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.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Keeping Minions Under Control: Quality Monitoring Tools for Your Contact Center ACD

Those little yellow characters from the Despicable Me movies are getting their own stand alone film and it's out this weekend. If you are like me, you find them absolutely hilarious and chuckle every time you see them do anything, so the film should be highly entertaining I would think. They can go a little off the rails at times if you don't keep them under control and the same behavior has a possibility of occurring at your contact center, with less than hysterical results. Here are a few tools you can use to help limit those events in the contact center.
  • Call Monitoring - Using Q-Suite's monitoring features, supervisors can listen and/or whisper on desired calls. This can be used as a tool to aid in training or as a method to coach an agent in real-time while they are on a call. Listening can also be a solid way to gauge an agent's performance.
  • Live Wallboards - Reporting tools such as live wallboards can give admins and supervisors a broad overview of what is happening on the floor at that moment. Agent states can be tracked, so if agents are not working in a desired fashion, it's fairly easy to see and the behavior can be addressed as needed.
  • Call Recordings - If live monitoring is not desired at all times, call recordings can be accessed and assessed for quality, performance, and training purposes. A customer calls in and is irate about the quality of service they received on a previous call? Go have a listen to the call recording to see what was the case. Corrective measures may need to be taken in some instances.
Live monitoring and historical reports certainly do not always need to be used to correct poor agent behavior and are powerful tools to analyze agent metrics, both positive and negative. Having these methods and records available are just a few ways that can help improve the performance of your contact center.

Closing out, check out the trailer for the Minions movie. Try not to laugh. I don't think it's possible. Enjoy!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Broken Knight: Consequences of Rushing into Production

Tuesday June 23rd was a huge day for people like me in the video game world. Batman: Arkham Knight was releasing and all of the reviews had been stellar. Reviews were glowing about how flawlessly the game ran and performed on the PS4, which made me incredibly happy as the PS4 is my platform of choice. However, the PC port of the game was a complete disaster. The game was so broken on PC that the publisher has stopped selling the PC version until it is fixed. That is quite a blow to all the PC players out there and puts a really ugly stamp on the game itself. The game itself had been delayed twice, and it appears that even with these delays, the PC version was still rushed into production.

Rushing your contact center ACD into live situations can also have consequences.

  • Using untested IVRs: While using the Q-Suite's visual IVR builder can be intuitive, the builder itself cannot apply automatic logic to the flow of the call. This logic must be accounted for by the administrator who is building the call flow for the contact center ACD. If the IVR is poorly constructed, odd or unintended situations may arise when a customer calls in. Test, tweak, and test some more to avoid this.
  • Under/Overestimating call volumes: If you speed along the turn up of your contact center without any prior data or analysis in regards to call volumes, you may end up in a scenario where you have a massive call volume and a grossly understaffed contact center, which is likely going to result in a larger than expected number of missed or abandoned calls. Customers can get very unhappy if they are unable to reach an agent. On the flip side, call volume is much less than predicted which results in having numerous agents sitting around doing nothing while getting paid to do so. Certainly not an ideal situation for the contact center owners.
  • Hardware: We touched on a few hardware issues in a previous post, and even talked about using some common sense when constructing your contact center ACD's infrastructure. I cannot really stress this enough though. If you are expecting 200 concurrent calls, do not make due with hardware that can only support 100, just so you can be in production. It's simply not a good idea.
I know that in the hectic world of software and contact centers, time is money, so deadlines get pushed and can get pushed hard. Just try to remember that implementing a poorly designed and poorly resourced contact center ACD just so you can be in production as fast as possible, could have serious longer term consequences that may result in not being in production at all.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Common Sense and the Contact Center ACD

Here are a quick hitters about common sense and the contact center ACD:
  • If you feel like you must use a virtual server, please don't configure the virtual device to have more resources than the actual physical server. Just because it's virtual doesn't magically transform your 8GB physical server into three 32GB virtual devices.
  • Network latency is going to happen if you decide that routing calls from Manilla to Los Angeles to London to Manilla is a good idea. Just because it is VoIP does not mean that data all of sudden gets transmitted instantly, just like normal old internet traffic does not get transmitted instantly.
  • If your hosted platform gives you minimum and recommended specifications for your servers and you opt for the minimum, do not be surprised when certain services are not performing in a desired fashion. If you decide that an Asterisk server only needs the minimum requirements, which will handle X amount of calls, do not be shocked when X+1 calls will cause problems.
I would like to think that these are quite obvious, however, they appear not to be. We talked last week about how to avoid extinction for your contact center. Having common sense can go a long way in making sure that doesn't happen.