What is Contact Center and Why Do Businesses Need One?

Many businesses have recognised the need for improved customer relations recently.   Many customers have moved to an online basis, often as e-commerce rather than a physical business.   As a result, their customer management arrangements (“CRM”) need to be upgraded.

Often CRM is a part of a wider unified communications system, where all internal and external communications, voice, video and data are linked on a common set of standards, platforms, and information sources.  A VoIP implementation is a key part of that.

Simply put, a contact centre is a portmanteau term for a central point from which all customer interactions are managed.  It is usually a combination of call centres, offline support centres, and other channels of customer interaction.   They may operate using a common Customer Response Management system (“CRM”).Continue reading

Is QoS the Same in Every VoIP Provider?

Digital Convergence, and the creation of a Unified Communications (“UC”) platform have been embraced by many organisations.   A UC is the movement of all digital communications traffic, data, VoIP for business and video,  over a single physical network through a variety of software platforms.

Obviously, maintaining optimum response times for all classes of traffic is necessary, especially for VoIP for business and video.  It is a vital balancing act that IT performs, usually through the creation and management of Quality of Service protocols.

Quality of Service – What is It?

QoS

Quality of Service, usually abbreviated as QoS can be defined as the measurement of the overall performance of a network-based service.   It is usually measured from the end-user viewpoint as their perception of the service level they see.

Quality of Service – What is Measured?

What is Measured

The fundamental unit of measure is the opinion of users.  If they have VoIP calls that continually break up, have gaps and generally don’t allow them to complete a satisfactory conversation, then something  is wrong.

Poor VoIP performance can happen for three main reasons, packet loss, latency and jitter.  They increase greatly during periods of network congestion.

Packet Loss

Packet loss is exactly as the name suggests.  In VoIP, normal speech is digitised and put in normal network packets for transmission over the network connection between the speakers. If packets are lost, the receiver won’t get the complete message as intended.

Latency

Latency is the amount of time a packet takes to get from the sender to the receiver.  Obviously, low latency and an equal latency for all packets is essential for a good QoS.  Because the route a packet can take may vary between packets, this can be difficult to do, and many QoS devices such as switches buffer VoIP packets to maintain the order of the packets

Jitter

VoIP packets need to be sent in a steady continuous stream between sender and receiver to have an acceptable voice quality.  If the network is heavily congested at any point, the steady stream can be interrupted or the gap between packets can vary. Both affect the quality of a conversation.  That is Jitter.

These are the three basic measurements when assessing poor QoS performance.

What Causes Poor QoS?

Poor QoS

Quite simply, network congestion at any point in the route between sender and receiver will cause packet loss, poor latency and jitter.   It can happen in an internal network or at the network interface with the outside world.

Normally, in a VoIP business implementation passing over an internal network and the Internet, a service supplier provides the infrastructure to process and carry the VoIP traffic, and there is sometimes network congestion at the service supplier.  Finally, Internet congestion can be a cause.

Bottom line, once internal problems have been resolved, and a poor QoS is still there, it is with your service supplier that QoS issues need to be addressed.

The big question is then, how do service providers deal with VoIP QoS and do they differ in their approaches?

VoIP Service Suppliers and QoS

VoIP Service Suppliers and QoS

The first thing to understand is that VoIP service suppliers are not equal. They offer different levels of services at different costs and have different approaches to dealing with customer QoS issues. The short answer to the question “Is QoS the Same in Every VoIP Provider”, is no.

The best way to assess a QoS supplier is the same way as you would with any other service supplier.

Step 1 – Document your requirements, usually in a matrix setting out the mandatory, desirable and nice-to-have elements.

Step 2 – Ask around.  Check with other users, carry out Internet searches on websites like HelloPeter for recommendations or otherwise, and gather as much background information as you can, particularly on their attitude to resolving performance and QoS issues.

Step 3 – issue the matrix to selected suppliers for quotations.

Step 4 – Review the responses and identify a preferred supplier and a backup supplier.

Step 5 – Create a Service Level Agreement with the preferred supplier setting out the rules of engagement. A major part will be the identification of the key QoS measurement metrics and how any issues are to be resolved.

A good practice that should be written into the agreement with the service supplier is regular management meetings to review recent performance, identify any current or potential issues and set out steps for resolution.   There will be software and hardware updates to the VoIP infrastructure from time to time and these need to be scheduled.

One last point is that not all devices are VoIP capable, and still need a connection to the prior Telco network. If not properly configured, they may cause VoIP problems.

VoIP for Business is the entry point to your organisation and is a key part of your corporate business strategy.  It needs to give customers the sense of dealing with a quality organisation.  Poor performance is not acceptable in that environment.

Choosing the Best Cloud Provider: A Guide on How to Find ‘The One’ that Matches Your Business Appetite

Moving to the cloud has become an attractive option for many businesses, either as an internal private cloud or more often to an external hybrid cloud operated by a Cloud Provider. As with the selection of any other external services supplier, selecting the Cloud Provider that best meets your business needs is not a trivial task.    Selecting the wrong Cloud Provider could be harmful to the business.

It must be clearly understood that you are choosing a business partner with whom you will have a long-term business relationship.  The selection process is therefore not just assessing technical competence and capability but looking at the cultural fit between your two organisations. Continue reading

How can VoIP Help Organisations in this Era of Work from Home

The last two years have seen a major shift in IT towards Working from Home and remote access to systems. Because of lockdowns, and the closure of physical outlets, the pandemic has closed some businesses and forced others to move to e-commerce.

Two major disadvantages of Working from Home include the increased communications costs with the staff member, and a feeling of remoteness and isolation when they don’t interact with team members and other members of staff regularly in person.

Many businesses have already installed VoIP to take advantage of the cost and operational benefits of a Unified Communications platform. If the company has a high-speed and stable Internet connection, and most with e-commerce will, it is easy to use the corporate VoIP system to extend communications to staff Working from Home to overcome these problems.Continue reading

5 Signs It’s Time to Upgrade to a Cloud Phone Technology

As a consequence of the pandemic, many businesses have moved to a Work from Home and remote access basis.  The way they do business, the way they interact with customers and customers interact with them has radically changed.

This has meant a sea-change in internal corporate structures.  New Internal and external corporate communications have placed intense pressure on IT as they implement VoIP or Cloud Phone systems on a restricted budget.

Companies that have implemented VoIP Phone Systems have seen the financial and operational benefits of VoIP Phones, but have also seen the downside reducing the cost savings.  High maintenance costs, unstable internet connections, and poor quality connections are common issues.  

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How Cloud Computing Make Your Business More Secure

Cloud Computing has rapidly moved to the forefront of IT Developments over the last few years. The trend has accelerated with the seismic changes in business strategies following the pandemic and the move to home and remote working.

Many organisations, faced with the need to move to an e-commerce platform, have chosen to implement it on a Cloud Computing platform, usually supplied and managed by a Managed Service Provider (“MSP”). The rationale is that they can continue with business as usual as normal while implementing the new e-commerce platform quickly during the migration to the Cloud.

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