Enhancing Call Center Solutions with Skype

By David Tang

More than 338 million people have signed on to use Skype’s VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service to keep in touch with family and friends, making it the largest VoIP community in the world. What is often overlooked is the fact that approximately 30 percent of these members actually use it for business. Entrepreneurs, small business owners, and telecommuters all rely on it to keep their phone bills down while talking with clients and colleagues in different countries and continents. These benefits do not need to be limited to small and home-based businesses, as the cost savings and enhanced call handling features can be applied to one of the core elements of any business – including the call center.

Bringing VoIP to the Call Center: New classes of Skype application gateways are making a move into the call center arena possible. These devices integrate an existing PBX and/or call center platform with Skype. As a result, call centers with legacy phone systems can easily migrate to VoIP and take advantage of significantly lower outbound calling costs, in addition to VoIP’s deployment flexibility. Plus, companies with IP PBXs can use the service to add call capacity and value-added applications.

So how does this work?  The gateway adds VoIP trunks to a company’s PBX, essentially VoIP-enabling every phone extension in the call center. As a result, agents can make and receive VoIP calls from their regular office phones. There’s no need to invest in expensive IP phones, or roll out soft phone clients and headsets for each desktop.

By centralizing administration, the gateway gives IT managers full control of the VoIP service in their network to help address some of the concerns associated with deploying it in the call center. IT administrators no longer need to manage and troubleshoot performance on an assortment of computer hardware, memory utilization, operating systems, client software, and headset models. Also, by removing the peer-to-peer application from employees’ desktops, a gateway minimizes security concerns. Additionally, the gateway integrates Skype calls with the existing call center platform, to ensure that all inbound and outbound VoIP calls are included in the company’s call detail records.

Enhanced Applications for the Call Center: Integrating this VoIP service with a call center platform can lower communication costs, increase deployment flexibility, enhance customer service, and have a positive impact on an organization’s bottom line. Some of the key call center applications are outlined below.

  • Instant presence with global DID: Call centers can realize an immediate local presence in any country where SkypeIN service is available (at present, that’s thirty-six countries). For example, a U.S. company looking to expand into global markets can give customers in Japan, Brazil, Sweden, or Australia a local number. Alternatively, an English-speaking call center in India or the Philippines can establish United States-based DIDs. Dynamic call hunting can support concurrent inbound calls across multiple continents to a single call center platform. Callers get the personal touch of a number close to home, and centers save on toll-free expenses.
  • Web click-to-call: Click-to-call is another application that helps drive online sales and support by tapping into its global user base. This application integrates a company’s website with their call center to enable real-time, personal communication. With a single click, Skype members can instantly talk to a company agent – and it’s a free call for both parties. Non-Skype users aren’t left out, either. They simply need to enter their landline or mobile phone number online, and the click-to-call application initiates an outbound call and connects them to the next available agent.
  • Remote agent access: Additionally, Skype gives call centers a flexible and cost-effective way to create virtual call centers and add capacity as demand increases. The gateway can seamlessly connect remote call agents and employees to the main call center platform. In this application, a remote agent simply needs a computer with the free client installed to become a fully capable call center extension, no matter where they’re located in the world. Incoming and outgoing calls are transparently routed to the agent via Skype. These remote workers can enjoy the same call handling capabilities (like transferring, conferencing, voicemail, extension dialing, and voice recording) as their counterparts in the call center. Using this service dramatically simplifies deployment by eliminating common complexities associated with remotely accessing call center equipment.

Other Benefits: While Skype may be associated with consumer use, its sophisticated audio processing technology and intelligent call management make the service an ideal fit for business communications. Employing an adaptive jitter buffer algorithm and advanced wideband codecs helps ensure consistently high voice quality over the public Internet, even in the face of poor network conditions. Also, intelligent call management dynamically determines the best path to route a call over the public Internet – delivering far better voice quality compared with the best effort routing of the public Internet.

A Skype application gateway enables call centers to take advantage of VoIP today, without replacing existing telephony equipment. Getting started requires a low investment and offers minimal risk. It’s compatible with legacy systems and IP-based equipment, allowing call centers to reap its benefits.

As VP of global marketing for VoSKY, Inc, David Tang (d.tang@vosky.com) oversees marketing communications, channel marketing, product management, and strategic business development for the company.

[From Connection Magazine November 2008]