Analyze Test And Improve The Basic Route Creation Flow Successful Telephony – A Best Practice Guide

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Successful Telephony – A Best Practice Guide

Start with what you have

A spot check on your existing telecoms strategy and current infrastructure will focus you on what you have now, and lead you onto what you need to do next. Design a simple scale (for example poor, average, good and excellent) and use it mark the three areas of licence compliance, safety and security – score each element. Then look at how your infrastructure supports your telecoms strategy and score it too, followed by a list of the benefits you currently get from your telecoms (refer to the list of telephony applications later on) and score each one – use a scoring scale of very useful, quite useful or not useful. Finally, check each benefit against your business goals. Your simple scoring system will help you see if your current strategy and infrastructure is

o fit for purpose,

o aligned to your business goals

o delivering results

Any scores below excellent or very useful are areas for review and improvement.

Once you have completed your spot check, take a moment to consider your organisation’s business-telephony profile. Can you define it? Your organisation may have several telephone profiles, and each telephone profile may need different technology features. Telecoms strategies depend on how intensively the telephone is used and you need to have defined your profiles to position your telecoms strategy supportively. Understanding your current setup and your use of technology today you can then decide which communications tools you need to support your business profile. Do not be limited by your current configuration – your business requirements should be fulfilled, not defined by the products you use.

The summary information gleaned from this exercise highlights potential operating cost reductions or improved services to your customer, possibly without substantially changing your infrastructure, hardware or software. Opportunities for innovation and improvement are now easier to identify and pursue.

What do others have

It is tempting to think of voice messaging systems and processes as the major feature of telephony. World class organisations look beyond the obvious and consider how telephony serves their business. Consider these four problems

o People move around and maintaining contact is difficult

o Offices are fixed in one place, and have size limits

o Investment in existing technology limits your ability to change

o Workforce depend on voice mail

A holistic view of these problems will show how telephony can be part of the solution. Single contact numbers and unified messaging for people who move around; use of hot desking to make better use of limited office space with single number and VoIP technology; enhanced applications delivered over your existing technology investment, and voicemail alternatives explained to your workforce along with instructions on how to use them and why.

Running hybrid solutions consisting of IP telephony networks and PBX together is common practice as it makes economic sense. You can introduce advantages and benefits to support your business goals gradually, without writing off your existing investment in infrastructure. Look at how your competitors (or your vertical market) address areas of cost, complexity and risk. Learn from them, consider copying them (or avoiding their mistakes) and be alert to ideas to complement your strategy.

A recent study shows that enterprise does not consider network convergence (data and voice over a single infrastructure) an immediate priority, the majority of organisations prefer to work with their existing technology. VoIP and IP telephony needs to deliver improved efficiencies not just cost savings, and there is currently no killer application to the handset to give a persuasive argument for the significant cost (external knowledge and outsourcing) to converge the voice and data networks throughout the organisation. IP VPNs are preferred by IT and telecoms departments as the wide area infrastructure in larger European companies. Organisations are apparently reluctant to invest in the LAN upgrades (Quality of Service capabilities) which are essential to a successful converged network, and have serious concerns over integration, migration and security around convergence.

2. Technology review

Telephony applications

Many organisations are getting significant benefits from the deployment of applications – only a few require a VoIP infrastructure change to achieve these. Your existing voice infrastructure may support some or all of the enhanced telephony applications listed below. Use the list (not exhaustive) as a prompt, what do you already use? Could any deliver added value in supporting your business goals?

o unified mail box

o use of text to speech

o use of voice activated directories

o ability to fax back

o ability to use SMS communications

o ability for same voice services whether on landline, home or mobile

o easy to service an increasingly flexible workforce

o ability to accommodate moves and changes efficiently

o redistribute contact centre and team working techniques around the business

o measure number of calls going to voicemail

o improve use of IVR systems to increase value of customer service

o ability to pick up e-mails by voice telephony or SMS

o ability to send voice replies to e-mail messages

o publication of single number instead of multiple numbers

o automatic call distribution

o voice-mail

o integration with existing programs such as database, contact management and e-mail systems

o web-casting

o audio conferencing

o video conferencing

o call recording

Select the telephony applications to match your business requirements and don’t be driven by the feature alone, for example:

o Versatility, will your applications work with others, eg, generating text messages to mobiles or incorporating web functionality such as text chat or e-mail campaigns?

o Existing handsets, is it a requirement to use your existing handsets? check they work.

o Existing PBX, if you expect to seamlessly migrate to the new capabilities over your existing PBX, check this is practical.

o End user configuration, if you intend offering a choice of location and device do you have the business processes to support and manage this?

Using the IP Data Network for Voice Traffic

VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol is the infrastructure technology to carry a piece of voice data across computer networks. It provides a low cost and efficient way to complement or replace traditional phone systems. VoIP can be used in local office networks or between sites, so you can integrate call handling with other parts of your business such as your website. Using broadband, VoIP could deliver the same telephone features to remote users and home workers as for on-premises workers.

IP telephony and IP VPNs

IP telephony delivers features and applications over an IP network. You keep on-net calls on your data infrastructure, and using intersite IP VPNs rather than using the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) where costs are still based on time and distance. But, voice over the internet has variable quality. Unless sufficient investment is made in the IP infrastructure to ensure quality of service and to maintain resilience in the network it should not be relied upon as the only solution.

You should consider moving from a traditional TDM based voice solution to an IP telephony solution if you:

o are building a new office or moving offices

o are nearing the end of a lease/support contract for PBX or Centrex services

o need to upgrade your voice network

o lack capacity on your current voice network

o have already invested heavily in a Quality of Service data infrastructure

Or you are:

o restricted by your current voice infrastructure

o spending unnecessarily on two or more networks due to mergers and acquisitions

o deploying a customer relationship solution

o using technology in back office and routine tasks to generate revenue or improve customer service.

Hybrid-IP

Enterprise tends to implement a gradual switch to a new technology such as VoIP by designing around their existing infrastructure, technology investments and contractual arrangements. They can then manage the migration of their business infrastructure steadily and cost effectively.

All change incurs a cost, some more than others. It is vital you talk to your existing supplier about your goals. A good supplier should respond positively with advice and information, and recommend ways for you to enhance your telephony applications to support your business objectives.

Mobile technologies

Mobile technologies free your workforce from their desk and allow them to be increasingly mobile. Two driving forces for mobile technology are the suppliers who are investing heavily in it, and the users in the field, typically sales people and engineers who are target or quota driven. Both are invaluable idea sources when considering business objectives and your supporting strategy.

To get measurable value from your mobile technology requires a clear initial strategy, well communicated to your mobile workforce. The strategy will include what is available, how easily changes can be introduced, and how you will maintain, support and update the technology. Without it, your workforce are likely to divert your resources away from your original IT and telecoms strategy to resolve their mobile issues. You need to set your work expectations and constantly revisit them to ensure you retain control of your strategy, and demonstrate you support their business objectives. Unless you do this, mobile workers become potential “resource thieves”, diverting your resources to support their innovative ideas, and creeping costs appear as equipment purchased and claimed through expenses.

High profile mobile technologies are

GPRS

General Packet Radio Service technology supports most current mobile phones and allows access to e-mail, SMS messaging and internet. With data transfer rate up to 171Kbps GPRS phones and PDA’s are good at sending small bursts of data like e-mail and web browsing, and multimedia messaging containing a combination of text, sounds and images.

3G Third generation phones are always on, with no waiting time to access the web and data transfer rates of 144Kbps to 384Kbps, making it possible to use for video messaging. The quality is not good enough to replace formal meetings, but good for face to face communication. The camera features help you get an immediate second opinion from support colleagues, improving customer service.

Bluetooth Based on a low-cost, short-range radio link, Bluetooth technology can connect many types of digital devices without cables. To establish a connection, two devices with Bluetooth wireless technology simply have to come within a 10 meter range of each other. Because it uses a radio-based link, it does not require a line-of-sight connection in order to communicate

WiFi WiFi (Wireless Fidelity) is a type of WLAN – a wireless network operating over a short distance. WiFi is built to standards drafted by the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA). WiFi is developing fast which means there are a number of standards in use with similar names, not all of which are compatible with each other. Typically a wireless access point can cover up to 100m and support up to 256 users, depending on specification of equipment. WiFi technology is increasingly built into many laptops and PDAs. WiFi lets you work remotely wherever there is a ‘hotspot’, from a coffee shop to a library or a park. WiFi has no quality of service so cannot provide guarantees for voice or video quality. Businesses see security and quality issues, users see mobility and ease of access improvements.

3. Moving forward

Now we have explored the technologies and the business benefits, you need a clear plan of what your telecoms strategy needs to deliver, and how you will apply this to your organisation.

Healthcheck

A healthcheck for your telecoms system tests that it is fit for purpose, aligned to your business goals and delivering results. Collect clearly documented information about your current system from your telecommunications team to review any obvious problems (such as lack of maintenance service or out of date versions). Any bugs or irritations should be logged and insist they are fixed by your supplier and monitor progress. Information about your system should include the date you purchased the product, details of licence numbers and agreements, including termination information and costs, costs and details of service agreements and upgrade arrangements, and details of your current version and which additional modules or added value services you own. If this information is not easily available internally, your supplier should be able to provide it.

Perform technical diagnostic and benchmark checks and tests, either done by your own telecommunications team or your supplier, but ideally involve both.

4. A best practice review

Share and compare

Best practice stems from the experience of others. All businesses and industries are different, but best practice principles are often the same across vertical markets. Sitting down for a friendly and open discussion on improving profitability with your biggest competitor is unlikely, but it is reasonable to look for opportunities to talk to similar businesses not directly competing with you, and to exchange advice and ideas. You could approach your provider and ask for introductions to other companies’ similar situation to your own.

How do I find out my industry best practice?

At the highest level there are many good quality providers of best practice studies who have gathered detailed, specific information about your particular industry or organisation to compare yourself against. You can pay for a study which then measures you against detailed database information (your details will be added anonymously to improve future comparisons) or, with preparation, planning and resource you can do it yourself. It may not take as much time as you think.

General areas of best practice are your people and their skills; increasing productivity through internal process reviews; and searching for time saving practices by changing the way you work and use your system, often facilitated by discussions with suppliers and partners. Systems bought by committee and implemented for users inevitably lose some of the essence of the original decision process. A best practice study realigns the original reasons for purchase with the actual implementation and use. Best practice can help you reduce costs and become more efficient, by learning how others have achieved improved workforce skills and used technology more effectively.

Best practice sample test

Here is a simple best practice test. Design a general customer inquiry based on a familiar inbound call. Listed below are five of the most irritating things you can do to a caller. Create a scorecard, decide on your rating scheme and rate one or more of your competitors. Repeat the test on your own organisation. Compare and analyse the results

o Did the person who answered the phone understand their business and whom they worked for?

o If you were transferred – did you get through to the right person?

o In the case of an automated attendant, did your selections get you to the right place, or did you end up looping in circles?

o Were you given another telephone number to call?

o Were you accidentally cut off?

Your analysis should highlight weaknesses and strengths – if your competitors did well or badly, what can you learn from them? Did you feel confident the agent understood your call? Did their operatives use the technology effectively, did you feel the technology they used was well-designed and helped the call? Were the people you spoke to enhancing your experience, if so how? Best practice offers a potential short cut to identifying good processes. Ultimately, how you use this knowledge depends on what is right for your organisation.

5. Cost benefits and return on investment

Potential profitability improvements:

o Reduce call costs using alternative carriers and/or the internet for your phone traffic

o Free calls between your sites using existing infrastructure and/or the internet

o Single number to simplify contact details

o Reduce abandoned calls by avoiding long wait times for caller – how?

o Avoid outbound call backs by connecting callers first time to the right person

o Call queuing, intelligent routing and distribution without human intervention to connect callers quickly to the right person, saving time

o Logging calls, inbound and outbound, and recording them if necessary allowing effective monitoring of your procedures and workforce skills

o Linking to existing computer databases, e-mail systems and address books to dial with a single mouse click saving time

o Presence, knowing when someone is on line and available for calls, whether customers, teams or members of a distributed workforce

o e-mail, voice-mail and fax-mail all delivered to one place and known as unified messaging, could improve the time it takes your workforce to deal with and prioritise communications more practically and efficiently

o Pop customer details on screen at the same time as the incoming call to improve customer service, perception of speed and efficiency

Potential customer service improvements:

Areas where you might improve customer service should be high priority and under constant review. Bad experiences – especially if they are consistent – cause customers to seek new suppliers.

o Don’t frustrate the customer by keeping him holding on to an apparently endlessly ringing phone: decide on how many rings to answer is acceptable and achievable – and set this up automatically in your telephone system before routing him elsewhere.

o Incoming callers could can be directed to an informed alternative person or another team member before passing the call to voicemail.

o Voicemail greetings should always tell your caller how to breakout of voicemail – if this option is chosen make sure it doesn’t loop back into more voicemails.

o Daily voice mail greetings give confidence to the caller, increasing the likelihood of a message or giving direction to the customer’s efforts to make contact.

o Using SMS or e-mail notification when voicemails are received should be used to increase the speed of response to your customer.

o Limit the spread of IVR menus so they are obvious and do not confuse or irritate the customer.

o Monitor call volumes so you are alerted immediately to increased volumes or trends, and take appropriate actions to limit potential delays (add more agents to the lines; use emergency message techniques to explain to customer potential problem).

o Each call is a transient asset – if you don’t catch the call when it comes in you may lose it forever to a competitor. Route calls to the correct skill level with the correct urgency and keep the customer.

Greater efficiency

o Workforce are not disturbed or distracted by phones ringing unnecessarily.

o IVR menus are simple to use, maintain and update, because you have limited them (eg to no more than two wide and three deep).

o Change is expected, not a surprise. Statistics help you understand your call volumes and workforce patterns and behaviour. Results are analysed for individuals, teams and IVR call flows – both real time and historic. Reviewed regularly they identify areas for change or improvement in advance.

o Solution is vendor and technology independent, and works with existing infrastructure supporting IP telephony giving flexibility to adopt future technologies.

Reduced costs

Every incoming call has a cost to the organisation, by categorising calls into different value levels and using planned handling techniques for each category you can improve use of resources. Align your telephone solution to your organisation; reduce the cost of ownership of your telephone system by improving efficiencies in use and capitalising on features that switch on cost savings.

6. Continual improvement

When you know you have a healthy system and best practice has highlighted areas of improvement and potential innovation, do not forget to schedule continual planned reviews to ensure you maintain your competitive advantage. Continually review:

o Your formal strategy for workforce connectivity. Whether you chose broadband, DSL, Voice over IP or something else, decide on and plan for a strategy. If you have not decided your strategy, learn from benchmarking in a similar industry.

o If you have a requirement or intention to converge data and voice together over your network infrastructure, and if you have two separate teams for data and voice networks, plan ways to bring them together to benefit from internal convergence and avoid duplicated effort.

o Your security should be technically tested and benchmarked, and supported by clear instructions for use by your office, mobile and homeworkers. Constantly check that your mobile workforce understands how to minimise security risks to your organisation’s data.

7. Conclusion

Implementing a successful IT and Telecoms strategy is a big responsibility. There is the potential to deliver significant benefits to your organisation from increased productivity through to large cost savings. But, before implementing a successful strategy business objectives need to be clearly defined and technology aligned to deliver benefits to support the objectives. And everything must be measurable.

Introduce best practice to put you in a position of strength. Decide on the tools, products and solutions you need to improve your business, use benchmarking to measure your best practice goals and practice continual improvement. This will set you apart as a successful organisation which doesn’t stand still, but constantly looks for ways to improve efficiency, competitive edge and profitability, and measures business practices and performance to demonstrate it’s achievements.

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