Teaming business and IT for effective call centers

Many enterprises today are replacing their traditional telephony and voice infrastructure with one based on IP communication standards. Whether approached as an immediate, company-wide conversion or a staged migration, the decision to transmit voice over IP standards is usually justified by the corporation based on cost savings from the resulting converged voice/data network. These savings come in the form of lower hardware costs due to server consolidation, reduced administration costs, lower maintenance costs, and elimination of toll charges for phone calls within the enterprise.

Because the initial migration to VoIP is justified through IT savings, there is a tendency to allow the IT department to single-handedly drive the selection of a VoIP infrastructure. Granting total control to the IT department, however, can limit the long-term benefits realized from a VoIP architecture and it's recommended that a cross-functional team that includes business process owners and IT be involved in the project.

To achieve the benefits of VoIP, it is imperative that contact center managers become involved in the migration process before the infrastructure is selected. This early involvement is critical because the proposed IP infrastructure may not support all the enhanced functionality desired. In fact, it may not even allow you to duplicate the functionality currently provided by the existing infrastructure. For example, not all VoIP infrastructure solutions offer all features

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commonly available in PBXs, such as call hold, conferencing, music on hold, etc. They may not be able to support speech enabled applications or take advantage of the various voice codecs currently in use.

The resulting benefits of VoIP are so great that they dwarf the cost savings achieved by converging the voice and data networks. Some of the more common benefits of a shift to IP are:

  • Virtual contact centers that improve contact center efficiency and lower contact center costs
  • Consolidated IVRs which reduce hardware, maintenance, and software costs and improve organizational agility
  • Improved customer service through intelligent and efficient routing

Determining the VoIP infrastructure functionality required for optimizing IVR applications can best be accomplished with careful coordination of the VoIP planning team and identification of current and future requirements. Enterprises can ensure that they satisfy current functionality requirements and position the company to gain long-term benefits from VoIP.

This was first published in April 2006

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