Tuesday, August 21, 2007

VoIP telephony options for startup call centers

One of my LinkedIn connections posed a question of which I thought the groups' answers may appeal to this blog's audience:

"What are the top sites to get information on VoIP telephony for a startup call center?"

Submitted Answers from the group:

"I have found this site as a good reasource for all my VOIP needs."

"I've found Skype hard to setup and use, MSN easy to setup and good quality. Yahoo easy to use but prone to losing a call. The easiest to use by far has been the Cisco Soft Phone we use at work, the sound quality is great but it's very unreliable. This may be due to some configuration or operations issue, but I have yet to make it through an entire call without a problem (buzzing, lost calls, loosing one or the other parties sound for extended periods). Others have had the same problem to the extent that we are considering rolling back the soft phones. In the office, we are using the Cisco 7940 IP phones with no problems. "

Update: earlier this week, Skype experienced a massive outage, challenging reliability as business solution. Apparently the outage was the result of a wide ranging PC restart when Windows sent out its' automatic patch.

"Try VoiceGenie.com or Avaya.com. They offer scalable entry-level VOIP systems... but look to spend at least $65k to initially deploy."

"Rockport Technology Group is a leading IT solution provider in the area. One of our core specialties is developing scalable long term enterprise class VOIP solutions. Our free consultation can provide you with an unbiased solution that will fit your needs and budget. There are many VOIP solutions out there, and I would need some more information before making a solid recommendation on online material. I also find that online material is sometimes outdated and even worse other times it is found to be just misinformation. Should you be determined to researching online, I suggest you take a look at Cisco and Nortel. Nortel is the current market leader however my recent experience with Cisco is that they are offering a much higher quality system."

"It sounds like your solution must be multi-tenant. Skype is too unreliable for important business calls. You shold consider a hosted solution as well."

"Are you planning to have one location or will you have multiple small call centers spread across geographic areas? How many people do you expect to start as well as how many people do you expect to grow to? I apologize for answering a question with questions, but there are many things to take into consideration. As Andrew mentioned already, you should really check out a hosted system. (When I say hosted, I mean a true hosted business class system...not Skype or Packet8, etc.) Going hosted will give you the flexibility to change as the business grows and transforms, as well as offering you the features you need without a large capital outlay. It's hard to give you one place to learn about the systems. 'Google' search is tough, because you may not necessarily see results including some great companies. Most of the information out there unfortunatley is created by a specific company and used as a marketing tool. The best way to find the solution that fits you best is to put in the time and effort to screen possible vendors. Keep in mind that low cost is NEVER the best option when dealing with your voice system. With something so critical to your business, check out how long the company has been around (especially with VoIP offerings), REFERENCES (and not just the CEOs cousin), and customer service (call the customer service line and see what kind of response you get)."

"In addition to the answers you have received, I would suggest looking at Cisco's offerings. In terms of all-around scalability, not just call center, but your entire network infrastructure, they are obviously front runners. Although it has been 2-3 years since I last used their product, however, its current equivalent, Cisco Unified Contact Center Express worked great for me both in terms of options, administration, features and reporting. And it obviously scales up very well."

"No real recommendation, however we are about to implement at the end of next week, and I can post you info on our expereince if you would like. We are going with IPCC Express premium, and so far, it looks like a well featured product, however, we have to build everything out of the box. Reporting is pretty limited, and splitting call reports across teams and skills is a bit tricky... but this is just todays experience."

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