Pooling Manpower

By Ellen Muraskin  |  Posted 2004-05-28 Print this article Print

This application scenario goes by the name of informal ACD (automatic call distributor). It means that as long as anyone–in any location–is available to pick up the phone, that caller will not receive a busy signal. Incoming calls will automatically be sent to the next store if theyre not answered. Those personnel in less-busy branches will pick up the load for those who are swamped.
Transferring calls between branches, similarly, will be as easy as transferring calls between extensions–easier, in fact, since new IP phones tend to take the mystery out of these tasks with LCD prompts.
So, if a Spanish-speaking caller calls, she can be routed to the one employee–in a Latino neighborhood branch, lets say–who can help her. Automatic call distribution, provisioned through the traditional telco network, has been too expensive to be practical for these little chains. Across data links, its self-provisioned and indifferent to physical location: Since the phones are IP endpoints, they can be picked up and plopped down anywhere an employee might go, just as your laptop can register its IP address to an MSN Messenger server and let you start instant-messaging from wherever you connect. Its not only about pooling manpower; its about pooling phone lines. Each branch still keeps a PSTN lifeline for just-in-case and for E911 compliance, but it gets to dump any others. The IP PBX-equipped branch gets additional PSTN lines and gateways out to them to take in the extra incoming call load–perhaps bumping up to fractional T-1–but it gets better volume pricing in the process and pays fewer associated mystery charges. Another savings: Whatever the chain used to spend on interoffice calls goes away. The smallest scale of this story that Ive ever written concerns a chain of four replacement-parts stores around Dallas and stars the ESI Estech system, for which installation ran about $14,000 in late 2000. But its a concept that the bigger vendors–as well as IP Centrex startups–have taken up on a grander scale. Kanata, Ontario-based Mitel Networks, in the larger but still midsize space, has recent customer win announcements with CompUSA and Auchan, a chain of mega-markets in France. For these megachains, both the IP links–over a managed WAN, not mere DSL–and the session capabilities are much fancier, multimedia and far-ranging. But the benefits are similar, first of which is pooling your human resources for the maximum customer-service load. Check out eWEEK.coms VOIP & Telephony Center at http://voip.eweek.com for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.

Ellen Muraskin is editor of eWEEK.com's VOIP & Telephony Center. She has worked on the editorial staff at Computer Telephony, since renamed Communications Convergence, including three years as executive editor. Muraskin's work has also appeared in Popular Science magazine and other publications.

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