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Customer Inter@ction Solutions
May 2007 - Volume 25 / Number 12
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Five Things To Know About IP Call Recording For The Contact Center

By Tracey E. Schelmetic
Editorial Director, Customer Interaction Solutions

While watching some escapist sci-fi television recently, I wandered onto a show with a plot that featured werewolves. The main characters knew the victims of a recent spate of killings were werewolves because the post-mortems showed the individuals had been injected with silver nitrate which, as everybody who has been exposed to a lifetime of pop culture knows, kills werewolves. This point didn’t need to be explained to the viewing audience, but the concept of silver nitrate did. “It’s a chemical that was used in old-style photography,” explained a main character.

Of course, thought I, the average viewer of this program is young enough to never really have known that photos don’t show up digitally and immediately on the camera screen just after they are snapped. It occurred to me that with the exception of a few hobbyist photographers who still use film and manual photographic developing processes, the only things today’s photography have in common with that of yesteryear are the name, “photography,” and the end results: pictures of your friends, relatives and the places you visited on your last vacation.

It also occurred to me that today, call recording in the call center has essentially gone the same way. It’s still referred to as call logging or recording, and the end result — being able to listen to and store audio records of your employees’ phone calls — is still the same. It’s the process in the middle that is almost entirely altered.

Increasingly, old-style calling recording, or logging and monitoring, is being replaced by IP call recording, a process which refers specifically to recording VoIP phone calls generated through an IP- PBX (News - Alert) or hosted VoIP service provider. Traditional call recording is done by “tapping” the audio from either the PSTN trunks from the central office, or by tapping the phone extensions directly. IP call recording differs from traditional call recording in that it captures voice and data packets from a span (or mirroring) port versus tapping audio from digital or analog telephone line. It is software-based and is often less costly than traditional recording since it requires no phone line taps and fewer servers.

It also offers a host of benefits that traditional recording methodologies could only dream about.

IP call recording is ideal for organizations with multiple remote or satellite locations, branch offices and/or employees working from home (home agents, remote workers) due to its centralized recording and system administration capabilities. The employees being recorded need not be in the same contact center or part of the same switch (PBX or ACD) environment. IP recording supports a distributed and/or global environment; achieving the same results through traditional recording is both difficult and costly — each location would have to purchase duplicate recording equipment.

Support Of A Distributed Call Center Environment
The goal of many call centers today is to achieve a sort of “uncentered” call center that can be altered and configured to meet a business’ precise cyclical requirements. This helps save money and allows organizations to scale up and down on their staffing requirements to meet the precise needs of their business ebb and flow. Overstaffing is costly and wasteful, and understaffing can annoy customers, burn out agents and lose sales.

Said Greg Sherry, Director of Marketing for Witness Systems (News - Alert) , “With IP, the definition of a ’call center’ and the count of how many agents are ’in the center’ can be a lot broader than in the traditional sense. In the IP-enabled contact center, where agents or associates typically take orders, resolve issues and serve customers, calls can be routed seamlessly and inexpensively to agents working in a separate facility or to their counterparts in satellite locations, or even to those working at home. The technology is transparent to the caller and provides a high degree of flexibility to the business. A call center that appears to have only 20 or 30 agents can actually be a much larger support organization since IP can seamlessly connect different parts of the organization in support of customers.”

The Costs
As we all know, the mantra of today’s call center is to do more with less. The goal is to adopt solutions with fast ROI that accomplish the seemingly impossible feat of lowering costs while raising efficiencies. IP-based solutions have allowed call centers to do just that.

Said Witness’ Sherry, “IP recording costs are often lower since control of telephony applications is managed by software running on PC servers, rather than on a dedicated telephony switch. For multi-site enterprises with separate voice and data networks, IP provides a means of integrating the networks, reducing costs and achieving better utilization from the shared infrastructure. It’s also much easier to integrate other contact center software with VoIP applications, due to less hardware being involved and less dependency on CTI and other applications.”

Sid Rao, CTO of CTI Group (News - Alert) , was very precise with estimates of cost savings. “Traditional recording can cost almost $20,000 up front, not to mention all the money you’ll have to spend to maintain and update the equipment. With hosted IP call recording, the customer may pay in the double digits per month per agent. This is a big benefit to many service providers, as they don’t have to come up with a lot of money all at once.”

IP-delivered solutions such as call recording become even more attractive as SMBs (small to medium-sized businesses) begin to scramble for market share. These smaller companies may have the desire, the will and the know-how to gain market share; all they lack is the large amount of up-front capital often need to buy premise-based solutions.

Commented Kristyn Emenecker, Product Marketing Manager with Verint Systems (News - Alert) , “With IP recording, there are typically some upfront hardware savings when compared to traditional recording. Additionally, vendors often offer maintenance agreements that include software upgrades, which essentially means that you never have to buy a recording system again. So we’re talking about some strong potential total cost of ownership savings with IP.”

The Flexibility
Another bonus of IP call recording is the unexpected side benefits. In the old days, many companies recorded only because they had to, either for legal reasons or because it was the best way to train new agents. They were unable to listen to and utilize everything they recorded; manual playback and cumbersome storage, not to mention a complete lack of any kind of automated search function, meant that holding onto all that recorded material was often a bigger burden than it was a benefit.

Andy Mercker, Director of Marketing for Telrex (News - Alert) , said, “IP call recording is more than just call recording. Today, the concept of IP recording and monitoring has expanded beyond simply making voice recordings to include capturing the entire interaction (meaning computer recording and monitoring in addition to the voice), and using the recordings for call center agent evaluation and employee training, as well as linking these recordings to business applications, such as CRM.”

Said Witness Systems’ Greg Sherry, “IP makes it easy and cost-effective to manage line changes when employees

Said Witness Systems’ Greg Sherry, “IP makes it easy and cost-effective to manage line changes when employees relocate, or to add and remove remote users. It’s easily scalable from a single phone upwards (i.e., for home agents) in increments of one. IP also allows smaller organizations to utilize application functionality previously available only to larger organizations with broader budgets. Smaller organizations can also appear to be much larger than they actually are and help drive revenue and growth, especially since IP provides the ability to create a widely distributed support staff that has the appearance of a larger enterprise.”

In an era when interest is rising daily in deploying home agents, the proliferation of IP contact center solutions has been extremely timely. Said Verint’s Emenecker, “Home agent programs allow our customers to select from a large pool of potential skilled agents without geographic boundaries, reduce overhead costs and facilitate flexible scheduling, among other benefits. Additionally, IP recording and centralized QM and coaching enable the same level of quality control and brand protection as with traditional agents in brick-and-mortar facilities.”

The Administration
Another problem with old-style recording was the difficulty of administration. Any kind of reconfiguration for new employees, new locations or new legal restrictions or mandates was a challenge and required a large IT staff to accomplish. Additionally, getting any real use out of the information required the listener (or call center supervisor or company executive) to be on the physical call center premises.

Said Sid Rao of CTI Group, “CTI Group uses a Web-based setup so the authorized personnel can access and monitor the calls in real time no matter how far away they are from the call center. With traditional call recording, the listener has to be at the equipment’s site to physically search the hardware.”

Between the cost, complexity and administration of traditional call recording, a company really had to have a strong need for it. Banks and other financial institutions had to record to remain compliant with federal and state laws. The “fringe benefits” of recording — training, linking the recordings to CRM records to take proactive actions to improve customer service, tracking customer and call center trends, spotting troublesome calls before they escalate — came at too high a price for all but the largest and most security-minded of companies.

Telrex’s Mercker said, “Historically, recording and monitoring has represented a level of expense and complexity such that it has required a major business need to justify the investment of time, money and effort to implement and manage on an on-going basis. Now with IP telephony, IP recording and monitoring, done right, becomes an application on the network that leverages the IP telephony (or unified communications) system.”

Said Patrick Botz, Global Director of Marketing for VPI, “IP call recording mode allows for channel sharing which can greatly reduce the number of dedicated recording channels required to provide full-time and/or record-on-demand functionality. IP call recording does not require modifying wiring or PBX programming to record different telephones — simply adjust the software. The flexibility of an IP recording system is greatly enhanced by not having this physical constraint of installing physical wiring to each telephone to capture audio.”

The Security
As the call center industry becomes increasingly concerned about customer data security (as well it should; it seems not a week passes with news of a major breach of customer information), some executives look nervously at IP technologies, concerned their valuable customer information will wind up liberated by criminals. For companies in the financial services, insurance and healthcare sectors, it’s more than just bad press they need to worry about. Federal and state mandates often put safeguards in place with which these types of verticals must comply or pay a heavy price.

So how do call centers maintain the security of their recorded call data when it “travels” over networks? “Security of the recorded call data is maintained just as it is with ’traditional’ call recording methods: through user permissions and appropriate network security procedures,” said Verint’s Kristyn Emenecker.

  What Can I Do With IP Call Recording That I Cannot Do With Traditional Call Recording?   Telrex Says: Quite A Bit

• Quickly search on thousands of hours of recordings made across multiple locations to find the call or calls for a specific agent or customer.

• Link recordings or specific clips with agent evaluation score sheets for a permanent record of employee training progress and performance improvements.

• Create integrated files that can be accessed later (even years later).

• One-click verification that a call recording has not been tampered with or altered for audit-trail integrity and “chain of evidence” requirements.

• Easily link recordings to business applications.

• Easily forward recordings via e-mail.

• Provide granular access levels to employees, supervisors and administrators for initiating recordings, monitoring call/computer interactions, or retrieving stored recordings.

• Easily integrate IP recording and monitoring features with third-party applications.

• Easily and cost-effectively scale up. Done right, IP simply requires additional software licenses.

• Easily implement moves/adds/changes. TDM-based recording requires line taps, making MACs in the TDM environment expensive, complex and time-consuming. IP simply requires software licenses and point-and-click configuration.

• Leverage the investment in IP telephony.

• Allow management of the entire system from anywhere on the network.

• Easily record and monitor, and access recordings, across multiple locations anywhere in the world.

• Achieve cost-effective failover and redundancy. IP recording and monitoring simply requires another server. TDM requires duplicate hardware, duplicate line taps, etc.

CTI Group’s Sid Rao said, “Security is maintained by the usual VoIP security mechanisms, which make sure that the calls are not intercepted by unauthorized personnel. The calls are also encrypted, which means they cannot be accessed by a third party. CTI Group also only processes the conversations that have been authorized for recording — not all customer conversations have to be recorded, as the enterprise can pick and choose. This is due to CTI Group’s patent-pending method for intercepting phone conversations. CTI Group also implements the request for a PIN number to extract or listen to the recordings on the Web.”
VPI’s Patrick Botz explained, “VPI’s IP call recording solution has the ability to process only voice packets up front, so organizations do not have to worry about any confidential IP data packets being transferred to the call recording appl

ication. VPI’s IP call recording system leverages open architecture and can sit securely behind your firewall and work in harmony with an organization’s network operations.”

The Silver Bullet?
Doing more with less is a seemingly impossible order. Had this mantra become popular before the advent of IP-based call center solutions, the answer might have been threats of corporal punishment to call center agents, setting the clocks in the call center to move more slowly than usual, squeezing 10-hour work days out of personnel only slated to work eight hours, or inventing time-warp technology to enable call centers to travel backwards in time to set schedules to match future demand.

Luckily for today’s businesses both large and small (not to mention for their employees), technology such as IP call recording may allow them to make more with less, and still have some benefits to spare. CIS

The following companies contributed to this article:

CTI Group


Verint Systems


Witness Systems

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