Exciting technological developments promise to greatly improve efficiency, convenience, and cost effectiveness in a business environment by providing converged communications solutions today and paving the way for a fully converged Next Generation Network (NGN) tomorrow. Once you understand converged

communications technology, you will be able to capitalize fully on today’s solutions and pass it along to your customers. This will also help your customer make an easy transition to future technologies.

All of the applications described in part one of this technical article are available for VARs today and can be combined in solutions tailored specifically for your customers business. As you will see, they increase customer satisfaction and your return on investment in both human and technology resources. They also provide your customer with a competitive advantage right now, and prepare them to make an easy transition to intermediate packet-based solutions and eventually to the fully converged NGN.

Converged Communications: Efficient, Convenient, Cost Effective

Converged communications solutions and the evolution of a fully converged Next Generation Network (NGN) are exciting developments that promise to make business communications systems dramatically more efficient, convenient, and cost-effective. For several years, voice communications and data technologies have been converging. PBXs, which have historically been voice-only products, now have data handling capabilities. At the same time, traditional data equipment manufacturers have expanded the voice capabilities of their routers and other network equipment, either through in-house development efforts or by acquisition.

Basing both voice and data communications on a single infrastructure allows greater network administrative efficiency. A single network environment significantly reduces integration and interoperability efforts and allows a common interface for operations, administration, monitoring, and maintenance. The result is greater productivity from systems personnel, faster return on investment, and more flexible service deployments – all adding up to a much lower total cost of ownership than is possible today.

Convergence Enables New Solutions

Convergence also enables new solutions that capitalize on the functionality of both voice and data. One important example is the Intel Converged Communications Platform, which is being introduced initially as a family of converged, application-ready platforms that will be delivered pre-configured by Intel so that they can be installed and managed with minimal effort and expense.

The logical next step for convergence is the Next Generation Network. The NGN will bring packet-based convergence to the business environment, allowing traditional voice communications, wireless, and the data technologies of the Internet to come together through a common packet structure. The result will be an IP network where voice and data services converge seamlessly.

This article provides basic information about the converged communications marketplace and describes not only the basic voice-related applications but also how convergence is improving those applications.

Call Center and e-Business and Automatic Call Distributor

Welcome to the XYZ Corporation. Your call is important to us, but all of our representatives are currently busy assisting other customers. Please wait on the line for the next available representative…

If you hear this familiar message when you call about a product or service, a special switching device known as an Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) is handling your call. In its simplest form, an ACD recognizes and answers incoming calls, plays a recorded message to keep the caller on the line, and then sends the caller to the next available agent.

If all agents are busy at a business without an ACD, prospective customers hear an annoying (and discouraging) busy signal. But when an ACD is in use, hundreds of calls can be answered and held in a queue, even if you only have a limited number of agents. Your prospects are much more likely to stay on the line.

Today’s ACDs do far more than answer calls and queue them. They can gather statistics, allowing you to track peak calling times, abandoned calls, and time in queue. These statistics ultimately help you make better decisions about adding new technology, upgrading existing facilities, staffing, and contingency planning.

An ACD can also do all of the following: Access database information, anticipate changes in traffic patterns, send prospects to other systems to find the information they need, or allow them to leave a voice mail message or receive a fax containing the information they are looking for.

Route calls based on the calling party, the number dialed, or other information, so that the agent taking a call is the right person to answer a particular customer’s questions or resolve special types of customer issues. Tell callers how many others are holding and predict the likely wait time before an agent will be available.

An ACD can even be speech-activated, allowing callers to tell the ACD what they want instead of pressing the telephone keypad.

Look for the continuation of this article in the next edition of CDN This Week. Part two will focus on automated attendants, interactive voice response and Web-enabled multimedia content.

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