SIP Gives More Refreshment from Expense in a Contact Center

I recently consulted for a global company interested in using SIP trunks for delivering voice calls to their contact centers to save operating expense, which is not an uncommon request in this era of shrinking IT budgets.They had internally performed a preliminary review of the price reduction possibilities for SIP trunking against the cost to add the voice gateways and session border controllers needed.

After that exercise, the promise of savings looked much less rosy.  What they didn’t realize is trunking is only half of the SIP story, and they were missing out on much bigger OpEx savings.

SIP: Cost Savings and TDM Comparisons

SIP often does provide cost reduction for trunking over traditional trunks.  And using IP in the contact center has it’s own benefits, including agent location independence, support of a single voice and data converged network and obsolescence avoidance.

But unlike prior protocols, SIP wasn’t designed to emulate TDM voice applications.  Now, the primary impact is on the contact delivery.  SIP sessions are designed so that users get access to SIP based applications regardless of their communications choices.  That means traditionally separate functions to deliver customer data (such as caller account numbers) no longer require a separate technology function, such as middleware.

In the past, CTI applications (Computer telephony integration) used middleware to execute translation routes to identify the call destination. It would find the computer endpoint associated with that agent, and then time the screen to pop at the agent’s computer at the same time the call rang the phone.  In this scenario, CTI historically was a complicated and inefficient proposition that required two separate networks to coordinate continually and consistently, often with mixed results.

That meant higher deployment, support and network costs with inconsistent customer experience (how do you feel when you’re asked to repeat the account number to the agent that you just entered into the phone?)

SIP Integration

SIP has the ability inherently to include attached data as just another element in the converged packets delivering the voice, without cumbersome additional applications.  When used for integrations, once a SIP contact is initiated and acknowledged, not only is the complexity of screen pop delivery significantly reduced (particularly for basic screen pop applications), but it no longer forces non-voice contacts to act like a phone call.

That lets multimedia touch-points, such as web chat and collaboration, mobility, and video perform naturally and efficiently.  All of these are needed to support today’s multi-channel savvy customer to conduct business in the manner they demand.

Some of the benefits of integrating SIP in the contact center include:

  1. It allows an enhancement to the customer experience
  2. Better support of the access channel (e.g. Email, web chat, social media, mobility, SMS, etc.
  3. Support of the customer’s choice
  4. Retaining customer interaction in low per-contact cost
  5. Reduced cost per transaction.

SIP and Customer Interaction

SIP’s elegance means developing new customer interaction services or applications is less complex than in prior platforms.  Since SIP facilitates the re-use of code across channels, that permits accelerated application deployment.  This increases your speed to market for new opportunities and offers to your customers and thus increase your speed to revenue.

That same elegance enables growth and scale to react to business changes and needs at a faster speed to deployment and often at a reduced cost to complete. SIP can connect many of the dots of efficiency and revenue opportunity in today’s integrated and complex contact center.

I don’t want to give the impression that SIP integrations are simple, plug-and-play prospects.  The notion that SIP is a single protocol is misleading.  For example, SIP includes multiple standards — AT&T’s SIP implementation includes support for six RFCs, including how call transfers, DTMF handling, codec negotiation, error recovery, and other features are handled.

Also, SIP has optional extensions available and each equipment vendor is free to implement SIP as they see best.  That leaves interoperability challenges between different vendors, and there are multiple organizations working to develop standard SIP profiles.  As with any contact center project, I strongly urge you to use an experienced partner to plan carefully and specifically to your needs, and only then execute SIP into your contact center.

So, how do you get started?  Begin with a clear understanding of your business requirements to support today’s and tomorrow’s customers.

Have your business owners asked for a faster speed to deliver new services for your customer contact?  Are you charged with finding ways to reduce OpEx in your contact center, but SIP trunking alone isn’t quenching the thirst?  We want to hear from you.  Please leave your comments below.
Robert Lamb Consulting Solutions Contact Center Services Director AT&T About Robert