.00 phone or even a softphone on their desk if the use-case makes sense.
CRM Software and Integrated Backend Systems / Services
Everybody has a different need in their call center or PBX. The one thing that always remains the same is the ability to access and add data to their database based on agent or employee contacts and interaction with customers.There are a multitude of products (both commercial and open source) out there that will integrate very nicely with your call center architecture. The choices are astoundingly vast and the feature functionality you get with each system is unique amongst many of the products. Choosing the right product without breaking the bank is an important aspect of your call center design. Ease of Use, Functionality, Integration.. These are all very important options to consider when selecting the CRM system. You have to live with what you choose; choose carefully.Choosing the wrong CRM system can also be very expensive. The cost per seat for the functionality you want can be much less with some custom programming. There are also many free solutions out there that are very good at doing what you need, although they require a bit of setup. (That’s what consultants are for!!!). The one time setup and a brief management class for your supervisors and you’re up and running!
At the end of the day, choosing a new phone system for your Enterprise or Call Center involves quite a bit of homework (If you want to have a solution you’ll be happy with). The key to selecting and implementing a solution that fulfills the needs of the business line owners while keeping IT efficiency high and operational costs low is a very easy to accomplish goal. You’ll just need to do your homework.
The choices are very confusing and it is my very STRONG suggestion to enlist the help of a consultant who is well-versed in VOIP and Telecommunications.
A well designed telephone architecture can literally cut your operational expense by 80% over a traditional system while providing additional functionality that will fulfill and exceed the expectations of the business owners.