8 Technical Considerations When Upgrading Your Call Center Phone System

By Emily Arnold

Moving to a VoIP-based call center phone system can bring substantial savings for organizations. In fact, this is what usually prompts business owners, executives, and other key decision makers within a company to pressure IT into finding a new phone system. However, there are more things to consider beyond just how much money you can save. It’s important to understand the technical requirements from a network perspective, an employee resource perspective, and from an overall big picture point of view as well. For example, you will need to know how the phone system will integrate with your other business systems and what type of support you can expect from your vendor of choice.

If you are in the process of upgrading your call center phone system, read these 8 technical considerations to help your transition go as smoothly as possible.

1. Network Requirements

Understanding your existing network as well as your future needs will play an important part in your call center phone system project. There are a few essential questions you need to ask to help determine if your network is ready or if there are any improvements you should make.

How many users do you have and how many concurrent calls can you expect?

Knowing the number of users on a call center phone system is important, but it’s even more important to know the number of concurrent calls that will be happening at any given time because it affects your bandwidth requirements. A good rule of thumb for determining bandwidth needs is

# Concurrent Calls at Peak Time x 100 Kilobits Per Second = Bandwidth in Megabits Per Second (Mbps) Needed

What kind of networking equipment are you using?

Equipment plays a vital role in the ability to prioritize network traffic and the quality of your voice data. Generally, smaller organizations have more equipment options because they have fewer network requirements; however, if you are housing a dedicated call center, then you will need to consider the impact it will have on your traffic and adjust your networking equipment as necessary.

How many ports do you need per user?

The number of ports needed per user determines the type of phones you can attach to your call center phone system. If you plan to only have one port per user to share with both the PC and phone, then you will need a phone model with a built-in switch. Having two ports per user makes phone administration easier and the phones more reliable.

What kind of Internet connection do you have?

To support a call center phone system, you will need a high upload speed to ensure audio quality. While DSL and cable modems are considered to be high speed, beware that their data rates can be drastically impacted when used for a VoIP phone system.

Do you have remote or mobile workers?

Having employees located outside the office can sometimes cause bandwidth issues. This, in turn, can lead to call quality issues, which can be especially detrimental for firms with dedicated call teams. To fix this, you can either increase your available bandwidth or decrease the needed bandwidth for each call, which can be accomplished with a codec.

For a deep-dive into the technical requirements for your network, read Determining Network Readiness for Unified Communications. Or, to test your network, check out our free network assessment tool.

2. Deployment Options

One of the absolute most important decisions you can make when upgrading your call center phone system is how you want to deploy it – in the cloud, on a dedicated appliance, or in a virtual environment. Many factors can play a role in determining the right deployment option for you, and it’s imperative to understand the technical pros and cons of each.

Dedicated Appliance

Great for small to midsize call centers with available IT resources, call center phone systems housed on a dedicated appliance give you more flexibility and control over your communications solution. They can take longer to install than a hosted solution, but you can better customize based on your organization’s individual needs since you will be managing and maintaining the deployment in-house.

Hosted Phone System

Smaller call centers with fewer IT resources typically benefit the most from cloud-based call center phone system solutions. Because a provider maintains the equipment at an off-site “cloud” data center, installation is easy and management is minimal. The provider is responsible for maintaining the system, which ensures you always have an up-to-date solution. While adding new users is easy, a significant increase in the number of employees over time may be cost prohibitive to some companies.

Virtual Environment

For call centers already running virtual environments, virtualizing your call center phone system can be a great way to have an on-premise solution with a shorter deployment time and more flexibility. Virtualization software, like VMWare, makes it easy to simplify your IT infrastructure by reducing the number of servers and by enabling easier scalability. Plus, virtualized phone systems oftentimes experience improved uptime and disaster recovery.  

While it may be tempting to make a decision about your call center phone system deployment option based on your present-day needs, it’s important to consider your future needs as well. If you choose to deploy a cloud option today, be sure to ask your vendor what the migration path to an appliance or virtual environment would be like and if it’s even possible. Call center phone systems, like Switchvox, make it easy to move between deployment options, ensuring your technology is future-proof.

For a more in-depth overview of the differences between on-premise and hosted call center phone system deployment options, read this guide.

3. System Integrations

IT team members know how hard it is to keep up with the many business systems their organization requires. Adding a VoIP-based call center phone system to your existing technology stack shouldn’t make your life more difficult. Being able to integrate your phone system with other business applications should be a top priority. Look for a call center phone system with Microsoft Active Directory or LDAP integrations to minimize the stress of keeping up with passwords and to make your system more secure. Also, ensure the phone system can integrate with CRM systems, like Salesforce, or customer service software, like Zendesk, to help your dedicated call teams do their jobs more efficiently.

4. Vendor Lock-In

Assessing vendor lock-in is two-fold. When researching your call center phone system platform, make sure that your vendor does not force you to purchase every component of the system from them. Oftentimes, vendors who do not make their products compatible with those from other manufacturers will upcharge certain products, making the system ultimately more expensive. Or, if the product is discontinued or the vendor goes out of business, you will have a difficult time finding replacement parts.

However, having one vendor for your entire solution isn’t always bad because it can allow you to house your entire solution under one support umbrella. In the event of a problem, you can call one support line and have them answer questions about the entire system, helping you pinpoint the problem faster.

The best solution is to have a call center phone system based on open standards, like SIP. It allows you to purchase the phone system that best suits your needs, whether all components are from one vendor or many, and helps to future-proof your communications platform.

5. Setup and Maintenance

Setting up and maintaining a call center phone system can be a time-consuming process. The longer it takes to migrate to a new system or to make changes as needed, the greater the impact it could have on your business. To minimize downtime, it is imperative to select a phone system that is easy to install and configure.

Plug-and-Play Deployment

Selecting a call center phone system that offers plug-and-play deployment between components is a true game-changer for installation. For example, Digium D-Series IP phones automatically discover Switchvox, allowing them to be configured in seconds. This drastically reduces the initial system installation time as well as the time it takes to add new employees. Digium VoIP gateways also seamlessly integrate with Switchvox to auto-discover the system and create call routing rules, which decreases the technical complexity and chance for error during set-up.

Easy-to-Use Admin Portals

Call center phone systems with intuitive, browser-based admin portals help to speed up the time to deployment. And, ongoing maintenance is easy because you can log in from anywhere, adjust a few options, and move on to your next task without the need to call your authorized reseller for servicing.

Simple Configuration Changes

Typically, IT staff members are responsible for maintaining most, if not all, of the business systems within an organization. However, having the IT team be responsible for making every change to every system is a drain on resources and can cause delays for even the simplest of changes. A call center phone system that allows sales managers, customer service directors, or other contact center managers to make configuration changes as needed is an excellent way to empower employees and to resolve issues quickly.   

6. Logs & Reports

Selecting a call center phone system with reporting capabilities gives you access to historical information, allowing you to make data-driven decisions about your telephony needs. Monitoring usage trends and call volume allows you to make necessary adjustments and ensures you are giving your callers the experience they want and need.  

See how Bill Penney Toyota used their phone system’s reporting capabilities to transform their business Watch the video now.

7. System Backups

Many organizations enforce backup policies, and having a call center phone system with the ability to schedule automated backups is imperative. Consider a solution like Switchvox that lets you set up an automated backup schedule with file transfer to the FTP server of your choice and that also allows you to create an immediate backup as needed.

8. 24×7 Technical Support

Choosing a call center phone system vendor with an excellent support plan is essential. Many contact centers have call teams operating 24×7. If something goes wrong in the middle of the night, waiting until the next morning to resolve the issue could have serious repercussions on your business, so it is imperative to select a vendor who offers around-the-clock support.

Conclusion

Upgrading your call center phone system to VoIP can have many positive benefits for your organization, but it is important to understand all of the technical requirements. From your existing network to configuration needs to support, each piece of the technical puzzle should be evaluated to ensure your transition is a smooth one.  

Download our Phone System Evaluation Checklist to help you collect and organize the information necessary to make a sound decision on a new call center phone system.

 

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About the Author

Emily Arnold

Emily is the Product Marketing Specialist for Digium. In this role, she helps to develop demand generation programs for products that enable custom communication solutions built on open source Asterisk, as well as assist in driving awareness for Digium’s partner program. Prior to joining Digium in 2013, Emily worked with engineering and e-commerce companies to develop their SEO, social media, and content strategies. She graduated with honors from the University of Alabama in Huntsville with a BSBA in Management and Marketing.

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