At NuComm International, a provider of outsourced contact centre and customer support services, the only constant is change.
Shaun Learn, the St. Catharines, Ont.-based firm’s director of technical services has watched the company grow from a start-up operation to an international player with
seven sites in Ontario and another one slated to open in the Philippines this September.
“”How we do things today will not be the way we do things six months from now,”” he adds.
A prime example of the company’s ability to adapt from a Centrex-based telecommunications infrastructure provided by Bell Canada to a consolidated in-house voice network operation based on communications technology from Markham, Ont.-based Avaya Inc.
Initially NuComm chose Bell’s Centrex Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) because it offered a variable cost model that allowed the company to add and remove seats as required.
“”We weren’t locked into more services than we required,”” recalls Learn. At the time, the majority of calls handled by telephone service representatives involved simple inbound work and there was no need for complex call routing and other features.
CENTREX HAS MORE FEATURES BUT COSTS A LOT MORE
As the company expanded, customers began to ask for more sophisticated call routing, circuit design and call handling features.
Although the Centrex platform was able to provide the more features, says Learn, the cost was substantially higher. There was also a lack of familiarity with the Centrex platform among third party vendors whenever NuComm considered adding new computer telephony integration (CTI) and voice recording products to its operation.
After analysing available contact centre products — both incumbents and newcomers to the market — the company decided to build on the Avaya technology it already had in place. According to Learn, part of the appeal was that the Avaya media servers were able to take advantage of the company’s existing wide-area network infrastructure for distribution and routing of calls and applications, whereas other products were pure IP solutions that required a complete network design.
Beginning in 2002, Avaya media servers were installed at each of the company’s six remote locations across Ontario — in Sault Ste. Marie, Timiskaming Shores, Brockville, Cobourg, Owen Sound and Welland — in order to handle voice traffic and distribute desktop applications locally, while all IP telephony and contact centre applications remained centrally managed from St. Catharines. All sites are connected using IP trunking technology, creating one virtual call centre supported by seamless dialling.
MEDIA SERVERS MANAGE CALL VOLUME BETWEEN SITES
“”One of the most exciting things we see in this whole area of IP contact centres is the ability to expand their call centre operations without regard to geographic boundaries,”” says Dave Johnston, Avaya’s contact centre practice leader. “”They can now literally drop in (a server) … at a remote site and leverage whatever centralized applications they already have in production … somewhere else.””
By enabling each of its sites to communicate with each other over IP, NuComm is able to open its entire agent pool to do inbound and outbound work regardless of where the need originates. The result is a huge impact on resource management, says Learn. “”Being able to utilize any resource for any task just gives us that great flexibility, which allows us to serve our clients quicker and respond to changing demand faster.””
NuComm has also implemented best site routing in order to manage call volumes between sites. Rather than relying on manual intervention to route overflow volumes according to agent activity, it now has an automated process for real-time balancing of peak traffic.
“”We still send dedicated volumes into those centres and we get that as close as we can,”” explains Learn. “”But for the variances, the network is now acting in real-time in order to see where’s the best place for me to put this call.””
As the company prepares to launch an eighth site on the other side of the globe, it is expecting to manage its Philippines office from St. Catharines using “”a 100 per cent IP solution end-to-end,”” says Learn, indicating there won’t be an additional media server at the new location, but rather IP to the desktop.
“”We were allowed to maintain a traditional architecture and slowly migrate and gain confidence in the emerging voice-over-IP technology and what it has to offer,”” he says.