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Voice over IP: control where it belongs--in companies' hands.



Industry analysts agree that an industry-wide move to voice and data convergence--Voice over Internet Protocol See Internet and TCP/IP.

(networking) Internet Protocol - (IP) The network layer for the TCP/IP protocol suite widely used on Ethernet networks, defined in STD 5, RFC 791. IP is a connectionless, best-effort packet switching protocol.
, or VoIP--is now underway and likely to figure prominently in companies' IT investments over the next few years.

At the Intel Developers Conference "Directions 2004" industry briefing, Intel Group VP of Network Infrastructure Lee Doyle cited a recent CIO CIO: see American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.


(Chief Information Officer) The executive officer in charge of information processing in an organization.
 survey highlighting VoIP as an example of disruptive technologies A new technology that has a serious impact on the status quo and changes the way people have been dealing with something, perhaps for decades. Music CDs all but wiped out the phonograph industry within a few years, and digital cameras are destined to eliminate the film industry.  ... that will make up the key network spending drivers in the next three to ten years," driven in large part by the need for network security and reliability.

In contact centers worldwide, VoIP is becoming a viable option for companies of all sizes looking to improve internal cost efficiencies and customer service offerings at the same time.

Time For Change

The introduction of VoIP comes at a time when the telephony landscape has remained essentially static for over 30 years. In an office corner sits the traditional telephony switch--a large, beige box
This article refers to beige boxes in personal computing. For information about beige box phone phreaking devices, see Beige box (phreaking).


In consumer computer products, a beige box is a standard personal computer (or
 costing between $75,000 and, $180,000 to install and up to $35,000 a year to maintain. It's typically proprietary-based, difficult to work on and requires expensive consultants to make even basic changes.

Over time, other such boxes have been added, but they also have been proprietary in nature and expensive to install and maintain. They've included such added functionality as fax serving, auto-dialing, ACD (Automatic Call Distributor) A computerized phone system that responds to the caller with a voice menu and connects the call to the appropriate agent. It can also distribute calls equally to agents.  (automatic call distribution), IVR (Interactive Voice Response) An automated telephone information system that speaks to the caller with a combination of fixed voice menus and data extracted from databases in real time.  (interactive voice response) and other connections to the outside world.

These infrastructure additions can often present mysteries to contact center managers. There may be an ACD server linked to the switch via the voice network (with external outbound out·bound  
adj.
Outward bound; headed away: outbound trains.

Adj. 1. outbound - that is going out or leaving; "the departing train"; "an outward journey"; "outward-bound ships"
 voice mail and voicebox applications), but typically these have been complex to configure See configuration.

(software) configure - A program by Richard Stallman to discover properties of the current platform and to set up make to compile and install gcc.

Cygnus configure was a similar system developed by K.
 and painful to administer. It's also been a huge challenge to adapt such implementations to contact center operations in response to new, broader business initiatives.

In larger organizations involved in mergers or takeovers, for example, linking disparate systems to ensure common operation has been highly problematic.

Proprietary telephony has survived for so long because it has provided rock-solid communications and very high reliability. Still, the combination of high up-front costs and annual maintenance--with slower response to changing business drivers--has highlighted increasing shortcomings A shortcoming is a character flaw.

Shortcomings may also be:
  • Shortcomings (SATC episode), an episode of the television series Sex and the City
 in the face of growing cost efficiency and competitive pressures.

Much of the drive for change has come from small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and larger, distributed organizations setting up new contact center operations and for which VoIP offers an attractive alternative. For other organizations using traditional telephony, moving to an IP-based alternative provides a technology platform to support media other than voice--with the ability to integrate e-mail, instant messaging Exchanging text messages in real time between two or more people logged into a particular instant messaging (IM) service. Instant messaging is more interactive than e-mail because messages are sent immediately, whereas e-mail messages can be queued up in a mail server for seconds or  or Web chat.

The evolution of IP telephony The two-way transmission of voice over a packet-switched IP network, which is part of the TCP/IP protocol suite. The terms "IP telephony" and "voice over IP" (VoIP) are synonymous.  has mirrored that of many other technologies, typically deployed by high enterprise. With the emergence of VoIP capability in products such as FrontRange IP Contact Center, this broader, more flexible functionality is now available to SMEs and mid-tier organizations. Technology and market demand now enable smaller businesses to provide the same high level of service as their larger counterparts.

Common Understanding

Originally, VoIP resulted from the efforts of the VoIP Forum--major equipment manufacturers, including Cisco, 3Com and Netspeak--to promote a standards-based approach, first through H.323 and, more recently, through SIP (Session Initiation Protocol (protocol) Session Initiation Protocol - (SIP) A very simple text-based application-layer control protocol. It creates, modifies, and terminates sessions with one or more participants. Such sessions include Internet telephony and multimedia conferences.

It is described in RFC 2543.
). SIP is now the standard for sending voice and video over both Internet and private networks.

VoIP involves using corporate data networks to carry voice, rather than relying on public telephony networks. Voice information is sent in individual digital packets rather than in the circuit-committed protocols of the public switched telephone network (PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) The worldwide voice telephone network. Once only an analog system, the heart of most telephone networks today is all digital. In the U.S. ). When a voice network is quiet, the business pays for unused infrastructure; VoIP allows more efficient use of network bandwidth and cheaper voice costs over time.

This solution offers crucial advantages to companies that take advantage of the technology. By using a private network, higher-quality service is guaranteed. Also, using VoIP and Internet telephony Another term for IP telephony and VoIP. In the late 1990s, some people made a distinction between Internet Telephony and VoIP: Internet telephony referred to voice over the public Internet, while VoIP referred to voice over private IP networks.  eliminates call charges from the public telephone service.

At first, VoIP was perceived by some as merely the means to make phone calls over the Internet, giving rise to perceptions of potential bandwidth and security problems. However, organizations implementing robust VPN-based VoIP solutions--such as FrontRange IP Contact Center--have found these concerns to be largely unfounded. Broadband DSL DSL
 in full Digital Subscriber Line

Broadband digital communications connection that operates over standard copper telephone wires. It requires a DSL modem, which splits transmissions into two frequency bands: the lower frequencies for voice (ordinary
 is now widely available and reasonably priced, allowing voice to be carried securely over high-speed networks.

The benefits are far-reaching. For IT directors, telephony and data can now be managed in the same environment, saving money and adding flexibility if staff members regularly move offices or telecommute See telecommuting. . Each home worker, whatever his or her location, becomes just another extension of the corporate network.

Typically, many international companies deploy small-office telephony solutions, with different switch types in different locations. Senior staff members may be part of an international team, with separate log-ins for each office, incurring international call rates and reducing individuals' availability. Mobile phone technology has helped organizations meet these challenges, but even more attractive is the concept of a single platform across a distributed enterprise, making more efficient use of resources and bandwidth while greatly reducing transaction costs Transaction Costs

Costs incurred when buying or selling securities. These include brokers' commissions and spreads (the difference between the price the dealer paid for a security and the price they can sell it).
.

VoIP also offers ease of scalability. Integrating the telephony of a newly acquired company, for example, is likely to require little more than adding memory to the server, whereas previously a bigger switch (and its accompanying six-figure price tag) may have been required.

Customer Service

What benefit does VoIP offer the customer contacting the business? With the FrontRange IP Contact Center solution, a key element is its interactive voice response (IVR) unit. Together with a skills-based routing engine, it's possible to ask the caller questions via IVR; the answers can then be validated through the contact center database and the caller routed directly to the best qualified employee.

Automated response systems and IVR have received poor press over the years. Much of the criticism has been justified, with systems geared to prioritize pri·or·i·tize  
v. pri·or·i·tized, pri·or·i·tiz·ing, pri·or·i·tiz·es Usage Problem

v.tr.
To arrange or deal with in order of importance.

v.intr.
 internal efficiencies over customer experiences. Callers often repeat personal details personal details npl (on form etc) → coordonnées fpl

personal details person nplPersonalien pl

personal details 
 many times before speaking to an agent, only to then be asked to divulge the same information again.

IP-based call routing is the fastest, most effective way to drive callers to the best internal resources, reducing queuing time and improving the customer's experience. With functionality such as screen pop and unified messaging Having access to e-mail, voice mail and faxes via a common computer application or by telephone. For example, unified messaging may send faxes and digitized voice mail to a mail server that turns them into e-mail attachments.  with multichannel Using two or more paths for transmission or processing. It can refer to a variety of architectures including (1) multiple I/O channels between the CPU and peripheral devices, (2) multiple wires in a cable, (3) multiple "logical" channels within a single wire or fiber or (4) multiple  support, businesses can have comprehensive views of clients' histories. In turn, clients receive a consistent, "one company" response.

VoIP presents the ideal "win/win" for organizations that take advantage of the technology--installation costs are as little as one-tenth of those associated with traditional telephony, and ongoing maintenance costs are reduced by 60 to 70 percent. Customer service also benefits from increased first-time resolutions.

End-To-End Interaction

From a sales perspective, the benefits of VoIP are easy to communicate; for the first time, it enables SMEs and mid-market companies to access the end-to-end functionality previously available only at the enterprise level.

Compare a contact center interaction to eating in a restaurant. The waiter greets you at the door, takes your coat and sees you to your table. He brings you your beverage and takes your meal order and passes it to the kitchen. Until now, you've had a positive experience. This step equates to the ACD/IVR experience.

However, if the food is cold when it reaches your table, you'll quickly revise your opinion. Traditional telephony mirrors this example by focusing attention solely on pushing the call though to the agent with no concern for what happens after the connection is made--which is ultimately the most important part of the transaction.

In the same way fine restaurants ensure that your entire evening is enjoyable, integrated VoIP-based support solutions effectively manage the complete customer interaction. First, they offer a faster and smoother method of connecting callers to the right agents. FrontRange IP Contact Center solution provides the features you need to provide superior customer service that leads to better customer retention and loyalty. With a single point of entry for administration, IPCC See IMS Forum.  reduces the complexity required to support heavyweight heavyweight - High-overhead; baroque; code-intensive; featureful, but costly. Especially used of communication protocols, language designs, and any sort of implementation in which maximum generality and/or ease of implementation has been pushed at the expense of mundane  telephony functionality, including an IP-based PBX (Private Branch eXchange) An inhouse telephone switching system that interconnects telephone extensions to each other as well as to the outside telephone network (PSTN). , real-time and historical reporting, queuing, automated call distribution (ACD), interactive voice response (IVR), screen pop, quality monitoring and integration with award-winning HEAT and GoldMine applications. This feature-rich solution enables you to reduce telephony costs, to increase productivity and to better utilize your agents to minimize your cost of ownership while maximizing your return on investment.

Looking ahead, with workforce analysis and forecasting providing additional efficiency savings, and with speech recognition and multimedia capability supporting more complex levels of interaction, IP telephony may account for as much as half the global ACD market by 2008.

Until recently, contact center managers had no control over the telephony aspect of their role. With the introduction of VoIP, this situation has dramatically changed, allowing them for the first time to respond to the changing demands of both their business and their customer bases. One example would be changing hold music and marketing messages based on the weather, local events or end-of-season deals. Traditionally, this level of agility wasn't available, but in today's ultra-competitive business world, this agility now represents a huge competitive advantage.

To learn more about FrontRange's VoIP solutions, please visit http://TheContactFront.com/Control and www.tmcnet.com/channels/ip-contactcenter.

By Mike Heberling, director of business development, FrontRange Solutions This article or section needs sources or references that appear in reliable, third-party publications. Alone, primary sources and sources affiliated with the subject of this article are not sufficient for an accurate encyclopedia article. , Inc.

A Special Editorial Series Sponsored by FrontRange Solutions, Inc.
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Author:Heberling, Mike
Publication:Customer Interaction Solutions
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Words:1538
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