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Is voice over IP ready for today's call centers?

There is a lot of industry hype about the IP call center of the future. Word on the street is that IP based voice technologies are not quite ready, especially for very large call volume centers. From this, FedEx has concluded that voice over IP will not be feasible for our very large call volumes for at least 12 to 18 months. What is your opinion? Has FedEx reached a sound planning decision?
There are certainly widely divergent views on VoIP. In response to your "word on the street" advice, I both agree and disagree.

In LAN and Managed WAN environments (frame relay or VPN with guaranteed service levels), VoIP has certainly reached highly functional quality and dependability levels that are on par with how traditional voice calls sound. In these environments, the issues that lead to poor quality (network bandwidth, volume, demand spikes and congestion points) are all controllable. With recent decreases in bandwidth cost and increases in quality of service standards utilization, VoIP in these environments is cost effective and works very well.

However, in an unmanaged WAN environment such as the Internet, functional VoIP is still not ready for practical use. There are just too many uncontrolled variables to achieve consistent, dependable service. One problem nagging VoIP's perception is that most people experience VoIP via the Internet using free services. They don't realize the dramatic quality difference between the two environments.

Without knowing the specific issues involved in Fed Ex's decision, it's impossible to speculate on the wisdom of their decision. In very large call center environments there are dozens of factors that need to be considered. First and foremost is the physical geographic architecture of the call center. Remember that the primary benefit of an IP-based voice contact center is the ability to connect agents in geographically separate locations - a virtual call center. In a call center environment where there are several hundred agents or more all working from one physical location, the incentive to move to VoIP is considerably less. As discussed earlier, architecture of the data network also impacts the VoIP decision.

For more information on VoIP issues, you might find a recent white paper produced by Cintech Solutions' Product Architect, Dave Pickard, interesting. The paper, entitled "Voice-Over-IP: It's Not Just For Dial-Arounds Anymore," addresses many of the specific issues involved with the state of VoIP technology today. You can find this white paper at www.cintechsolutions.com in the Resources section.

For more information, check out searchCRM's VoIP Best Web Links.


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