Encouragingly, headset vendor GN Netcom says IP is here to stay and has published a list of their top five tips for implementing VoIP in call/contact centres.
“Analysts predict that by 2008 IP telephony will be mainstream. This has huge significance for the contact centre industry, where IP telephony can lower costs as well as bring a host of related services so that the telephony becomes an integral part of work processes and administration. Indeed, research group Synergy predicts that 90 per cent of all business telephony will be IP based by 2009.
Over the last year, technical issues holding back the widespread adoption of IP telephony, such as poor voice quality, limited routing and queuing features and security issues, have been resolved. This combined with an increase in the number of contact centres outsourcing, off-shoring and developing virtual operations, has meant that IP telephony is now the de-facto choice.”
GN Netcom’s tips are:
Ensure your network is ready for IP telephony
It is critical that your network is set up to deal with IP telephony traffic. The network must have the speed and capacity necessary to carry voice, as well as the ability to implement a quality of service (QoS) policy. The QoS should give voice priority over other non time-critical network traffic and where practical, use VLAN (virtual local area network) to separate voice traffic completely.
Build for the future
Technology changes so quickly that it is essential that your IP Telephony system is scalable and can keep pace with your contact centre. Some contact centres are opting for a mixed environment of IP and traditional telephony. For these centres it is crucial that the move between both of these is seamless. Also, ensure your system has the ability to offer a complete solution, that is, everything from the ability to answer, prioritise, route and report on incoming customer contacts, to providing an offering that includes outbound capabilities, workforce optimisation, interactive voice response, performance optimisation and support for a multiple customer contact channel – you may not use these functionalities now but you never know when you will need them in the future.
Don’t forget security
Always develop clear rules and procedures on how networks are used and secured. It is important to follow the configuration best practices in the in-built security that comes with most IP telephony systems. Also, study the applications themselves, scrutinise things like authentication, access control levels, encryption and users actions. And always monitor remote users and portable devices.
Choose the right headset
Choosing the right headset will be critical to the success of your IP telephony system. Depending on the maturity of your IP telephony deployment you can choose from an IP hard phone headset, a softphone headset or a headset which can handle both traditional phone calls as well as IP. However, it is important to note that you can’t simply use a traditional phone headset with an IP solution. IP telephony sends information using twice the bandwidth of traditional phone lines, which means that the sound quality is clearer and richer. Therefore, you must have a good quality headset with wideband or Hi-Fi sound. Also, it is important to take the Noise at Work initiative into account and ensure that your headset will help you to comply with the recent legislation which requires noise levels to not exceed 87 dB(A).
There is simply no point in deploying a new IP telephony system if you are not going to train staff on how to use it effectively. Users must understand how to operate the system, how to enter the system securely as well as how to diagnose equipment problems, network problems and solve those accordingly.