Thursday, February 4, 2016

Super Bowl 50 is Coming! Effectively Handling Volume Spikes in your Contact Center ACD

It's that time of year again. Super Bowl Sunday is this weekend. Regardless of which teams happen to be playing in the big game, the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers in this case, it is must-see TV. People watch for various reasons. They want to watch the game itself, they just care about the commercials and the halftime show, or they just want an excuse to hang out with friends on a Sunday night. Whatever your reasoning for watching the Super Bowl, the bottom line is that millions and millions of people tune in who normally would not be tuning in if it were any given Sunday. With the most-watched sporting event worldwide looming on the horizon, let's have a look at how you can handle volume spikes in your contact center ACD.
  • Staff more agents - This one should have been easy to figure out, especially if the volume increase is anticipated. If your inbound ACD is accepting a significantly higher volume of calls than you have agents staffed, a few things can happen and they are all negative. Callers will hang up while waiting in the queues, which inflates the abandoned rate and causes lost sales. Callers will be more irritated due to the long wait times, which tends to project onto the agents. Agents will be under fire for the entire duration of their shift which can cause added stress and can affect performance.
  • Reassign agents on the fly - If you are in a situation where the spike in incoming calls to your contact center ACD is not expected, you can use real-time skills-based routing to get a desired block of agents ready to take calls from the heavily loaded queues. When more agents become available, some of the pitfalls from the first point can be avoided.
  • Turn up new servers - Having more hardware available to tackle an expected spike in calls is definitely a solution, even though it's a brute force solution. Load balancing calls over more Asterisk servers is an efficient way to alleviate system stress. Preparing more servers can be more difficult if you are relying on physical servers, but can be done fairly easily and quickly if you are using a hosted contact center ACD platform.
As with anything, proper planning can aid in preventing unexpected occurrences from ruining a perfectly good business day in your contact center ACD. In the off chance that your day is calling an audible and making things difficult, at least you have some tools to turn things around. Take these points into consideration and the only spike you'll experience will be a touchdown celebration.

In case you may be wondering, I have no horse in this race on Sunday. I'm a New York Giants fan. It would be quite a sight to see one of the most legendary NFL QBs of all-time go out on top in storybook fashion. However, Cam. That Cam guy is awfully good and a complete blast to watch. With that in mind, I'm just going to hope for an epic game while I enjoy the company of a few friends and my homemade Montreal smoked meat. Game on.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Would You Like PBX Dial Notifications for Incoming Calls? You Can Have Them!

These days, more and more people want to stay in the loop as much as possible. With cell phones being almost a necessity, this statement holds true even more. We all want to be notified in one way or another when something of interest happens, whether it's a Facebook message or a Twitter DM. Using PBX dial notifications can help keep you in the loop if and when you are on the go and not currently at your PBX extension's location. I know I'm stepping out of the contact center realm with this PBX-specific topic and that's ok. Let's talk about these dial notifications.

PBX dial notifications via are quite simple to setup and enable in the Q-Suite. There's a checkbox to turn on the feature and then you create your relevant notifications for the PBX extensions that you wish to turn these on for. Simply set an email address and enter the notification message you wish to send to the recipient. Easy as that.

If you're away from your extension, dial notifications have a few advantages:

  1. You get the notification almost immediately after your extension rings, so you will know who is trying to reach you in a very timely manner.
  2. If you were purely relying on voicemails for notifications, you may not get an email if the calling party terminates the call prior to reaching your inbox.
  3. Even if the caller gets to your inbox they may just hang up anyway, which makes the voicemail notification only as useful as the dial notification.
I'm not saying to ditch voicemail notifications for your extension in favour of dial notifications, but it's a good feeling to know that you have multiple notification options for your extension while you may be on the move.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Wrapup: Contact Center ACD Software's Biggest Hits of 2015!

As we all prepare to send off 2015 and look forward to 2016, let's take a look back at the Top 10 posts from 2015, based on pageviews.
  1. Blog Post Revisited: Capacity planning for large call centers using Asterisk
  2. Keeping callers (or me in this case) interested...or at least trying to
  3. Game of Thrones Episodes Leak! How to Prevent a Similar Event in your Contact Center
  4. Avengers Assemble! Gathering the Pieces You Need for Your Contact Center ACD
  5. Timeout! Sports, Kids, and Contact Centers
  6. Destiny: The Taken King Patch's Painfully Long Download Time and Trying to Avoid Bottlenecks in Your Contact Center ACD
  7. Broken Knight: Consequences of Rushing into Production
  8. Hold For the Holidays: How to Not Annoy Your Holding Customers
  9. Why are my calls disconnecting? I'm not in an elevator!
  10. 3 Minor Annoyances of Not Having Physical Control Over Contact Center Hardware
2015 was a very eventful year, especially in the entertainment industry, and I hope you enjoyed some of the relations I used in my posts. You can probably tell that I like movies and video games a lot. With movies in mind, here's the trailer for the new definition of the Blockbuster, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Hold For the Holidays: How to Not Annoy Your Holding Customers

The 2015 holiday shopping season is well under way. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, and now we're into the home stretch before the holiday break. I'm keeping a loose eye on Twitter and it appears that a lot of people are tweeting out to companies about being on hold for an atrociously long period of time and they are, of course, not happy about it. Nobody wants to be stuck on hold any longer than they need to be, so I can sympathize with these people. Contact centers should be prepared to handle the influx of calls that are no doubt going to happen during this time period and should be able to adjust accordingly.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, I'd like to direct you to a post I made earlier this year about one of my own personal on hold experiences. Have a look here and see if you can relate to any of these thoughts I put down about the situation.

In my experience, when being on hold waiting for a CSR, I am usually calling in a negative way, like downgrading a service or flat out canceling my account all together. The last thing I need is to sit in a queue for dozens and dozens of minutes, giving me more time to become irritated that I am even calling in in the first place.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Evolution of the Contact Center

The underlying technology stack of a contact center needs to evolve over time, or the technology powering the contact center will eventually become stagnant and stale, and the contact center will never be able to move forward and remain relevant. The Q-Suite has certainly evolved over time and will continue to. Here are a couple of ways how this is going to continue to be accomplished.

Q-Suite 5.10 adds support for Asterisk 11

Q-Suite 6 introduces application server which improves reliability and efficiency

I suppose, in a way, this is similar to natural selection, but in a technology realm instead of in nature. We all still need to evolve and adapt however, if we hope to stick around for awhile.

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.