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Customer Inter@ction Solutions
June 2007 - Volume 26 / Number 1
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Spanlink Is On A Mission

By Rich Tehrani
Group Publisher, Group Editor-in-Chief, Technology Marketing Corporation

Rich Tehrani
As readers know, I’m fond of keeping up with the call center industry by speaking with its major players as often as possible so I’m never taken by surprise by cutting-edge announcements and upcoming events (and, let’s face it, so I can be the first to post breaking news in my VoIP blog, www.tehrani.com). Following in that tradition, this month, I had a chance to speak to Brett Shockley, CEO, chairman and founder of Spanlink Communications (www.spanlink.com).

RT: What is the mission of Spanlink Communications?

BS: Spanlink’s mission is to leverage unified communications to drive transformational business success for our customers. Customers need to understand that unified communications and IP telephony present an opportunity to make service improvements, realize operational savings and grow revenue. Our mission is to help our customers understand and achieve that.

RT: Does Spanlink focus on contact centers exclusively?

BS: Growing up in the contact center business, this has become Spanlink’s core expertise. Contact center applications tend to be the most complex and are mission critical. They are ripe with real opportunity for business transformation, and we understand the business drivers intimately. That said, Spanlink also has very strong technical expertise in networking and general telephony. Many of our customers prefer to work with one vendor for their communications infrastructure as well as their contact center. Others appreciate the solution focus we bring even to general telephony deployments, the thoroughness of our service practices and the high-touch support options we provide.

RT: From a business perspective, what is the biggest mistake you see companies make when approaching a migration to IP telephony and unified communications?

BS: We see far too many companies who work with an integrator to swap out their phone system without thinking through the business opportunities that virtualization and unified communications present. When companies do this, they may have a shiny new phone system, but they’ve missed out on the opportunity to make business improvements. The difference between traditional voice and IP communications goes far beyond how voice is transported on what network. Because of this, we work hard every day to evangelize the business benefits in our communications with our customers and live them in our business practices. There’s real opportunity to add revenue and improve the bottom line, but you have to think it through.

RT: From a technology perspective, what is the biggest mistake you see companies make when approaching a migration to IP telephony and unified communications?

BS: Often times companies don’t realize the careful steps they must take when evaluating their network and their operations to support IP telephony. Many customers, and frankly too many other integrators, will discount the importance of testing the effects of adding voice traffic on an existing network. So, when voice is applied, it creates issues that are completely unnecessary. Operational readiness is another big area that companies need to understand before they make a change from traditional voice networks to VoIP. They often will have an operational process to support data and assume that the same processes will support voice on the network, but that is often not the case.

RT: How do you help companies take ownership and gain success early-on with new technology?

BS: Companies need to understand what they are buying. They should feel they’ve invested their business knowledge in the design, understand the business opportunity, know what the capabilities are and understand the potential. Mainly, it comes down to communicating and training throughout the project management process to ensure that there are no surprises. For example, Spanlink offers multi-level training so everyone, from the administrators to the users, understands the features and capabilities of their tools. In addition to having numerous resources on site during a cutover to make sure questions are answered, we also offer more thorough classroom training. Customers who take advantage of classroom training opportunities have the most success and are able to fully leverage the potential of their solution.

RT: What changes from a support standpoint?

BS: With unified communications, voice is now an application on the network, right? The quick answer is yes, but the reality is no. Voice applications require some different qualities that were not available in the day-to-day data networks. With things like QoS (quality of service) and CAC (call admission control), we began to see the voice applications on a data network start to conform to some of the voice network qualities we saw in TDM systems of the past, and now voice is accepted as a viable application on a data network. The problem we face today is that we fixed many of the issues of having voice on a data network with protocol enhancements and new switching technology, but the mainstay of voice applications still looks like an application on a data network. Companies often do not set high standards for application availability, but voice is critical. So how do you ensure availability of a voice application? TDM solutions planned to five 9s, but it was really a mythical standard because it accounted for only a device and not the entire network. The good news is that you can actually achieve higher availability with VoIP through a planned balance of redundancy and monitoring.

Data networks have had many types of monitoring devices ensuring uptime for years, but we are now faced with monitoring the voice application on data networks. Voice applications utilize clustering technology, pairs and redundant links, to name a few, but how do we know when something fails? Monitoring all devices and applications to pinpoint the specific source of an event within the complex VoIP structure allows for quick resolution of the issue.

We also find that customers want more options for administrative support — some want to do it all themselves, while others want more support. We try to offer an appropriate mix of options and the nature of VoIP makes it possible to deliver those services from any location.

RT: What is your vision for the company?

BS: Spanlink will continue to build from our core expertise in contact centers and apply our best practices and standards to other areas of business communications. We’ve found it thus far to be a successful model because many customers appreciate the highly skilled practices that contact centers demand and Spanlink delivers, including telephony, security and unified communications applications. Spanlink strives to be the quality and value standard for unified communications.

RT: Thanks for your time, Brett. CIS

[email protected]

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