Posts Tagged ‘voice’

How Much Bandwidth Does VoIP Technology Require?

Posted on: September 20th, 2018 by Tamás Jalsovszky No Comments

The internet has revolutionized how businesses communicate with their customers like nothing before. There’s no doubt that the last 15 years have seen an astonishing explosion regarding internet access.

Indeed, the evolution of the Internet has completely changed our world, giving businesses the opportunity to now use multiple platforms to connect with their customers anytime, anywhere.

Times have definitely changed, and so have available call center technologies. Not so long ago call centers had no choice but to rely on physical telephone lines, but now they can contact customers via the internet using VoIP technology.

And since VoIP technology is cloud-compatible, call centers only need an internet connection in order to leverage it. 

For voice communication via VoIP technology, however, bandwidth requirements are essential, since voice data is a type of data that is much bulkier than conventional text.

In this article, I’ll tell you about how much bandwidth a VoIP call requires. Read on and make sure bandwidth issues are not stopping your call center from sending and receiving high-quality calls!

VoIP technology and Bandwidth – behind the definition

Communication has always been the core activity for any call center. As already mentioned, although call centers relied for a long time on PSTN, or Public Switched Telephone Network when setting up their telephone lines, today they use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol, also known as internet telephony) technology to leverage their internet connection.

VoIP was created to allow businesses to switch from the comparatively expensive PSTN solution when sending and receiving voice calls and multimedia communications over the internet. With the fast evolution of technology, today VoIP technology can be used with voice, video, and text, as well as other types of data.

VoIP technology makes it easier for call centers to set up and expand their operations, so it’s no surprise that more and more companies are transferring their network operations from PSTN to VoIP. Furthermore, as VoIP calls are cloud-compatible, the new technology allows call centers to utilize home-based agents.

Finding the right system for your call center is no easy task. So, if you still have doubts, make sure to check out our article comparing call center technologies.

However, when it comes to transferring network operations to VoIP, the amount of bandwidth businesses need in order to send and receive high-quality calls has very specific requirements.

Before we immerse ourselves in the topic, let’s quickly define what bandwidth is. Bandwidth is the ability to transfer data (such as a VoIP telephone call) from one point to another in a fixed amount of time. The higher bandwidth speed you have, the more data you can transfer.

Bandwidth is measured by checking your download and upload speeds, in other words the rate of information traveling to and from your computer. Whichever of the two numbers is lower is considered your bandwidth.

Bandwidth requirements for VoIP calls

The amount of bandwidth (upload and download capacity) your call center needs per agent for your VoIP calls greatly varies depending on the call center software you’re using.

For example, if you use VCC Live®’s system we recommend on average 100kbps per call placed by agents, both for download and upload speeds. The exact number, however, varies by the codec (coder/decoder) used, but 100kbps is a good rule of thumb.

What is codec? Codec is used to encode audio from an analog signal to a digital signal, so that it can be passed across a data network Bandwidth handles this conversion and enables communications to be carried across applications almost seamlessly.

There’s no doubt that it’s best to turn to your solution provider for advice on your bandwidth requirements. There are a few general rules, however, that you should definitely take into consideration before switching to VoIP technology:  

1, VoIP is full duplex, meaning that it can both receive and send data at the same time. But while the average internet user requires high download speeds for streaming and downloading music and videos, for VoIP you’ll also need to be able to send data at a high rate, so you’ll need to consider the upload speed as your benchmark. Generally speaking, the higher your upload speed, the more reliably consistent the quality of your VoIP phone calls will be.

2, Upload speeds are usually slower than your download speeds, so don’t commit the mistake of calculating bandwidth based on the higher number (which will be your download speed). With reference to the amount of bandwidth for VCC Live®’s system mentioned above, this means that if your download speed is 10Mbps, but your upload speed is only 1Mbps, then your bandwidth will only cover 10 calls and not 100 calls.

3, Bear in mind that for VoIP calls a broadband connection is required. In fact, only a broadband internet connection can provide the minimum bandwidth for quality VoIP calls.

4, Over the last years we’ve become so used to having constant internet connection that it’s easy to fall into the mistake of assuming that a call center has the same requirements as for general internet use. The truth is that, due to the mass telephony and communication activities taking place at call centers, call center internet traffic requirements are considerably more demanding than general office Internet use.

5, In addition, these days most call centers leverage multichannel communication by providing customer service using a number of channels. And don’t forget that other applications, such as Facebook, Twitter or Gmail, use bandwidth as well. Therefore, you’ll need to assess the popularity and peak times of all your channels, as there may be periods of low-quality calls if all of your channels are burdened at the same time. Finally, don’t forget that while emails use very little bandwidth, attachments increase that bandwidth considerably.

6, Always make sure to rely on QoS or “Quality of Service”, which can reserve a proportion of your bandwidth and ensure that you’ll always have enough upload and download capacity to send and receive high-quality calls. While customers are willing to wait for an email to load, they are less tolerant regarding low-quality calls.

7, As we all know, an unexpected power outage can present a nightmare scenario for any business that does not have a backup solution in place. Therefore, consider installing two connections, which can operate in parallel but are also able to work independently in the event of a disaster.

Do the math and see for yourself!

If you’re considering switching to VoIP technology, it’s essential to use a bandwidth speed test to determine if and how many phone lines your connection can handle in order to sustain high-quality voice calls.

Generally speaking, the amount of bandwidth that is needed for VoIP calls depends on how many concurrent calls you’ll be making.

My advice is to always run your VoIP on a high-quality internet connection with at least 100 Kbps upload bandwidth available for each call in progress at the same time.

Using the table below, you can get an overall idea about how much bandwidth you’ll need for your calls.

Number of concurrent calls  Recommended minimum bandwidth
1 100 Kbps
5 500 Kbps
10 1000 Kbps (1 Mbps)
20 2000 Kbps (2 Mbps)

Take away

As VoIP technology solely uses the internet, your call quality depends on the internet service you choose. When switching to VoIP technology, always make sure to run bandwidth speed tests and do not forget about the above-mentioned factors that may influence your bandwidth requirements.

To VoIP or not to VoIP – finding the right system

Posted on: June 5th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

Oral communication via the telephone is at the heart of the telecommunications industry. Without the ability to transmit voices, telephone devices would have little or no use in business. But many people (at least, those outside the IT industry and contact centre management worlds) don’t really think about the complicated background and serious development needed to ensure telephone communication is seamless.

PSTN, FXO/FXS, ISDN30/PRI/PRA, ISND2/BRI, VoIP, VoLTE and so on show how far network technology has come, today offering many different options for telecommunication organisations and their clients.

But are companies today still asking themselves the question To VoIP or not to VoIP? Or have the majority already made their decision? Read our article, and see for yourself!

 

The past

PSTN, or Public Switched Telephone Network, consists of cables, telephone lines, optic cables, cellular and microwave transmitters, and other similar types of devices and technology that helps connect telephone devices with each other. Although a big part of this network today is now entirely digital, and includes mobile phones as well as fixed telephones, it was not long ago that the construction of such a network required the complex planning and laying of physical cables and switches to connect any two devices. The network operated by setting a dedicated circuit between two points, this circuit remaining busy for the duration of the subsequent call.

But as technology evolved, the Integrated Services Digital Network, or ISDN, appeared, its Primary Rate Interface technology allowing companies and contact centres to handle up to 30 circuits (in other words 30 simultaneous calls) with one ISDN at the same time, with the ability to link two or more ISDN modules together to handle 60, 90, or even more calls at the same time. And while this technology allowed companies and contact centres to enjoy a reliable and resilient telephone network for a number of years, the sudden appearance out of nowhere of VoIP changed the game again.

On the other hand, Voice over Internet Protocol (also known as internet telephony) is a technology used to deliver voice and multimedia communications over the internet. Even though internet technology is very advanced today, with many areas of the world leveraging the benefits of constant, stable internet connection, when VoIP technology first started to spread the biggest and most common issue was poor voice quality due to internet issues. VoIP became a better known technology after programs and applications using it, such as Skype, started gaining popularity, but these programs also required a stable internet connection at both ends and often did not provide high-quality voice service. Even today, many companies believe that VoIP goes hand in hand with poor voice quality, and is dependent on internet speed and network load. Despite this, though, more and more companies are transferring their network operations from PSTN to VoIP. Why?

 

The present

Even though VoIP has been around for a while, it has only recently started to be able to offer the level of reliability and stability that customers expect of it. In comparison to PSTN networks, VoIP uses packet-switching rather than circuit switching, meaning that one’s voice is divided into different packets that are transmitted to the receiving party on the other end of the telephone line using different paths over the internet. All of this happens in a very short time, and even though these packets travel separately, the voice is assembled again at the receivers end in a right and intelligible order. To make sure that the voice packets arrive in the exact order, and with only around 100-200 ms of lateness, a service with a high level of quality is crucial. To achieve this, VoIP communications within a network need to either be prioritised in comparison to other applications of processes using the same network, or a minimal internet traffic setting dedicated especially to the VoIP service needs to be specified, allowing the necessary background and environment for a seamless VoIP service.

Today, IT and service providers are more than able to provide a seamless VoIP service without the need for serious investment or infrastructure. As a VoIP service is packet-based and can travel via the network of any number of service providers in a number of different packets, it is always easy to route. If one of the service providers is down, the packets can simply be transferred to another, and will still arrive at their destination (you can read more about what to do in the event of an emergency or server breakdown here). This is something PSTN, which connects two points in a circuit, will never be able to do. In addition to this major difference between the technologies in question, what other differences are there between the two networks?

Feature PSTN VoIP

Extra services (caller ID, waiting, etc.)

At extra cost. Usually included for free.
Pricing No free calls. Prices depend on duration and location (international, local, etc) Free VoIP-to-VoIP calls. Mobile and landlines can be called at a minimal price.
Upgrades and updates Physical, including new hardware and lines. Software and bandwidth.
Resiliency and disaster recovery Stable and continue to work during any loss of power as phone jacks do not require electricity (unless the devices are wireless). System is down once an internet connection is lost, which can be caused by unexpected power outages. A VoIP disaster recovery plan is needed.
Emergency calls and traceability Enabled, calls can be traced to exact location. Not provided or very limited with no traceability.

 

The future

We live in a world where both clients and customers expect more from their service providers – faster operations, higher quality and wider choice, all at a better price. As we already talked about in a previous article, these days delivering the best customer experience is your best chance of staying ahead of the competition.

With the introduction of a new technology innovation, this constant motivation for service providers to achieve and provide more is about to bear new fruit. VoLTE (Voice over Long-Term Evolution) is a new standard for high-speed wireless communication, providing HD voice quality, reduced background noise, and many other important features and benefits of interest to those who believe in the importance of voice and data transfer quality.

The development and use of this technology started in Asia in 2014 and is fast spreading across the world. Even though specialists in the field believe that it will need at least 1-2 more years before it becomes an industry standard, VoLTE has been received extremely well so far and is already proving its benefits in comparison to 2G and 3G networks. For example, VoLTE offers:

– bigger capacities for data and voice, being able to process up to 3 times more voice and data amounts compared to 3G

video and content sharing. VoLTE allows for easy and immediate streaming of video and sharing of files immediately during any call. No need for third-party file sharing software or service, or video call programs and equipment – just drag and drop files within the call window.

more stable data. In today’s business world, people multitask, and in order to multitask efficiently they need a stable connection – not only phone but online as well. VoLTE allows users to connect their laptops or tablets to the VoLTE network and enjoy a fast internet connection while being on call at the same time.

Another important technology gaining wide acknowledgment and spreading fast is WebRTC. WebRTC is an open source project that enables real-time peer-to-peer communication over audio and video, as well as file and screen sharing over web. It uses Real-time Transport Protocol, and allows users using this technology to instantly start audio and video conferencing, transfer files, and share their screens without the need of any third-party programs or applications. It is anticipated that this technology will considerably influence telecommunications in the business world, and is a direction into which many companies are planning on venturing or are already developing the needed technological background.

 

Times change and with them so does technology. While years ago PSTN was (and in some cases still is) the stable backbone of every business, and VoIP was a synonym for low voice quality, today the preferred network standard is quickly shifting. Even though there are still regions in the world where the internet does not yet provide the needed speed and stability for a seamless VoIP service, in most locations a fast and stable connection is already a basic element of business. Regions lacking solid SIP services and a reliable connection can provide seamless services with the help of a solid PSTN solution. ‘But companies in areas where VoIP can be implemented should also seriously consider the benefits of today’s and tomorrow’s alternative telecommunications technology options.

Implementing a Business Continuity Plan in call centers

Posted on: May 22nd, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

“I recently traveled to Africa to negotiate with one of our African partners. Power outage is quite common in Africa, so I suggested that the company should utilize a reliable, cloud-based backup solution that could deal with such issues. Although the management supported my idea, they still insisted on having a physical backup server at their headquarters, rather than choosing a cloud-based solution physically placed elsewhere.

Amazingly, just at the time, I was about to tell them how dangerous it would be to store their primary and backup servers in the same room, a massive storm started and proved my point. Without any warning, the power went out in the entire building, and as they did not have any backup solution, the company’s business operations were paralyzed for several hours. Needless to say, after that it was easy to convince them about the importance of a reliable and cloud-based backup solution.”

Gábor Kocsis, Customer Journey and Business Development Consultant Partner, EMEA at VCC Live®

Imagine the same thing happening to your call center: there’s no doubt that your business would be seriously impacted. As the main task of any call center is to communicate with its customers, if communication is interrupted for any reason then the inevitable result is that the call center will start losing revenue and generating costs. However, with a properly implemented Business Continuity Plan (BCP), unfortunate events such as the scenario above can be easily avoided.

Before we go deeper into the topic, let’s quickly clarify what a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is. A Business Continuity Plan ensures that business processes can continue during a time of emergency or disaster, such as power outage, cyber attack, data breach or natural disasters.

According to a study conducted by the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council, 73% of businesses continue to not have a Business Continuity Plan in place, or if they do, they don’t take the time to make sure that the plan actually works. It’s true that designing, implementing and executing a reliable Business Continuity Plan takes significant time. But when the survival of your business is at stake, isn’t it worth the effort?

So, what are you waiting for? Check out our article, and make sure your call center is prepared to recover quickly from any events of emergency or disaster.

 

Analyze your situation

When it comes to creating your Business Continuity Plan, always start by identifying the risks your call center may experience in the event of a disaster. Then, imagine how the most critical component of your call center – such as your infrastructure, servers, computers, computer telephony integration, IVR and other applications – would be affected by such an event. By doing this, you will be able to understand the possible threats and the potential costs that your business would need to face if these critical components stopped working.

As a call center supports its customers using a variety of communication channels, it’s essential that the uninterrupted performance of these channels is ensured as part of the call center’s Business Continuity Plan. Therefore, the next step in creating your Business Continuity Plan is to identify your critical communication channels, for example, web chat, email, SMS and incoming calls.

While all of these communication channels are extremely essential for the proper functioning of any call center, certain channels are more critical for its basic operation. If you need some help, just check out the pros and cons of different communication channels normally used by call centers here.

For most call centers, the ultimate critical communication channel is still inbound and outbound calls, as they represent the largest part of operators’ workload. For example, if you run telesales campaigns, your most critical communication channel is obviously outbound calls. As simple as it sounds, if your agents are not able to initiate calls, then your call center will soon start losing revenue.

On the other hand, when customers are unable to contact a customer center via email or chat and are redirected to a telephone customer care line, incoming telephone lines become even more important for call centers handling customer service activities. And, as we already talked about in a previous article, failure to handle these activities effectively, and the resultant complaints from customers and negative reviews, will definitely impact on your call center’s reputation.

After you identified the most critical components and communication channels at your call center, try and make it a priority to come up with efficient backup solutions to restore these components to normal functioning as soon as possible following a major disruption.

 

Consider having a cloud-based backup solution

Providing continuous service to your customers is vital to the success of your call center, and so service interruptions and outages of any kind will simply not be acceptable to them. For call centers, which typically rely on technology, having a reliable backup solution as part of their BCP is a prerequisite.

Not so long ago, if call centers wanted to secure their data, they had no choice but to purchase and establish an on-premise backup server. Besides being extremely costly, physical backup servers have proved to be not 100% safe, especially if physically stored together with primary servers.

Still, many companies store their servers and backup servers in the same room, which, of course, can result in major problems for the organization in the event of any disaster, such as a fire in the building.  

Luckily, as today’s cloud computing boom continues, more and more businesses are moving their data from physical backup servers to cloud-based platforms, and for good reason: with an expert backup call center solution in place, your business can stay safe from any system-threatening issues, and can meet your business continuity requirements and expectations.

Cloud computing has evolved a lot in recent years, and now cloud-based backup call center solutions even allow users to run their application from virtual servers. By transferring your workload to a backup call center solution, you can minimize your call center’s operations downtime and the number of lost calls. This is a proven and efficient way to overcome operational disruption.

Even better, if you use a stand-alone solution, independent from your primary service provider, it provides further security to your business continuity.

In brief, a reliable cloud-based solution can easily be implemented and is much more cost-effective than having a physical backup service. So, if you haven’t already done so, we recommend you look into moving your business to the cloud today, as this is one of your best chances to keep up with technology advances and ensure your Business Continuity Plan is sufficiently secure and future-proof.  

 

Test and monitor your Business Continuity Plan

So, you finally finished creating and implementing your Business Continuity Plan, but that’s only the beginning. Many companies focus solely on measuring their efficiency (if you need help in measuring your call center’s efficiency, then check out our article on it), and still think it’s enough to know that their recovery systems and processes are up and running. Well, your recovery systems may be up and running – but what if they already become outdated, or simply do not match the performance of your primary servers?

So, make sure you start testing and monitoring your Business Continuity Plan before it becomes too late. Ongoing testing and monitoring will provide your call center with the tools to successfully assess a possible disaster and its impact on your services.

However, without proper testing and monitoring processes, your business won’t be able to know if it’s prepared for an unexpected disaster and have the right tools to overcome the difficulties.

Unfortunately, companies often invest a lot of money and time in testing and monitoring their primary systems – while ignoring their backup environment. So, don’t make the same (serious) mistake, and make sure you monitor your backup solution just as strictly as your primary systems and servers. After all, your backup solution will take over the role of your primary servers and systems during any emergency or disaster.

 

Take away

As you can see, having a well-structured Business Continuity Plan, with well-structured processes and solutions, appropriate technology backups, and continuous monitoring and testing procedures is a vital prerequisite for any call center that wants to survive a potential disaster. So, don’t forget to spend the time creating a reliable Business Continuity Plan for your call center, so that it can run smoothly and uninterruptedly, even in the event of an unexpected disaster.

Articles and entries on vcc.live/blog do not constitute legal advice. Should you have any legal questions, please contact your lawyer or legal advisor. VCC Live® will not take any responsibility or liability for any damages, disadvantages or losses that may arise from the results of any interpretation of the contents of the blog.

How to calculate your cost and revenue optimization point

Posted on: April 25th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

How can a predictive dialer really help you with cost and revenue optimization? See for yourself and estimate your own cost and revenue optimization plan with our calculator!

Knowing what your options are when you make a business decision which affects your call center is important. But knowing what the actual results of choosing one of those options could be is even more important. Follows are some actual benefits of one business tool that can potentially transform the way you do business.

 

When time is money, don’t waste yours!

As we mentioned in a previous blog post, a reliable dialer is to an outbound call center what an engine is to a car. But Talk Time – that’s the fuel driving it forward. Put simply, if your agents spend more time talking with customers, they will generate more revenue (click here to find out how you can maximize your Talk Time by using call blending). Of course, there are other factors, such as communication skills, Quality Management, and well-prepared scripts, that can help drive you forward. But if your agents are spending less time talking and more time being idle, they won’t meet their goals and will only start generating costs. The ultimate task for every business owner and manager is to find the golden mean – that happy medium that produces the desired balance between costs and profits. And this is where you need to start to think about cost and revenue optimization.

 

What happens when your contact center wastes precious time?

Running an outgoing contact center is costly. Expenses include the purchase of equipment and services, telephony services, maintenance and other operational costs. And naturally, the employees and agents handling calls are also part of these costs.  But at the same time, they are also responsible for generating the revenue needed to cover the above-mentioned expenses. Here are some simple calculations to illustrate what this means in in terms of numbers.

For example, an agent’s cost per month is 1300 euros for an 8-hour work day, which means that the agent’s cost per hour is 7,74 euros. If this agent uses a manual dialer and has an average Talk Time per hour of 15 minutes, this means a 0,52 euro cost per minute spent on the phone. How many deals does this agent have to close in order to cover these costs and bring revenue?

But, what if the same agent has an average of 40 minutes Talk Time per hour at the same 7,74 euro cost per hour? Their cost per minute spent on the phone will drop down to 0,19 euros per hour! And since they are speaking more than twice as much, chances are they will also sign approximately twice as many deals. This means that with a smaller team of agents who spend more time speaking, you can achieve the same results at a significantly smaller cost. But what about revenue?

 

When talking is money, do it more!

Increased Talk Time per hour can also have a positive effect on the revenue your call center generates. If speaking twice as much decreases costs, it can surely increase revenue as well!

For example, let’s take the agent from our previous case. For every hour of work, which includes 15 minutes of active speaking, the agent generates 10 euros of revenue per hour. Now imagine this agent speaks double the time and sells double the deals. This will in theory bring in double the revenue.

In this example, the agent generates 10 euros worth of Revenue per hour by spending 15 minutes of Talk time per hour. Increase the Talk Time to 40 minutes, and this results in a revenue of around 26,67 euros (more or less) per hour being generated.

Speaking of revenue, with our calculator you can also find out how much you can increase your margin with increased Talk Time. Using the above example, an agent’s cost per month is 1300 euros, and with an average Talk Time per hour of 15 minutes, they generate 10 euros of revenue per hour for your business. This means that your margin per agent is 380 euros. That’s not bad, but let’s see what happens if you increase the average Talk Time per hour to 40 minutes. Your margin increases from 380 euros to 3186 euros. Yes, that’s a 738% growth for your company!

Now, multiply these by the number of agents in your team, and it becomes clear: the longer your agents speak, the more revenue you will get! But how much exactly? Calculate it below!

 

Do the maths!

This is probably not the first time you read an article about the many theoretical benefits of a particular tool or service. But most of the time it is probably also not clear how the tool can actually in practice help you. Your business is not a theory. It’s real and it needs more than an “Imagine if…” kind of article. This is why we would like to show you how a predictive dialer can actually help your cost and revenue optimization plan, in practice as well as in theory.

For this purpose, we have created three calculators that allow you to estimate your cost and revenue optimization needs. Want to know how much you can save on costs and still achieve the same results? Or how to increase your revenue and margin without having to increase your team or costs? Just fill in the required fields and see for yourself! Calculate your current expenses and profits, and discover the best results for your business.

 

Business is all about making the right decisions, and this needs careful planning. Nobody knows your business better than you do. Instead of simply reading about how a predictive dialer can influence your organization, calculate your own estimations today and work out what your business needs to achieve perfect cost and revenue optimization.

How to boost productivity and increase revenue by using call blending

Posted on: April 11th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

To operate a call center seamlessly, it’s crucial to possess a skill set and a handful of techniques that allow you to boost your productivity and increase your revenue. Call blending is one of those techniques.

In a previous blog post we talked about how predictive dialers revolutionized call centers by significantly boosting productivity and increasing revenue. In this article we’ll discuss how call blending can help you go one step further, and achieve even better results.

 

What is call blending?

Before we immerse ourselves in the topic, let’s quickly clarify what call blending is. Call blending is a call center technique that supports both outbound and inbound calls. During the process a predictive dialer monitors the volume of incoming calls and availability of agents, and assigns calls to appropriate agents. When inbound calls are low, the system generates outbound calls. On the other hand, when inbound traffic is at its peak, the number of generated outbound calls is reduced.

In practice, in a blended call center, agents can be assigned to handle both outbound and inbound calls. For instance, if due to a low number of incoming calls agents are idle for a certain amount of time, the predictive dialer switches their activity to outbound calling. Similarly, if you run an outbound campaign, it may be important for your agents to receive inbound calls as well, as it’s quite common that customers don’t answer the phone if they are working or otherwise busy. In such cases, they may call you back and your blended agents can handle those incoming calls.

Perhaps the greatest argument in favor of call blending is that it helps you maximize the utilization of your resources. Using call blending, agents are able to maximize their Talk Time while handling multiple projects. As a result, idle time is reduced and your productivity increases.

 

Boost productivity by maximizing Talk Time!

As our previous blog post on call center efficiency talked about, it’s crucial to measure how much time your agents spend speaking. Therefore, it’s no surprise that increasing Talk Time is one of the most important call center productivity KPIs. And, of course, it also generates revenue: the more time your agents spend talking to your customers, the more revenue they generate (more about that later). But how can you boost your call center productivity by maximizing Talk Time? Well, that’s where call blending comes in.

Using call blending, when your phone lines are quiet, your agents can use this idle time to initiate follow-ups on abandoned calls or reach out to dissatisfied customers. With call blending, you not only utilize the time your agents spend talking to your customers, thus increasing Talk Time, but you also drive your business towards a better customer service by proactively reacting to issues.

Of course, for a successfully-operating blended call center, it is crucial that agents are able to handle both customer-based inbound and sales-based outbound calls in the same project. If you allocate time to properly train your team to deal with blended calls, the chances are good that your call center productivity will increase significantly.

 

So how do you increase your revenue using call blending?

If you want your business to bring in more money, perhaps this is time to start utilizing call blending. Boosting productivity is clearly important, but what if you take things a step further and use call blending to increase your revenue?

If you’re able to effectively manage telesales campaigns and maximize the time your agents spend talking to customers by using call blending, then it is more than likely they will be able to close more deals. Which, of course, equals more sales for your business. In addition, blending telesales and customer service activities will allow you to up-sell or even cross-sell your products during an incoming call.

Lastly, it is worth knowing that call blending will allow your agents to work in 3-4 different projects at the same time. Since the same operators will be working on different projects simultaneously, agent cost will be better distributed among the projects.

If you already blend your calls, calculate your cost and revenue optimization and see for yourself!

 

Blend not only your calls, but also your other activities!

Using call blending opens up many other options. As already mentioned, in blended call centers operators can work simultaneously on a number of projects. In other words, they are able to carry out and switch between different activities.

Just imagine: during an incoming call, your agents also conduct a customer satisfaction survey. Or maybe make an upselling during an inbound support call. In addition, regarding support services, agents often face complex issues that require a lot of background investigation. In such cases, instead of having the customer wait on the line, blended call centers can offer a callback, which significantly increases the customer experience and their trust in your organization.

For outbound call centers, call blending means more deals, while for inbound call centers, using blended calls result in an improved and more complete customer service experience.

 

One major challenge call centers nearly always face is to work out how they can effectively maintain a balance between their call operations, especially when call volumes quickly increase. Finding this balance is the first step on the path to success. With the proper planning and implementation of call blending, great results can be achieved: you can boost your productivity, increase your revenue, and deliver a more holistic customer experience.

Effective telesales: a case study

Posted on: November 21st, 2017 by viktorvarga No Comments

Telesales is a dynamic field of business. But can companies combine dynamism with productivity to create more effective telesales activities? Here is how one of our clients did it.

The case

Creating effective telesales processes and increasing the number of new customers is hard. Why? Because telemarketing companies often use inefficient ways of dialing, resulting in contact with customers being slow. This, in turn, leads to unnecessary delays and timewasting – which eventually leads to lost deals. As a company dealing with telesales activities, 4Life Direct was looking for a solution to overcome these challenges.

4Life Direct is an international insurance company offering innovative products to customers in countries across Europe. Handling outbound calls accounts for a large proportion of their sales activities, they were looking for an effective telesales solution to boost their productivity. Furthermore, they were looking for an improved way of blending outbound activities with inbound calls coming from customers visiting their webpage. With many customers requesting a callback on the company’s webpage, it was important to get back to them as soon as possible. 4Life Direct also needed a solution that could assess the quality of their agents’ work more effectively. They were not just looking for a professional tech solution that would simply increase their number of handled calls. They wanted a really great solution that could provide an insight into the quality of their communications. 4Life Direct wanted to learn more about the key to effective telesales activities.

In order to respond to these challenges and introduce effective telesales processes, 4Life Direct turned to VCC Live.

Towards effective telesales

Simply stating the benefits of a solution is one thing. But supporting it with real data makes all the difference. We are delighted to share our latest case study describing 4Life Direct’s journey to more effective telesales activities. In this case study you will learn:

  • what services and features 4Life Direct used to achieve effective telesales activities
  • how they increased their agents’ talk time, and
  • how big the increase in sales has been since the utilization of VCC Live’s solution

Visit our Case Study Library now, and find out more about the many ways VCC Live helps transform our clients’ businesses. In particular, take a close look at the results these businesses have enjoyed since implementing our solution. Discover why more and more companies are turning to us to help with their telesales needs.

Dialers – the core of productivity

Posted on: October 24th, 2017 by viktorvarga No Comments

Manual dialer, power dialer, predictive dialer – does it matter which type of dialing system you use in your call center? Well, if you want to optimize the amount of time you actually speak with customers, then yes, it does.

A reliable dialer is to an outbound call center what an engine is to a car – it’s what keeps it running. The efficiency of call and contact centers is measured by their productivity and ability to communicate effectively with customers. A few weeks ago we published an article on Measuring call center efficiency, sharing details of actual data and measurements as experienced by some of our most successful clients. One of the key measurements related to efficiency is Talk Time per hour, or how much actual time per work hour agents spend speaking with customers. Time spent on other activities, such as manually dialing numbers and waiting for a ringing tone, can decrease the efficiency of any outbound contact center. This is why our article this week concentrates on the core driver of outbound communication – dialers.

 

Manual dialers

Manual dialers, as the name suggests, are dialers which require agents, once they are ready to make a call, to manually choose and dial phone numbers. This type of dialer gives agents time to prepare for a conversation, and allows them to get acquainted with the customer’s case and details. It’s perfect for complex issues, when agents need to go through scripts and make sure they are fully prepared for a conversation. At the same time, however, it is the most time-consuming dialing method. Apart from having to wait for customers to pick up the phone, manual dialing is also inefficient because of needing to:

  •   dial phone numbers by hand or clicking on a computer screen
  •   listen to voice mail messages or encountering a busy line
  •   register the disposition of the call before moving to the next one

Waiting for customers to pick up a phone can often take around 40 seconds per call, and sometimes even up to a minute. Any calls that end with an unsuccessful disposition mean that the time spent waiting for customers to pick up is unproductive. Furthermore, depending on the contact center’s system, it is often hard to extract reports, and measure agents’ efficiency and Average Handling Time.

Manual dialers can be divided in two types:

 

Hand dialing

Of all the dialing methods available to a call center, manually dialing digits on a phone dial pad is the least efficient and most time-consuming. The reason this dialing mode is so inefficient is simply that it takes a comparatively long time for an agent to process individual calls. Agents need to dial the digits on their dial pad by hand, then wait for the phone to ring and for someone to pick up or for the call to go to voicemail. And repeat this process again and again.

 

List dialing

List dialing means that, rather than dialing the digits on their dial pad by hand, operators simply click or choose the number they want to call from a list in their system. This dialing mode saves some time as there is no need for a dial pad, but agents still spend a lot of time clicking on contacts, as well as waiting for the phone to ring and for the customer to pick up.

 

Automatic dialers

Automatic dialers, as opposed to manual dialers, independently dial numbers from a customer contact database. Using automatic dialers, agents save time spent dialing and can concentrate on speaking with more customers. Automatic dialers are also the preferred option for handling customer contact databases. Customer databases are dialed several times in order to reach the maximum number of customers. During the first round, entries in the database are marked with different dispositions by agents (successful, unreached, and so forth). During the second and subsequent rounds, agents try to contact any valid, but previously-unreached contacts. Automatic dialers allow operators to quickly work their way through a large number of contacts, minimizing the time wasted with unsuccessful calls. If a certain phone number is not reached, then the system, based on its settings, redials it or automatically dials the next one, while remembering to redial the first one later.

 

Power dialer

Power dialers automatically start as many calls as there are free agents on the line. Once an agent finishes a call and becomes available again, the power dialer dials a new contact for them. It uses the same list as a manual list dialer, and is very useful in cases when customers have been promised a call back. The negative aspect is that, as with manual dialing, agents still need to wait for the ringing period and for customers to pick up. To summarize, power dialers help decrease dialing time between two calls, but do not save much time when it comes to database handling.

 

Predictive dialer

Predictive dialers use statistical data to help predict how many numbers need to be dialed so that all agents are always in an active call. Predictive dialers work by dialing numbers while agents are still in a call, often initiating more calls than the number of free agents on the line. By the time an agent finishes their previous call, the predictive dialer has already dialed the next number. Once the operator finishes their current call, the dialer already has the next call ringing and ready to handle. The Average Waiting Time agents spent between two calls is usually only a few seconds. The number of abandoned calls (a call initiated by the predictive dialer and answered by the customer while there are still no agents available to process it) is usually kept at under 3%. If it becomes higher than this, the predictive dialer automatically decreases the number of calls it initiates for agents. Predictive dialers can be divided into two sub-groups:

 

STATIC

A static predictive dialer means that a supervisor, referring to data such as the Ratio of Abandoned Calls and Average Available Time, calculates how many calls need to be initiated at any one moment in order to keep all operators busy. The supervisor can then feed this data to the dialer, for example setting the static predictive dialer to dial five phone numbers per agent. If the supervisor sees that the number of abandoned calls is growing, they can change the dialer’s settings accordingly. However, even though this is still considered a predictive dialer, in reality it is not. It doesn’t predict the needed number of calls itself, but rather operates based on the supervisor’s settings.

 

ADAPTIVE

An adaptive predictive dialer calculates and starts the needed number of calls automatically based on real-time statistics. It calculates the number of calls to be initiated by using many more parameters (and more frequently) than its static equivalent. It uses not only the number of abandoned calls, but also takes into consideration the average handling time, the time of day, and historical data.

 

Measuring dialer efficiency

There are many articles dealing with the pros and cons of manual and predictive dialers, such as this article shared on Callcenter Helper. But choosing the right type of dialer in itself is not enough. It is also highly important to accurately measure its efficiency.

Previously we shared a blog entry dealing with call center efficiency and KPI measurements. Now, let’s revisit this topic again, and share how some of our clients measure the efficiency of the dialer they use.

VCC Live Dialer Activities*waiting for customer to pick up

 

Activity Manual dialer Power dialer Predictive dialer
Dialing 5 min. 0 min. 0 min.
Ringing 30 min. 24 min. 12 min.
Talk time 15 min. 26 min. 38 min.
AUX 10 min. 10 min. 10 min.

Dialers play a key part in the efficiency of every contact center, helping agents contact customers and establish a connection with them. Using the right dialer is important, and not only because it saves time and reduces the amount of cumbersome tasks. If used well, a dialer can also help you reach more customers and grow your business. A dialer is more than just a tool helping you call customers, it’s an indispensable steering wheel in the complicated vehicle that is your contact center. It can drive you towards success.

Recorded agent greeting – the grey area of automation

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by viktorvarga No Comments

Automation, as we all know, saves time. But is it really always true, and do mechanised features such as a recorded agent greeting really help contact centres provide a better user experience?

What is a recorded agent greeting?

Hello, my name is Peter, how may I help you today?”: a perfectly acceptable way to begin a conversation with a caller who’s just dialed your customer service line. But whether it is better for this greeting to be recorded or said in person, is already an arguable question.

A recorded agent greeting allows agents to create a voice recording in which they introduce themselves and greet new callers. This recording is then automatically played to a caller as soon as they choose the appropriate IVR menu, and before they are connected to the agent in question. Depending on the phone lines they support, a single operator can create several different recordings with different messages and/or different languages. In addition to this benefit, companies claim they use a recorded agent greeting for a number of other reasons. All of these reasons seem valid and logical enough at a first glance. But the reality of the situation is that recorded agent greetings fall into a grey area of automation.

Why is a recorded agent greeting bad for your call centre?

In our opinion, recorded agent greetings not only fail to make communication with customers more personal or effective. They can actually achieve the exact opposite effect. Don’t forget that saying “Hello” and “Goodbye” are the first and last interactions your customers have with you over the phone. As this Forbes article perfectly describes and illustrates:

People remember most clearly the first and last thing that happens to them.

So let’s shatter some of the myths around the benefits of a recorded agent greeting.

Personalised messages

A recorded agent greeting is supposed to be a revolutionary way to create a personalised, ever-welcoming experience for the customer. In reality, however, it often leaves a customer feeling insulted at not having been greeted in person. And what is more welcoming than someone taking the time to say hello in person?

Always fresh and friendly

It’s true that a recorded agent greeting guarantees a happy-sounding and friendly result. But don’t forget that there can often be a big difference between the agent’s voice in a recording and the subsequent voice of the live agent waiting to receive the call. Not only because of the natural variations in a person’s voice at any given moment, but also because of factors such as tiredness, stress, or illness. A noticeable contrast between a recorded agent greeting and the ‘real thing’ can ruin the effect of the recording.

Is this a real person speaking now?”

Recordings can be confusing. All of us have experienced how uncomfortable it is to start speaking to someone you call after you hear their voice and think they have picked up the phone, only to realise it is an answering machine instead. It’s a natural reaction for people to start speaking once they hear a voice at the other end of the line. And once they realise it’s only a recording and need to start over again with the real person…well, it can be irritating, to say the least.

It saves time…

… except that it doesn’t, actually. When a customer calls the contact centre and picks the needed option in the IVR, the system chooses a free operator and starts their recorded agent greeting. Once it has started, both the customer and agent wait in line for the recording to be over so they can proceed with their conversation. And as you can imagine – “Hello, my name is Peter, how can I help you today?” takes exactly the same amount of time to say on a recording as it does if said in person, with the only difference being that both the customer and the agent spend this time listening in silence.

Gives an agent time to check data

While a customer is listening to the recorded agent greeting, the agent can check the customer’s details in their system. However, the agent will most probably still need to ask clarifying questions and have some information confirmed. Asking questions and getting acquainted with the customer’s case in a personal conversation is still a much more effective way of bringing about a positive result to any interaction.

In theory, a recorded agent greeting should provide many benefits. Not only to those working in the call and contact centre industry, but also to customers who appreciate receiving a personalised and friendly greeting. In reality, however, this seems not to be the case, proof being that the majority of call centres seem to prefer avoiding using recorded agent greetings in their everyday operations. It’s true that recorded agent greetings allow agents to be spared the monotonous and tiresome task of repeating the same sentence over and over again at the beginning of every call. But this is probably the only real benefit of implementing such a feature in your call centre operations.

If your contact centre aims to provide a truly personalised and friendly service to your customers, then there can be no better way to begin any conversation with your customers than with a greeting delivered by one of your agents in person. After all, what could be more personal than a friendly “Hello, my name is Peter, how may I help you today?” spoken by a real, living and breathing person?