Friday, May 22, 2015

Farewell David Letterman! Retiring (Your Leads) Can Be a Good Thing

David Letterman had a pretty spectacular career as a late night talk show host. He started his late night gig at NBC in 1982 and ended his storied career this week over on CBS. That's 33 years of being on late night television. Impressive. However, sometimes you just have to call it quits and retire. Contact center leads can also be gracefully retired and there can be a few reasons as to why your contact center would want to follow this route.
  • Poor lead quality - Lead quality in the contact center realm typically refers to the probability that a lead will actually pick up the phone where called. Leads that are cold calls will most definitely have a poorer quality that leads that get generated via a website form, as an example. If your list of leads is simply not getting you the results you want, retiring the list and removing the leads from the campaign is a viable option.
  • Dialing intervals - Some contact centers have rules in place regarding when to dial leads. A major example is having lists of leads that you may only want to dial for a calendar month. In this case, the monthly leads get loaded into the dialer and the contact center agents dial as they normally would. At the end of the month, these lists of leads are retired in favour of a new batch of monthly leads. Rinse and repeat as needed.
  • Max call/dial count - Business and legal rules can also have a huge impact on retiring leads. Let's say for example that the US state that you are calling into only allows a contact center to call a specific phone number 5 times, before legal action could be taken. Nobody wants a potential customer to sue them, so lead checking can be put in place to validate if the lead has reached these limits. If the lead has, the Q-Suite has the ability to retire the lead automatically.
As stated above, retiring isn't an awful thing and some people even think of it as one of best things to ever happen to them (my father comes to mind here). Apply that line of thinking to your contact center, and perhaps your leads will thank you...somehow. As a parting gift, here's David Letterman's final Top 10 segment. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has the best one.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Timeout! Sports, Kids, and Contact Centers

Timeouts in the sporting world are almost always used in an effective manner. Sure there's the odd time where it turns into an amazing disaster (Chris Webber in the 1993 NCAA Finals comes to mind), but for the most part, they are used as methods to take a breather, either to get your players rested for a final push down the stretch or to get a break from getting overwhelmed by the opposing team. In terms of kids, timeouts are administered when a child needs a break, either from misbehaving or being overstimulated. How can we apply timeouts in our contact center? Let's have a look at a few of the ways the Q-Suite can use these.

  • Hold Timeout - When a agent handles a call, there may be numerous reasons as to why the agent needs to place the caller on hold. If your contact center has hard limits on how long a caller is allowed to be placed on hold, you can set a Hold Timeout duration. Upon setting the duration, a contact center administrator can decide what to do if the timeout is exceeded. Stay on hold or route to a different IVR are options that can be chosen. 
  • No Answer Timeout -  This setting applies to outbound dialing and is the amount of time that the dialer will wait until it determines that the end point is not answering. The duration in seconds for this particular contact center configuration option is typically set to something between 30-40 seconds. Setting the timeout too low may result in many calls that get flagged as no answers simply because the end point did not have enough time to register the attempt.
  • Queue Max Wait Time - The sophisticated visual IVR builder in the Q-Suite allows you to configure nodes that will route a caller to an inbound queue. The Max Wait Time option is a very crucial setting as this will handle the amount of time that a caller will stay waiting in the queue before automatically exiting. Depending on what the business rules of the contact center state, this setting will vary widely across different instances. It is usually up to the client to determine a proper value. In most cases, sites have opted to set this value to be a very large number. This large number will cause one of two results: 1) if the caller does in fact wait it out, they are almost guaranteed to be routed to an agent or 2) the caller initiates some form of queue option via DTMF that will allow them to control where they go next.
Using timeouts wisely can help alleviate certain situations when it comes to sports, kids, and the contact center. Make use of these options and they can help turn the tide in your favour.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Open or Closed Relationship: Which One is Right for You?

Open source software has come a long way in the last few decades. What was once just a mash of code lying around that lacked features and actual usefulness and usability, can now be full-fledged solutions for individuals and companies alike. Is an open source based software solution right for you or your contact center though? Let's compare a few points of interest.
  1. Cost: This is really the big topic here. Commercial software suites are going to be significantly more expensive that an open source based solution, like Q-Suite. Leveraging well-established, industry favoured open source products like Asterisk and Apache will dramatically decrease your initial costs of getting a contact center solution off the ground.
  2. Customization: As far as open source software is concerned, everyone is essentially an owner of the software and can make and design custom features and changes to the code base if they wish. This of course will require some form of subject matter expertise from the person doing these things. Code base changes and additions can be submitted to the company that controls the software product and can even be implemented into the end product so that any and all parties who wish to use the software can use these new modules. Closed source solutions would require requests made to the entity that owns the software and would allow for almost no level of freedom to make custom edits.
  3. Knowledge Base: While they may be a huge user base for a commercial product, it's almost certain that there will be more information more widely available on the internet in regards to the open source products. Users of open source software tend to be more vocal, creative, and supportive of other users when it comes to helping out with questions and even troubleshooting.
Purchasing the right contact center software suite for your company is a massive decision. Weigh your options fully and chose the best solution that suits your needs.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Avengers Follow Up Post: Age Of Ultron Gets TKO'ed

Apologies for the off topic post, but it appears that the talk regarding the biggest boxing match in decades chewing into the opening weekend for the new Avengers movie was amazingly valid. Sure the estimated take of $187M is impressive, but that's a full $20M below the first Avengers movie, and this iteration was expected to shatter that number. I imagine that overall Disney is slightly disappointed, but there's no doubt that this movie is going to be a money maker for them, just not as big as they had hoped.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Avengers Assemble! Gathering the Pieces You Need for Your Contact Center ACD

It's a big weekend for movie fans. The first weekend in May unofficially begins the summer season for Hollywood blockbusters, and there's never been an absolute lock for a tentpole like Avengers: Age of Ultron. After the first Avengers film completely shattered the record for the opening weekend take with a lofty $207M, the sequel is expected to surpass that. Quite incredible. Just as the Marvel universe needed to gather Earth's mightiest heroes, you too will need to wrangle up the proper components for your contact center ACD. Let's have a look.

We can break it down to 3 major categories:
  1. Physical Hardware - You are going to need computing power in order to get your call center to run smoothly. Whether you choose to house your servers on site or up, up, away in the cloud, your servers are the backbone of the operation.
  2. Software - While you can construct a contact center out of bits and pieces of software here and there, it's highly recommended and beneficial to choose a bundled solution that includes all of the necessary software components that you will need. The Q-Suite is a fantastic, cost-effective choice for this and you can see it action here.
  3. Staffing - We're not quite to the point where robots or drones can do all of the contact center work for you (sorry Ultron), so you are going to need your own team of skilled agents to handle the VoIP interactions with your customers. Those agents are also going to need somewhere to work, so assuming you want a centralized location for these agents, you'll need the proper type of office space. Plan accordingly.
It seems a bit of a stretch to link the Avengers with your contact center, but from a high-level top down approach, some of the same principles can be applied. I, for one, am definitely looking forward to seeing this movie and I hope it delivers on all levels. I'll leave you with a trailer to help get you excited for it as well. Enjoy!

Friday, April 24, 2015

3 Minor Annoyances of Not Having Physical Control Over Contact Center Hardware

A situation came up this week where we needed to collaborate with a server colocation in order to rebuild a server. Overall, the process was very smooth and went by without much of a hitch. However, not having full physical access to the server definitely slowed us up a bit. Here's why:
  • Communication Delays - Regardless of how quickly and efficiently your colocation company works, there are always going to be delays, even if they are extremely minor. Every time something was completed on their end, they would respond to an open ticket, either waiting for further instructions or a simple approval. If you housed your server on site and had a dedicated technician working on it, these small communication delays can be eliminated and your contact center can be back in action that much faster.
  • Server Layout - Ideally, your servers for a particular contact center would be racked together in a logical order, connected to common networking equipment, and likely all accessible via some type of switching box, like KVM. While this may entirely be the case at the colocation, it's not a 100% certainty that your servers will be arranged in this fashion. Having multiple points of access to the servers can cause issues if, for instance, the power strip that has 3 out of 6 servers on happens to malfunction.
  • Server Room Access - You have no control who has access to the room or rooms where your servers are located. This can cause small random issues like in our particular instance this week where somehow an ethernet cable became unseated on the primary interface right before we were about to reintroduce the newly built server into the contact center. This caused bad things to happen but we caught it in time. We are not sure exactly how it happened, but cables that lock in place do not magically become unlocked. Someone likely accidentally moved or hit the cable enough to cause the network disruption. Once we opened a dialogue with them, someone needed to go in and reseat the cable, which took much longer than it would have if the servers were in house.
You can see fairly clearly that the three issues above are pretty minor overall and none were catastrophic in nature. I've talked before about using a hosted platform and how great it can be for certain people and my stance had definitely not changed there. But as with everything in life, nothing's perfect.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Agony of Food Poisoning

This is going to be a quick hitter of a post, but I was the fabulous victim of some food poisoning last week and did not manage to get a weekly submission in, but have no fear. There will be something of note to read about later in the week.

Stay tuned!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Game of Thrones Episodes Leak! How to Prevent a Similar Event in your Contact Center

On the weekend the first four episodes of Game of Thrones Season 5 had been leaked on the web. It appears that the leaks were made by a person or group on HBO's list of approved recipients. HBO is assessing the leak and will deal with it as they see fit. The task of avoiding spoilers for the four episodes is going to be fairly tough, I think, but if you're a watcher of the series, I sincerely hope we can all stay spoiler-free.

This brings up an interesting situation. Even though the breach was done by an authorized person, once that person is identified, they will most certainly be removed from the list. Essentially they will have their privilege level lowered or completely revoked. Let's talk about controlling privileges in the Q-Suite.

In the contact center ACD, it is imperative that privilege levels and user access are tightly controlled by someone, be it a System Administrator or the Tenant. From the perspective of the admin portal, you do not want a reporting user to have access to the Campaigns page, which allows for numerous critical settings to be altered. SIP trunking should never be handled by anyone other that the System Administrator, so that page should be off limits to all other users. Leveraging the Q-Suite's Admin Pages and Web Privilege features allows you to customize the user experience by restricting or allowing pages to be hidden or seen depending on the user privilege. You can also create new privileges if you desire.

By using the available configuration options for your users, you can help to maintain the stability of your contact center ACD by only allowing the proper personnel the access to the proper pages. Even if a malicious event is not blatantly caused by a user, it's a much safer route to travel if the event is not possible for them to trigger in the first place.

I'm going to link the opening credits below because it's phenomenal.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Apple Watch or Samsung Gear? Get More Mobile!

Smart watches and wearable technology aren't entirely new, however I'm sure that there are millions of people eagerly awaiting the release date of the Apple Watch. The Samsung Gear has been in the wild for a bit already, but there's always going to be that dividing line of Apple/non-Apple users, so now both sides will have options. How can we relate this to a call center?

Not every contact center requires the same types of options. In fact, almost every center will require something that another center does not. For this particular blog, let's talk about mobile agents. When I say mobile, I mean that the agents aren't necessarily going to be tied to a specific workstation where they will interact with the call center software via a web browser and some type of phone, whether it's a physical device or an application running on the workstation. These types of agents are certainly not the norm in the call center universe.

Let's take a taxi company for an example, where the drivers are classified as agents. Clearly these agents are not going to be looking at computer monitor as they accept calls. Using the Q-Suite, we can configure a mobile login mechanism that will allow them to accept inbound calls without relying on an agent web portal. Many newer model vehicles have some type of Bluetooth or wireless capability but it's a bit unreasonable to think that a driver will be in the car for the entirety of the shift. When the driver doesn't have access to the features of the vehicle, the phone itself could be used or they could rely on a headset of some type without having to fiddle with the phone. Introducing the watch, while it might be overkill, is just another iteration in the technology we can leverage to stay connected.

It can be tough to stay current on all of the emerging technology that is being developed and released. Just keep in mind that this technology most definitely can have real life value for your call center, depending on what your requirements are.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Customize Your Experience!

We've talked a few times in older posts about how agents can effectively use scripts and how scripts can be created with ease in the Q-Suite. Aside from the scripts being used by agents in day to day operations and how to actually construct the scripts themselves, we haven't necessarily talked about how an administrator can manage these scripts. Let's do that now.

When I refer to managing scripts here, I'm mostly referring to how scripts can be assigned to different entities that already exist in the contact center software. The three major structures than can have a script assigned to them are campaigns, queues, and lists.

Campaigns are the most generic of the components in this case. They house information like outbound or inbound type, caller ID name and number information for dials made from the campaign, and the DID in the case of an inbound campaign. Scripts can be assigned to a campaign and whenever a call is made or taken, the script assigned to the campaign will be displayed to agent.

Queues are used to route inbound callers to appropriately skilled agents. The number that the caller dials to reach these queues will most often belong to a campaign. However, queues that are reachable via a campaign's DID can be vastly different. You may have Sales, Technical Support, and Customer Service queues. The types of questions that your agents will be reading to the caller may also vary by a great degree. In this case, you would create a few queue specific scripts to handle this scenario and assign those as desired.

Lists are the data structure that contains your outbound leads. Lists need to be assigned to outbound campaigns in order for the ACD software to know what leads are to be queued and dialed. Multiple lists can be assigned and active for any campaign, and each list may have some important specific fields that are not relevant to the any of the other lists. You can tailor your list specific script to account for these differences and assign the scripts are required.

The level of detail involved in having multiple scripts that may more or less accomplish the same goal is not absolutely needed, but isn't great to know that you have the option available?