Friday, November 13, 2015

Anniversaries are Excellent: Big Moments for the Contact Center ACD Software Blog

It's my wedding anniversary today! For superstitious folks, maybe Friday the 13th isn't something to be excited about, but all that really means to me is cheesy fun slasher movies. A wedding anniversary is a big deal that signifies a major life event. Let's take a quick look at some of the major events that the Contact Center ACD Software blog has had over its lifetime.
It's a bit strange to compare blog events to something as important as a wedding anniversary, but I felt like doing it anyway. Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Preparing for the Fallout: Ways to Avoid a Contact Center Disaster

Bethesda's latest installment in the Fallout franchise, Fallout 4, releases in four days. I know a lot of people who are incredibly excited for this game. I'm actually not one of the them, as of now, but that could certainly change. With that in mind, let's talk about a few of the options you have for avoiding a contact center disaster.
  • Database replication - Having a single database is not a completely horrible idea, but what happens if somehow, someway, that specific schema gets corrupted or the hard drive fails during production? Using database replication to maintain a copy of the production database can help ensure that your contact center ACD is down for a minimal amount of time.
  • Multiple physical locations - While it might not be practical for a lot of contact centers, it's worth mentioning that it may be beneficial to house your contact center servers in different locations. Having cloud-based instance to mimic your on-site instance might be an option to entertain. In the event that something out of you control could happen, like earlier this week when a fibre line was cut near the OVH Montreal datacenter, it can help minimize your downtime if you have another instance ready to take over in a pinch.
  • Failover - Using the Q-Suite's Overseer Watchdog, you can seamlessly failover any faulty contact center ACD service and, in most cases, the contact center is able to carry on as if nothing happened. This type of additional feature can aid in keeping you contact center ACD up and running without any noticeable outage time.
Fallout's main premise is how the world looks and feels after a nuclear holocaust. While a contact center outage might not be anywhere near as catastrophic as that, it can certainly be a scary situation to be in. Take some precautions in your center's setup and you might find that it's not as scary as it seems.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Big Plays From Big Jays: Contact Center ACD All-Stars

It's been a very long time, 1993 to be specific, since folks north of the border have been this excited for MLB playoffs. The Toronto Blue Jays are once again playing ball in October, and after a fairly disastrous start culminating in 2 losses at home, they have roared back to win the ALDS 3 games to 2. Game 5 will certainly go down in playoff baseball lore as one of the weirdest and wackiest games, with a 53-minute 7th inning that would make the greatest storytellers blush with jealousy. Stars shine the brightest in the spotlight, and Jose Bautista was the North Star last night, after his mammoth 3-run blast that put the Jays ahead for good. Let's talk about letting your contact center ACD all-stars shine.

There are two major ways you can get your favourable, high value callers to your best and most qualified agents: Queue priority and skills-based routing.
  • Queue priority - Each inbound contact center ACD queue can be assigned a priority. If you want some of your queues to route calls to agents before any other queues, simply assign a higher priority to those queues and the ACD will send those calls to available agents first.
  • Skills-based routing - Individual agents can be assigned a skill level for any skill that they have assigned to them. Give your best agents higher skill levels in order to route calls to those agents first.
These configuration methods can definitely help with routing important calls to the most capable agents, and customers will certainly appreciate that. I know that on the rare occasion that I've needed to call into the contact center ACD, I am a much more satisfied customer if I get routed to the top of the line agent.

I'll leave this to wrap things up.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Destiny: The Taken King Patch's Painfully Long Download Time and Trying to Avoid Bottlenecks in Your Contact Center ACD

So there was a massive 18GB patch released this Tuesday by Bungie to prepare everyone's Destiny instance for the arrival of The Taken King on September 15th. I started my download at approximately 6pm local time. It had not completed by midnight so I set my PS4 in rest mode and went to bed. I got up in the morning to check the file's progress, at about 7am, and I was still about 3GB shy of having the file fully downloaded. It was pretty common knowledge across the forums that there were a lot of people on all platforms that were having the same issue. With all the users trying to pull down files that large, bottlenecks were bound to happen. Here are a few tips to try to avoid bottlenecks in your contact center ACD.
  • RAM - You really can never have enough RAM on your contact center ACD servers, whether it's a web server or an Asterisk server; more RAM means the machine can do more and do it faster.
  • Correct Staffing - If your contact center ACD is being flooded with calls and you do not have a proper amount of staff available, calls are going to sit in queue and will continue to bottleneck until the calls get answered or the customer gets irritated and abandons the call.
  • Drive Quality - Disk I/O can potentially be a bottleneck if you have too many calls to process, especially call recordings, or too many concurrent database write operations. Speedy hard drives, whether mechanical or solid state, can almost eliminate these types of hold ups.
The three items mentioned are fairly easy and certainly inexpensive routes to take to ensure that your contact center ACD is not suffering from any avoidable slowdown. Here's to hoping that the tiny little update that is released on the 15th, to usher in Year 2 with the arrival of The Taken King, goes a lot more favourably for me this time around. I am quite excited that The Taken King is coming for us all.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Why Are There So Many Options? A Few Tips for Creating Effective IVRs for Your Contact Center ACD

Have you ever gone to a restaurant, taken a seat, picked up the menu, and realized that the menu was a gargantuan mess of options? It's an overwhelming feeling and makes it incredibly hard to decide on what you actually want to order. I've run into some awfully complicated IVRs in my contact center ACD experience, and not only are they a headache to troubleshoot, but when it comes to testing and navigating through the IVR, it's quite annoying to have to spend all the time it takes to trial every option. If you can keep your IVR clear and concise, your customers and your support team will be thankful. Here are a few tips.
  • Don't use unnecessary components in your contact center ACD IVR just because you can. All it does it bloat the IVR and may not even do anything useful at all.
  • Keep the number of menu option to a minimum if possible. It's rather eye-rolling, in my opinion, to have to sit through any more than 5 options in a menu. Having 9 options is unbearable, so try to keep those options limited.
  • For contact center ACD routes that are better suited to be handled by live agents, try to make that route easy to access, so that your customers don't have to keep guessing what menu options to press. Reverting back to the main menu because the path I selected was not getting me anywhere useful is quite frustrating.
Creating contact center ACD IVRs can be daunting and complex, but that doesn't mean that you have to project that onto the end users. Try to keep it simple and your customers will be grateful.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Windows 10 Upgrade Completed! Three Major Reasons to Upgrade Your Contact Center

I upgraded my work laptop this week using the Windows 10 app from Microsoft. I haven't used it much yet, so I cannot comment one way or the other on whether or not I consider it to be an actual upgrade from Windows 7 (I completely avoided Windows 8), but time will tell. Speaking of upgrades, here are three major reasons why you should work with your contact center ACD vendor to upgrade your software.
  1. New Features - Newer major versions of software will always have new features. Some features may be incredibly and instantly useful for your contact center ACD, some you may not even need or use, and some will be features you didn't even know you wanted but now you have it.
  2. Bug Fixes - Every piece of software has bugs. Deal with it. If you are running on an old piece of contact center software, bugs can potentially be harmful to your day-to-day operations. Check with your vendors to see if a newer version of the contact center software contains bug fixes that are specific to your use case.
  3. Performance and Stability Enhancements - These types of enhancements are always important to have in newer versions. They make the contact center software run smoother and consume fewer resources, which is always a benefit if you are not necessarily ready to also upgrade your hardware.
Staying up to date with your software can help your contact center ACD continue performing in an efficient manner, especially if you plan on keeping the system on the same hardware. Upgrading can be exciting in real life, like when going from 70Mbps 250GB capped internet service to a 100Mbps unlimited service, and should definitely apply to how you manage your contact center. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Q-Suite 6 in Development!

This post will be a bit of a short one as I'm suffering a bit from writer's block. However, it's still a fairly important topic as the development of Q-Suite 6 has been officially announced.

It's the next iteration in the life cycle of the Q-Suite platform, which is going to bring a lot of great changes, both on the backend and for the front facing user.

Have a look, as Q-Suite might be right for you.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Getting Voicemails on the Go: Don't Stay Chained to Your Desk!

I had a bit of a vacation last week, hence the lack of a Friday post. We went to the Toronto Zoo and that was great; not for entire week clearly, but it was the major outing that we had. Back in action this week though, so let's have a quick look at voicemails on the go.

It's not reasonable to believe that every single inbound call that comes into your contact center ACD will be handled by an agent. Not only is it not reasonable, I'd say it's more or less impossible. How can you help mitigate this issue? How about letting the caller leave a voicemail?

Typically, you could tailor your contact center ACD to route to a voicemail in the situation where it seems like it could be a good idea. A few scenarios off the top could be:
  • Caller calls in after business hours and no agents are available anyway - Schedule an after hours IVR to instruct the caller that no one is currently available and that they can leave a voicemail if they choose to do so.
  • Configure a queue to allow the caller to leave a voicemail instead of waiting in the queue for an agent - Sometimes callers aren't the most patient, so allowing the caller to press a DTMF option to leave a voicemail might be an idea.
  • Caller reaches the max wait time for a queue - After the wait time is exceeded, send the caller to a voicemail extension where they can then leave a message if they wish.
With all these options for voicemails, it's not feasible to think that you will be sitting around at the contact center waiting to check all of these extensions for their voicemails. The solution? Configure your voicemail extensions to send an email to a desired email address and choose to attach the voicemail message to the email. That way, you can check your voicemails from your email client, whether it's on a desktop at home or on your mobile device of choice.

We all seem to be on the go now, so giving you the freedom to do your job more effectively and efficiently is always a great option to have.

Friday, July 24, 2015

More Storage Needed! Ways to Increase Your Contact Center's Capacity

We're heading on a bit of a vacation this weekend. I needed to install the roof rails and cargo carrier on the vehicle because we just don't have enough room in the trunk area for all the things we will be bringing. More storage was necessary so we made the adjustment. You may have to make a few adjustments as well in your contact center in order to increase the amount of accessible storage space.

First off, let's get ahead of ourselves and incorporate large hard drives for the servers in your contact center ACD. Physical disks are fairly inexpensive now and there's no real reason to skimp on those. Having an abundance of disk space is a much more favourable 'problem' than needing to have an emergency deletion of old logs and files in order to free up disk space so that your contact center ACD can actually function.

Call recordings. Depending on the call volumes your contact center may experience, recordings can rapidly consume your hard drive space on your Asterisk servers, even if you take the first point to heart. A few things you may want to consider would be a dedicated, high disk capacity recording server (like OrecX), an NFS mounted drive that will store the recordings, or having an automated script that could copy recordings from the Asterisk server to a cloud-based storage instance (like Amazon S3).

Finally, you may need to increase the RAM totals on your servers if your contact center ACD starts growing and the active amount of RAM just is not cutting it. The pool of memory that is available is particularly important for web and database servers. If your web and database servers are running with a lower than recommended amount of RAM, your agents will be impacted heavily, as their agent portals will be sluggish and any types of database operations will take longer to process. RAM is also relatively inexpensive, so this is a low cost option when compared to the big picture.

"More is better" can potentially be a bad overall train of thought in real life, but as far as storage capacity in your contact center ACD is concerned, it should almost be a golden rule.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Small Tips for Keeping Your Contact Center ACD Running Smoothly

This idea sort of came to me as I dropped off my vehicle this morning to get maintenance done due to two recalls. The letter I received in the mail described the issues quite nicely and while neither of the fixes were completely critical, ie. my vehicle won't explode, they were definitely recommended as they will certainly help sustain the vehicle's longevity. Plus, getting recalls done is free, so why not right? Here's a few pointers on how you can keep your contact center ACD running smoothly.
  • Nightly server reboots - Assuming your contact center is not a 24/7 operation, rebooting the servers on a nightly basis can be beneficial. How many times has a reboot solved one of your computer issues? It's very often the first step of any type of IT troubleshooting and there's a reason for that. Servers these days certainly do not require a nightly restart, but it's certainly not a terrible idea.
  • Log file rotation - This is more of a tip to aid the support staff of your contact center ACD software, but rotating log files can speed up your support staff's response time. How? Log rotation will typically store the files on a day by day basis so that each file itself will only contain information relevant to a single day. If' you've ever tried to effectively forward search through an Asterisk log containing 1.5 years of information, you will understand.
  • Contact Center ACD software updates - Staying connected with the vendor of your contact center ACD software to plan and deploy software updates can keep your system up-to-date, as minor software updates often contain bug fixes and performance enhancements. Deploying these updates can sometimes solve problems you didn't even know you had.
These tips for your contact center are mainly minor and fairly low risk operations. While these suggestions are certainly not mission critical to your contact center ACD, they can most definitely help your Asterisk based contact center run to its fullest potential.