The rapidly approaching future for voice calls into and out of contact centers is VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). It promises and delivers lower costs, greater flexibility and simple single-pipe integration with data and voice, and hosts versatile unified communications systems. VoIP supports customer-satisfying and more audible higher quality voice compared with circuit-switched PSTN/TDM services.
VoIP is delivered to customers’ premises through SIP trunks over the Internet on broadband or on traditional data T1 circuits, which are significantly less expensive than voice lines or voice T1s. There are a wide range of VoIP providers, with new SIP trunking providers emerging into the marketplace, along with the current major PSTN/TDM carriers.
Ben Navon is president and CEO of Optimized Business, which provides voice, data and VoIP services to enterprises of all sizes including their contact centers. Ben forged his firm in 2003 out of the need in the market for a free service to assist business owners with telephony services and products.
Ben has over 20 years of extensive experience in the contact center and telecommunications industry. Ben’s background includes successfully designing and building contact centers and driving multiple call/contact centers to extreme success by using many telephony and cutting edge techniques. His involvement in all areas including data and voice circuits, CRM design and development, new VoIP technologies and using other techniques to improve conversion ratios has created multimillion dollar operations.
Customer Interaction Solutions recently interviewed Ben to get his insights on “Optimizing” VoIP for contact centers, including a look at the new offerings that his firms are rolling out.
CIS: What changes are you seeing that are encouraging contact centers to use VoIP?
BN: There are three key factors: affordability, reliability and innovative technology.
There is a growing competition in the industry that is leading to lower prices for VoIP services, SIP trunking and data circuits, as more telephony customers, including contact centers, realize and are exploring the advantages of VoIP. Another of the big benefits besides costs savings is the ability to easily modify call flow between contact centers, skill groups and queues and even home-based agents. While PSTN requires a professional to make changes to call flows, and in most cases these changes cost money and take time to modify, with VoIP business owners and supervisors are able to instantly make changes in most cases without the need for any specialty training.
With the right providers, VoIP is far easier and simpler to install and integrate into operations than PSTN. In VoIP you just sign up, authenticate, make sure that your data connection is in place and you are up and running your VoIP service. In a matter of hours, if not less, you can have voice lines live, rather than having to wait for a T1 to be installed, which can take a month. In today’s marketplace, it’s all about fast, affordable and convenient solutions.
As this is a newer technology in the industry it has taken some time for companies to learn to trust VoIP. The early-on problems of jitter and latency with VoIP are a thing of the past, as long as customers maintain the required data connections. I look forward to seeing more business owners switching to VoIP, now that the industry is realizing that is a very reliable service.
On the innovating technology side, there is now the advent of hosted IP-PBXs that enable the smaller contact centers and businesses to go to VoIP. Hosted IP-PBXs allow firms to obtain the features and functionality such as skill-based routing without installing and rip-and-replacing the switches themselves.
Before hosted IP-PBXs came along smaller firms were afraid to buy IP-based switching solutions, as these were too expensive and very labor intensive to get installed and programmed. Now thanks to the hosted products, VoIP is practical and affordable for any size company, and businesses can even buy minutes without having to buy any features. Overall they spend less money on buying equipment and programming; it’s a very turnkey solution.
CIS: With what appears to be growing demand for VoIP, will the capacity be there to handle it to avoid reliability and quality issues?
BN: Absolutely. The big carriers have increased the bandwidth available for VoIP on the trunks from the central offices to the premises. They are more often providing T-3/DS3 to businesses, which provide excellent data bandwidth for high volumes of VoIP use and VoIP users. So ultimately, data providers are increasing the bandwidth to the premises, while maintaining priority to voice packets (SIP).
The biggest advantage is the cost efficiency and flexibility of VoIP. In the current economy, contact centers and businesses are looking to cut costs on their services. VoIP provides them with the ability to have more home-based agents, thus carrying less overhead costs.
I have several big contact center customers with 7 to 10 T1s that have switched over to my firm. They were paying thousands of dollars each month in MRCs alone whereas with VoIP minutes the more you buy, the cheaper the minutes are. So basically the more you use the cheaper the rates.
CIS: Is there a future for toll-free numbers with the newfound popularity of VoIP that eliminates long distance charges for consumers?
BN: While there is a cost for toll-free numbers, it continues to be a great benefit to companies from the marketing standpoint. Toll-free numbers create a global appearance and size that shows and creates confidence in consumers. VoIP can deliver toll-free calls at less cost too. The SMS800 has recently released the 855 toll-free prefix, so I don’t anticipate toll-free numbers running low or becoming so expensive that firms will do without them anytime soon.
CIS: What are the benefits of using VoIP for outbound calling?
BN: VoIP is a safe haven for outbound calling. Basically, the fact that you no longer need to order more T1s for more phone lines alleviates the need to sign a 36-month contract on those new phone lines and that’s a huge plus. With our business VoIP at VoIPDialing.com, we let you use only those lines that you need and as many as you need. You can change the number of SIP lines that you need, instantly based upon the number of calls being dialed and billing is directly in line with usage.
CIS: With VoIP expanding, improving and the increasing demand for it, what affect will this have on the wireless, cellular phone and PDA industries?
BN: Together with the VoIP development, many softphone applications are emerging. These applications are being customized for cell phones usage. This will allow consumers to use their cellular phone’s data connection for VoIP calls/use of VoIP lines. Many apps and gadgets will be launched in the next year, using VoIP connectivity to deliver value to end users. Overall, VoIP will allow an easy and simplified link between computers and data for voice calls, speech recognition and speech to text and vice versa.
CIS: What new VoIP services are you offering now and planning to offer in the future?
BN: We have been rolling out VoIPDialing.com, which is our package of VoIP services nationwide. It offers low costs, 99.99 percent reliability and uptime and there are no term or usage commitments, which makes it very flexible and a great solution.
With VoIPDialing.com, implementation of the services and adding new SIP lines to your business happens within a matter of minutes. And the pay as you go is a great feature and very inviting to those businesses ready to venture into the VoIP services. We also provide live and historical call reporting online, and the ability to assign new local DID numbers in a click of the mouse.
Soon, we will also be rolling out VDialing.com, our brand of residential VoIP services over either cable or DSL connections. These services will provide savings and services for home-based agents and residential customers.
Within our services, Optimized Business provides hosted IP-PBX (News - Alert) services for small businesses and contact centers. Later this year, hosted IP-PBX services will be integrated into VoIPDialing.com, for improved initiation and ease of new customer registration and set up. We will also be able to provide even more enhanced reporting capabilities and improved and increased value to our end users/customers.
Furthermore, OptimizedBusiness.com also provides extremely dependable and competitive rates on data and voice T1 circuits when needed, either as redundant or due to phone system limitations. So, try our VoIP Services worry-free with no term or usage commitments. We are sure that you will very quickly be ready to switch most of your calls to our VoIP services and gain those benefits.
This is a very exciting time in the telecommunications industry and I look forward to seeing more businesses opt for the savings and flexibility of VoIP services.
Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi