Have you ever purchased a product and had to call the manufacturer's customer support department? If so, your call probably went into a call center, where multiple customer service agents sat in their cubicles, anxious to give you excellent customer service!
The Cisco IP telephony solution supports call center environments on small, medium, and even large scales. Features commonly found in call center environments include
Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) ACD technologies dictate how incoming calls are spread across customer service agents working in a call center. For example, consider a small call center with three customer service agents: Dave, Doug, and Gary. If the telephone numbers assigned to these agents are configured in a round robin hunt group, the first call to come into the call center goes to Dave. While Dave is on the phone, another call comes in, and it is forwarded to Doug. Meanwhile, Dave completes his call and hangs up. Another call comes in and, due to the round robin configuration of the hunt group, is forwarded to Dave, who has the first telephone number in the hunt group. Meanwhile, Gary props his feet up on his desk and reads the newspaper. Such an approach doesn't seem fair, especially for Dave. Fortunately, ACD technologies can distribute calls more fairly. As an example, ACD can forward an incoming call to the phone number that has remained idle the longest.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) IVR systems allow callers to interact with a database and use their telephone keypad to input information, such as a Social Security number or a personal identification number (PIN). As an example, I used to work with the telephone and data network at a university, and we installed an IVR system for the university's students. Students could call into the IVR system and perform such functions as registering for classes, verifying their housing information, and checking their grades.
Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) CTI technologies can gather information from incoming callers (for example, via caller ID or by having the caller enter their account number via their telephone keypad) and present information about the caller on a customer service agent's computer display. For example, I called into an investment company where my wife and I have a few mutual funds, and I wanted to change my monthly automatic deposits. After the customer service agent assisted me with my request, he told me my daughters were going to be starting college in a certain number of years and recommended that we discuss a 529 college savings plan. How did the customer service agent know the age of my daughters? Through computer telephony integration. After I entered my account information via my telephone's keypad, my account information, including information about my family, displayed on the customer service agent's computer display.
Cisco offers a couple of call center products. The Cisco IP Contact Center (IPCC) Express Edition targets small- and medium-sized business, while the IPCC Enterprise Edition meets call center needs for larger enterprises.
Cisco IPCC Express Edition
The Cisco IP Call Center Express Edition application provides a call center solution for small- to medium-sized businesses. Specifically, IPCC Express Edition supports up to approximately 200 customer service agents. The IPCC Express Edition application comes in three flavors to meet a spectrum of call center needs:
Standard The IPCC Express Edition Standard application provides basic contact management functions and is appropriate for an internal help desk, as an example.
Enhanced The IPCC Express Edition Enhanced application meets the requirements for small- to medium-sized contact centers and includes such features as skills-based routing (that is, routing calls to agents with specific areas of expertise), priority queuing (that is, the ability to handle more important calls quicker than less important calls), computer telephony integration, silent monitoring (that is, allowing a customer service manager to listen in on calls coming into the call center), and barge-in (that is, allowing a customer service manager to join an existing call between a customer and an agent).
Premium The IPCC Express Edition Premium application offers all features contained in the Enhanced edition plus a few bonus features, including e-mail and fax notification services (that is, allowing information to be e-mailed or faxed to customers), Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)/extensible markup language (XML) integration (that is, the ability to retrieve data stored on an enterprise web server), and optional automatic speech recognition (that is, the ability for a caller to speak their information instead of pressing keys on a telephone's keypad).
Cisco IPCC Enterprise Edition
While the IPCC Express Edition serves small- to medium-sized businesses, the IPCC Enterprise Edition might be appropriate for larger enterprise customers needing a more robust solution. The IPCC Enterprise Edition supports up to 2000 agents per CCM cluster. However, call center designs accommodate multiple CCM clusters, meaning the IPCC Enterprise Edition solution can scale to thousands of seats.
Figure 7-6 shows components of the IPCC Enterprise Edition solution.
Figure 7-6. Cisco IP Contact Center Enterprise Edition
The following is a description of the components of the IPCC Enterprise Edition solution:
Cisco Intelligent Contact Manager (ICM) The ICM provides ACD functionality.
Cisco CallManager (CCM) The CCM, as described in Chapter 4, provides call processing for an IP telephony environment.
Cisco IP Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Cisco IP Queue Manager, or Cisco Internet Service Node (ISN) When purchasing the IPCC Enterprise Edition, customers can select which application they want to perform functions such as IVR and call queuing.