Contact Centre Technology
You don’t need to be able to write code to run a contact centre.
However, as a contact centre manager, it’s useful to understand the different technologies at play in the context of what you’re doing.
This way, you’ll be able to ensure that you’re using the best possible systems and solutions for your team.
In this academy topic, we’ll discuss the key contact centre technologies at play today, and what they mean for you.
After watching these videos, you’ll have a better understanding of what all the industry jargon means.
Plus, you’ll learn how to build the perfect tech stack for your team.
Some people say the cloud is just somebody else’s computer.
That is actually partially true, but also not necessarily the case.
The real benefit of cloud computing is that an application in the cloud is more scalable, and reliable, and can be distributed across geographies with ease.
In technology, the word “cloud” is used in many different contexts. Cloud computing, cloud storage, cloud software – the list is almost endless.
Here’s what “the cloud” means in the context of the contact centre, and what it means for you.
Cloud software means that the solution runs somewhere other than your own premises.
Most often, the solution is fully managed by a software supplier.
The “cloud” in this context refers to the supplier’s servers. They’re located remotely, and connected to you over the internet.
On-premise software is the opposite of cloud software.
As the name implies, on-premise software runs on the premises – on servers managed by your organisation, and on agents’ computers, rather than in the cloud.
There are a number of benefits to using cloud software for your contact centre.
Firstly, it means that we, as the supplier, run the application. We take care of the complex and costly parts of the system.
There’s no need to spend massive amounts of time and money managing on-premise servers, keeping them running smoothly, and upgrading them periodically.
Secondly, cloud software allows you to make calls anywhere; on a laptop or even an iPad.
Your machines don’t need to do the heavy lifting.
And finally, cloud software is much more agile.
If your team grows, new agents simply log in to contactSPACE, and they can immediately begin making calls.
The cloud sounds great, doesn’t it?
There’s a reason why so many organisations – from the very small to the world’s largest businesses – are migrating to the cloud.
However, there’s a catch to the cloud that you should be aware of.
Not all cloud contact centre solutions were actually born in the cloud.
In fact, some solutions have been migrated to the cloud, after originally being designed as on-premise software.
This is an important distinction.
If a solution has been migrated into the cloud, it may not function in the same way that you would expect it to, as cloud software.
To migrate the software to the cloud, a massive amount of changes have to be made to the system.
Often, this can really reduce the solution’s effectiveness.
It’s like using a fork to eat cereal. You’re using the software in a situation it wasn’t originally designed for.
It might work, but it might not work as well as you’d think.
Therefore, if you do decide to make the switch, be on the lookout for software that was born in the cloud.
VoIP vs SIP
When you receive an email, how do you interpret what to do with it?
Whether you know it or not, you have a subconscious protocol to handle the emails you receive.
Here’s my protocol.
First, I check who the email is from.
If it’s someone I want to hear from, and the subject line checks out, I’m going to open that email.
Surprisingly, computers work in a similar way. Data is sent in bite-sized packets, and there are different protocols that define how these packets are handled.
But what does this mean for contact centres?
The protocols that matter most in this industry are VoIP and SIP, because they define how voice data is transmitted between applications and devices.
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It defines how packets of voice data are transmitted over the internet.
VoIP is typically delivered using the SIP protocol.
SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol. SIP can be used to transmit multiple different types of media streams such as voice and video.
SIP “trunking” is normally how you connect your on-premise contact centre to the telephone network and make calls.
With contactSPACE, you don’t need to worry about SIP trunking, or any other technical complexities.
Our focus is on making your life simpler, and allowing you to focus on achieving better business outcomes.
This is why we made contactSPACE SIP-enabled, right out of the box.
We talked a bit about voice protocols in the last video.
However, there are a few other issues you have to consider to ensure a good quality of voice service.
We once helped a sales team who were using a dialling tool that hooked into their CRM.
This tool was connecting their extensions to Singapore, and then dialling out to Australia via the US.
As you can imagine, their call quality wasn’t the best.
They were experiencing frequent dropouts and poor latency.
Unlike the old system, contactSPACE has an international voice network, which has points of presence in every major country.
Once this sales team deployed contactSPACE, their call quality issues were fixed overnight.
The moral of the story is, the software solution you use is a major factor in determining the quality of voice you’re going to deliver.
However, it isn’t the whole story.
You also need to consider the amount of bandwidth you have on your network.
You can think of it like a traffic tunnel. The more lanes you have, the faster the cars can travel through it.
But if there are too many cars for the number of lanes, this will create a bottleneck, slowing everything down.
Essentially, the more calls you’re making, the more bandwidth you’ll need to avoid voice quality issues, such as dropouts or stuttering.
The codec will also affect your voice quality.
Here at contactSPACE, we never use any compression codecs and we never transcode calls.
This ensures that our customers have access to the best possible voice quality – from the moment they go live.
Even the largest contact centres sometimes struggle to manage their security.
In 2015, AT&T was fined 25 million dollars after its call centre employees were caught selling data to third parties.
You’re only as strong as your weakest point, which is why having a multi-layered security strategy is so important.
Multi-layered security means using different layers of defence to manage different potential threats.
For example, you would have a human layer to prevent data breaches that could occur due to human negligence.
The human layer is probably the most important layer.
You would also have a network layer, a physical layer, and an application layer, to protect against software vulnerabilities.
However, you cannot simply build all of these different security layers and hope that they work well together.
You need to take a holistic approach to designing your security strategy.
Remember, security isn’t just about preventing data breaches.
Contact centres are often the target of denial of service attacks.
Under a denial of service attack, your network is flooded with unwanted traffic.
If there’s enough malicious traffic, your network slows down, or drops out completely – stopping you in your tracks.
The key to preventing denial of service attacks is the quality of your firewall.
A firewall is essentially a barrier that prevents malicious traffic entering your network.
However, creating a good firewall isn’t as easy as it sounds. If the filtering logic isn’t right, your call quality could suffer.
Protecting your contact centre is a never-ending battle. You can’t set and forget your security measures.
Organisations often develop security strategies, but don’t adhere to them at an operational level. This is why the majority of breaches occur.
To monitor progress, it’s important to perform regular security checkups to ensure that your team is complying with the protocols that you have in place.
Data is one of your most valuable assets as a contact centre.
It allows you to make contact, and deliver personalised interactions.
However, your data is also valuable to others.
Hackers steal an average of 75 records from business databases every single second.
Here’s what you need to know about data protection as a contact centre manager.
According to Australian privacy law, all businesses have an obligation to keep private data safe.
One of the biggest targets for hackers is personally identifiable information, or PII.
There’s a very good reason for this.
You can change your credit card number, but you can’t change your mother’s maiden name.
Hackers go after the PII because it’s much more valuable on the black market.
To protect the PII you store, you can use a process called devaluing your data.
This basically means you’re making the data less valuable in case of a successful breach.
To devalue data, you can employ methods such as masking, which involves obscuring the data with random modified characters.
You see that padlock at the top of your screen?
The padlock symbol means that this video is encrypted as you receive it.
Encryption basically means that the data is placed in a locked box in transit. Only the intended recipient has the key to open the box.
If the box is stolen, or intercepted, it can’t be opened.
However, if you receive the data and you don’t put it back inside a locked box, it’s going to be left exposed.
This is why it’s important to ensure your data is also encrypted at rest – when it’s in storage.
This ensures that, if data is stolen, it cannot be accessed without being decrypted.
We’ve just talked about why your data is so valuable, and how you can protect it.
It’s important to remember that your data is much more valuable when you can use it to achieve better outcomes.
If you have information about your contacts beyond just their name and phone number, you probably use a CRM to manage this data.
This is where integrations come into play.
Here’s how you ensure you get an integration that works for your team.
First, check that the solution you’re looking at has an API-style data environment, to make data transfer easy.
You need the freedom to use your data how you want to use it.
Having the right APIs available will enable you to do more with your data, such as custom reporting, should the need ever arise in the future.
If a given solution tries to isolate your data, you might want to reconsider whether or not it’s a good fit for your team.
You also need to check that the integration will fit in with your business processes, as you’ve designed them.
As a vendor, we love it when customers have workflow diagrams to show us.
Using a workflow diagram, we can look at how our integration fits in with your processes and business objectives, and show you in the demo.
And from this, you’ll be able to see whether our solution is the right fit for your business.
Product vs development
There are two ways to access the technology you need to run a contact centre.
You can either buy a software product, like contactSPACE, or, you can get a development team to create a custom solution, possibly by building on top of an existing software product.
There are pros and cons to both options.
Here’s what you need to know about using a ready-made product, versus custom developing your contact centre solution.
The reason you might do custom development is obvious.
You have the power to create whatever you want, which is great in theory.
However, I’ve seen businesses face real problems going down this route.
As an example, we once worked with a large call centre agency who had a single developer basically build their entire system.
This developer was with the organisation for fifteen years, and one day, he left the team.
Nobody else knew how the tech worked, nobody had the source code, and the system started failing.
The entire contact centre ground to a halt. Agents were coming into work, but couldn’t make calls. And no one knew how to solve this problem.
Even if you have development skills in-house, custom-building your entire solution can be incredibly complex, and is sometimes quite risky.
The process of defining objectives, planning, building, and testing the system can become very expensive, very quickly.
If the project takes longer than expected, you’ll have to spend even more time stuck with your current solution. How expensive would this be for your business?
So, what’s the alternative to custom-building your contact centre solution?
If you go down the ready-built product route, you can’t just buy any solution.
You’ve got to ensure that the product will meet your business needs as they currently exist, and position you for what’s coming in the future.
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