Virtual Call Center Requirements – Part I
In our last article, we explored the concept of a Virtual Call Center and its many advantages over a traditional call center. Today we will look at how you could actually implement such a center. This will be the first in a series on virtual call center requirements.
The first requirement to consider for your implementation is high-speed Internet service. This will be required for both your voice calls and your computer data (such as e-mail, communicating with colleagues, web browsing, etc.). There are many different types of high-speed Internet connections, and we will list several below.
- Fibre Optic
Any or all of the above may suit the needs of your center, depending on how many staff you have and how many simultaneous calls you expect at any given time. For larger deployments, with a higher number of simultaneous calls, consider a more robust Internet connection.
Note: we do not recommend satellite or wireless Internet connections for VoIP in a call center application. There are several reasons for this:
- unpredictable "latency," meaning the amount of time between when a person speaks and when the resulting sound is heard by the other party
- possible issues with "jitter," meaning a mismatch in the order in which voice packets are sent and the order in which they are received, which can cause jumbled sound
- possible issues with "packet loss," in which certain voice packets may be lost entirely, resulting in the receiving party hearing periods of silence
To be clear, these types of Internet connections usually work perfectly well for typical use, such as web browsing, e-mail, etc. It is simply for voice calls that the above limitations may apply.
To determine which type of Internet connection might be suitable, first work out your approximate voice and data bandwidth requirements.
For voice requirements, take the maximum expected number of simultaneous calls at a given location. For example, assume that the main call center location will have seven employees, and that each employee may have up to two calls active at any given time. This gives us 14 active calls at a time. Next, multiply this number by the bandwidth required for each call. Using Easy Office Phone's Hosted PBX service, the required bandwidth is either 87 kbps (maximum-fidelity) or 35 kbps (standard fidelity) per call, upstream and downstream.
In the above example, the requirement for voice calls would be 1.2 Mbps or 490 kbps, depending on desired fidelity. Again, this figure is "bidirectional," meaning the bandwidth requirement is identical in both the upstream and downstream directions.
The factor of upstream vs. downstream bandwidth is important. Many Internet connections are "asymmetrical", meaning they offer a higher download speed than they do upload speed. As an example, a typical cable connection might offer a 6 Mbps download speed and 1 Mbps upload speed. Under this scenario, you would "run out" of upstream bandwidth long before you reached the limits of your download speed. Regardless of which type of Internet connection you choose, be sure that your ISP can give you reliable figures for speeds in both directions and incorporate these figures into your calculations.
Next, work out an approximate figure for data bandwidth. Consult with your staff to get a good picture of how they will use the Internet on their computers. E-mail and browsing typically do not use a great deal of bandwidth, whereas sending and / or receiving large files may require more. Work out an approximate total for data usage.
For the best results, you should consider having two separate Internet connections for your virtual call center – one dedicated to your voice traffic, and one to your computer data traffic. This helps ensure the highest level of performance for each application.
We next recommend consulting your IT / networking firm and prospective Internet provider to obtain precise details, once you have generated approximate requirements for your virtual call center. You will need to ask the Internet provider for the approximate speed of the connection they are able to provide you to ensure that it will fit your expected requirements. Again, look for a provider able to supply you with separate connections (one for voice and one for data).
In addition, we recommend a business-class VoIP-compatible router. Before purchasing, consult with your business VoIP provider and ensure that the model you are considering is confirmed compatible with their service. Ideally, select a model that has the Quality of Service (QoS) feature for VoIP. This option will allow you to give bandwidth "priority" to your voice calls, which helps maximize call quality. In particular, a router featuring QoS for VoIP is a must if you are not able to use separate Internet connections for voice and data.
In our next entry, we will look at the type of virtual call center software you should consider for your deployment.