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Telecoms Guide

The Free Telecoms Technology Guide

Digital Telephone Lines – ISDN

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) lines are digital telephone lines that provide a number of key advantages over analogue lines.

  • ISDN Formats A 2-line package, supporting 2 simultaneous phone calls. You can install as many ISDN2s as you wish. Installing 3 x ISDN2 lines gives you 6 digital voice channels.
    ISDN2 – 2-lines ISDN2 lines are installed using standard copper lines in the same way as analogue, meaning that analogue lines can easily be upgraded to ISDN2.
    ISDN30 – 8 lines and up

    An ISDN30 trunk supports up to 30 digital telephone lines, with a minimum number of 8 lines. You can have as many ISDN30 lines as you wish – 45 lines would require two ISDN30s.

    ISDN30 is normally installed via a fibre optic cable, however in some remote locations it can be installed using copper or co-axial cables.

     

    Installation Time  
    ISDN2e  
    ISDN30e

    ISDN2e lines usually take between 10 and 20 working days to install.

    ISDN30e lines usually take between 20 and 30 working days to install.

     

    Key Advantages of ISDN Phone Lines  
    DDI Telephone Numbers – Direct-dialling inwards

    DDI is still the most popular reason why UK businesses opt for ISDN lines.

    With ISDN and DDI you can have as many telephone numbers as you need for your business, without having to install separate phone lines for each one. All you need to do is decide how many ISDN lines you need for your business call traffic (see above), then how many DDI numbers you need. DDI numbers are supplied in blocks of 10 numbers

    You can allocate your DDI phone numbers for the following kinds of uses:

    • Group numbers – eg. Sales, Accounts, Product Hotlines, Support Numbers. These calls bypass reception and ring the telephones (or voicemail services) in a group.
    • Staff direct lines – staff can have their own direct telephone numbers. These are not generally advertised, however regular contacts can use DDI numbers to reduce operator workload. DDI is very useful if you have a fleet of mobile staff such as sales people- they contact colleagues directly instead of always having to go via reception.
    • Information Lines -Record company and staff announcements, which play when the number is called. Very useful during emergencies (eg. if the office is closed due to bad weather or power failure).
    • International Lines – Allocate a different DDI number for every country you do business in. Inbound calls can be sent to multi-lingual staff who are able to effectively answer the call.>
    CLI – Calling Line Identity

    Most modern business phone systems support DDI tagging. The DDI being called is displayed on the telephone handset and/or computer screen, allowing you to answer the call and deal with it in the correct manner. Eg. Business customers ringing the Sales DDI would present “SALES” on the telephones in your office, ringing whichever telephones appropriate to the task.

    CLI is the telephone number of the caller who is trying to reach you. This is displayed on the telephone handset when the phone rings and during the call, sometimes together with the DDI tag (see above).

    • Alpha-Tagging – This is the real name of the calller, taken from the phone system’s internal memory in the same way as a mobile phone shows names of regular callers and contacts. Most modern phone systems support alpha-tagging.
    • CTI – Computer-Telephony-Integration allows the inbound CLI to be sent to your database or CRM application, “popping” the client’s details on the PC screen when the phone rings. useful for sales and support-biased businesses. CTI normally involves purchasing additional software, known as “middleware” to enable the telephone system and your CRM to communicate effectively.
    • CLI Routing – A number of advanced telephone systems, usually with contact centre applications, are able to provide CLI routing functions. CLI routing directs the telephone call to a pre-set recipient, regardless of what number they call you on. Great for customers with overdue invoices – you can route them to the accounts department no matter what number they try!
    Call Connection Speed and Quality  
    Trunk-to-Trunk Transfer

    Using ISDN digital lines, your call is connected instantaneously via the UK’s digital network, and telephone call quality is excellent. Any quality issues you may have had with analogue line connections will disappear when you upgrade to ISDN.

    The high quality of voice connection allows you to answer a telephone call at your office and then transfer it externally to a colleague, eg. a mobile phone.

    This standard ISDN feature then allows modern business phone systems to give you some useful functions:

    • Mobile-Twinning – Inbound calls to your DDI number can be diverted to your mobile phone. Calls to your office telephone ring your mobile phone simultaneously, allowing you to take calls at your desk AND when you’re on the move.
    • Multi-Site Integration – Calls can overflow to an external site or location if they are not answered in the office. Some businesses with offices in countries around the world configure their phone systems to “bounce” calls to offices that are open, using what’s known as a “follow the sun” policy.
    • 24 Hour Support – Support-biased operations can easily divert calls to mobiles or on-call engineers when the offices are closed
    • Voice VPN – SNEC business telephone systems allow you to “map” DDI ranges into each processor, allowing staff at any location to contact any member of staff by simply dialling an extension number. Transferring calls between staff and locations then becomes very easy.
    Multi-Trunk Conferencing Instead of using trunk-to-trunk transfer, you can join multiple calls together in a conference using ISDN lines and their increased quality of connection.
       
  • Problem: Telephone Call Costs
    Answer: Organise Regular Bill Reviews

    Phone call costs are getting lower all the time. Therefore it’s important to review the costs of all of your business phone calls whenever you can.

    TIP 1 : – Don’t get stuck in long-term contracts with call providers. Make sure there are no hidden get-out clauses in the contract, eg. having to give 6 months’ notice.

    TIP 2 : – Avoid “Bucket Shops”. These are small telecoms firms with little or no support infrastructure, sending your calls via over-subscribed networks. The poor call quality sounds like you’ve got your head in a bucket.

    TIP 3 : – Schedule regular in-house phone bill reviews. Every few months or so, spend an hour or two taking a close look at your telecoms arrangements to make sure costs are as low as they can be. Or, we can do this for you. All you need to do is upload your bill and we’ll do the rest.

    Problem: Phone Line Costs
    Answer: Site Audit of Line Structure

    Telephone lines have to be rented, regardless of their use. This means that low-usage lines could be rationalised to save you money.

    In order to do this, you’ll need to perform a full site audit to identify all of your line services. This will then dictate what needs to be kept, and what can be ceased. A phone line audit can be time consuming, however we can provide this service for free, followed up with a full report.

    TIP 1 : – Perform a site audit to check for lines that are redundant, and cease them if necessary. If you don’t have time, we can do it for you for free. All you need to start is upload your phone bill and we’ll take it from there.

    TIP 2 : – Rent your lines from a Wholesale Line Provider. The lines are fundamentally the same, however phone line rental costs will be 10-15% cheaper.

    TIP 3 : – Get advice on the latest line types and formats – ISDN, Analogue, SIP Trunks, VoIP, and stay up to date with the technology and features available to you from the network.

    Problem: Phone System Costs
    Answer: Stay Up To Date – Technology Review

    Phone systems continue to develop and provide additional useful features that will help your business connect to your customers more efficiently.

    The latest systems are also cheaper to run, more reliable, last longer and cost less to maintain. Developments such as in-house administration software allow your IT manager to make changes and alterations, instead of having to pay for your maintainer to visit every time.

    Many business phone systems are still rented, many years after initial rental and lease contracts have lapsed. If you are renting an older system, check the figures to make sure you’re on a lower “peppercorn” arrangement.

    TIP 1 : – Stay Up To date. Get a Free Technology Review of Telecoms Technology and The Marketplace. We provide this service for free, and we can give you advice on how long your current system will last, plus how to make it go further.

    TIP 2 : – Review your phone system maintenance costs. How do they compare to modern systems?

    TIP 3 : – Does your system have a GUI (graphical user interface)? Many systems do nowadays, and many aren’t used. Your IT manager could be trained on it and may be able to make changes and alterations for you.

    TIP 4 : – Check out and confirm any associated rental fees with your phone system. If you are renting, check when the phone system rental contract ends/ended and what reductions there are. If your rent does fall after the first period, you’ll save money by moving to a new phone system with lower rental and running costs.

    Problem: Mobile Phone Fleet Costs
    Answer: Regular Tariff Reviews

    The costs of your business mobile fleet can change dramatically with the activities of your mobile staff, and therefore require regular checks.

    TIP 1 : – Regular tariff reviews are a must. Mobile phone tariffs are always on the move and your business can quickly be paying too much. Find out more in our business mobiles section.

    TIP 2 : – Make sure you have the correct voice call bundles in place. If your staff are travelling to international destinations, make sure you have an international mobile call package to ensure the costs to connect with them are as low as they can be.

    TIP 3 : – Ensure your data and text packages match your business mobile requirements. Don’t pay for services that you may not be using, and take advantage of high usage deals if you are.

    Problem : Broadband Costs
    Answer: Check contention, check your monthly usage and use direct-connect technology

    The monthly cost of your broadband connection will be based upon one or more of the following parameters:

    (a) Bandwidth – the speed of connection, measured in MB/s (megabits per second)

    (b) Contention – how many other businesses in your neighbourhood share your connection. You don’t usually get all of the bandwidth to yourself. Typical contention rations are 50:1, 20:1, 10:1 and 5:1. Uncontended (1:1) broadband is the most expensive

    (c) Usage – you pay for how much data you download / upload each month. Some broadband services have set limits with penalty charges if you exceed them. Others are unlimited, costing more.

    TIP 1 : – Do you need to increase the speed of your internet connection? Check out the broadband bandwidths currently available with our free online speed checking service in our business broadband section.

    TIP 2 : – Avoid contention, by using an LLU (local loop unbundled) service, such as our Fastlane Broadband. We give you genuine uncontended broadband connections at the same cost as lesser contended ones.

    TIP 3 : – Check your monthly usage with broadband usage checking software, available to download for free from many broadband websites.

  • VoIP Advantages

    1. Easy device relocation, hot-desking. VoIP phone system users can log in to any telephone.

    2. Mobile staff using laptops and smartphones can connect using VoIP without having an office phone

    3. Reduce cabling costs and complexity with switched VoIP phones

    4. High-end VoIP phone development, ie. touch-screen multi-media phones are available only via VoIP

    5. VoIP telephones are network devices and managed as part of the IT infrastructure

    6. VoIP telephones can be deployed to satellite offices and home workers, via leased line and fixed bandwidth connections, having the same functionality as the telephones within the business.

    VoIP Disadvantages

    1. VoIP phones are not directly connected to the telephone system. The VoIP phone calls travel via the LAN with your data traffic, and If the computer network fails or has issues, the telephone communications may also be affected.

    2. VoIP phone system faults and failures can be a result of network issues, which are not covered under maintenance. If you call out a telecoms engineer because your computer network stopped phones from connecting, you will pay for the labour costs.

    3. VoIP telephones are generally more expensive than traditional (TDM) phones. Top-specification multi-media VoIP telephones currently cost upwards of £500.00 each.

    4. The functions available from standard and switched VoIP phones are generally the same as traditional (TDM) telephones – there is no functional advantage to using VoIP, except for Hot-Desking which most modern systems support anyway.

    Problem: Phone System Costs
    Answer: Stay Up To Date – Technology Review

    Phone systems continue to develop and provide additional useful features that will help your business connect to your customers more efficiently.

    The latest systems are also cheaper to run, more reliable, last longer and cost less to maintain. Developments such as in-house administration software allow your IT manager to make changes and alterations, instead of having to pay for your maintainer to visit every time.

    Many business phone systems are still rented, many years after initial rental and lease contracts have lapsed. If you are renting an older system, check the figures to make sure you’re on a lower “peppercorn” arrangement.

    TIP 1 : – Stay Up To date. Get a Free Technology Review of Telecoms Technology and The Marketplace. We provide this service for free, and we can give you advice on how long your current system will last, plus how to make it go further.

    TIP 2 : – Review your phone system maintenance costs. How do they compare to modern systems?

    TIP 3 : – Does your system have a GUI (graphical user interface)? Many systems do nowadays, and many aren’t used. Your IT manager could be trained on it and may be able to make changes and alterations for you.

    TIP 4 : – Check out and confirm any associated rental fees with your phone system. If you are renting, check when the phone system rental contract ends/ended and what reductions there are. If your rent does fall after the first period, you’ll save money by moving to a new phone system with lower rental and running costs.

    What You’ll Need for VoIP

    1. IT Manager

    If you use VoIP, your telephone system support / maintenance provider will want information regarding your computer network on a regular basis. With larger VoIP installations, there is usually a direct relationship between our support engineers and the in-house IT manager.

    2. QoS Switches
    Your ethernet switches that currently drive your network must prioritise voice call traffic over data traffic, to ensure connections are reliable and voice quality between telephones is as good as it can be. QoS – Quality of Service must therefore be configured within your ethernet switch to enable them to manage the voice and data traffic effectively. Most newer ethernet switches support QoS and VoIP, however you’ll need to check and upgrade if necessary, plus arrange for QoS configuration as part of the VoIP phone system installation process.

    3. PoE
    All VoIP telephones require electrical power. This is provided by the ethernet switch which delivers Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) together with VoIP calls via the same cable, or if PoE switches are not in place, power adapters provide electrical power via standard 3-pin electrical outlets locally at the user’s desk.

    2. Voice Over Internet

    Logically, it follows that voice calls should be able to be transported over the Internet using VoIP, as it is a public data network. Voice over Internet involves using remote VoIP devices and connections to tranport phone calls.

    This particular version of VoIP provides home workers and remote workers with completely integrated telecoms functionality. The home telephone is exactly the same as the office phones, with all features supported. Telephone calls made from the home worker’s IP phone are made via the office telephone system, giving recipients the impression that the home worker is based in the office.

    The VoIP Data connection (ADSL, SDSL or similar) is secured via a VPN Tunnel to prevent unwanted access. Note that in this instance the telephone is literally an extension of the telephone system and as such only communicates with telephones, lines and devices registered with the central telephone system.

    Using SIP Trunks – VoIP phone lines

    SIP Trunks allow different VoIP devices to connect to each other, provided they are compatible with the SIP VoIP protocol.

    SIP supports a nominal number of telephony features, similar to those provided by the PSTN and ISDN lines, the difference being that calls between SIP devices are free.

    SIP Trunks, or internet telephone lines, are also less expensive than PSTN lines however they must be hosted by an internet connection – broadband, leased lines, etc.

    The main drawback for SIP truinks is the internet’s lack of quality control. When the 21st Centrury Network is fully operational and providing guaranteed voice quality over the internet, SIP trunks will become the preferred telecoms connection for UK business.

    Remember: The internet does not support QoS (Quality of Service), so there is no guarantee over the quality of call and/or connection.

     
    Voice Over Internet Advantages
    • Free Telephone Calls between devices
    • Integrated VoIP telephone systems for home workers
    • Disaster recovery solutions at low cost
    • Easy voip set-up
    • Site-to-site multi-office integration
    Voice Over Internet Disadvantages
    • No Guarantee of voice quality – usuallt restricted to colleague-to-colleague voip calls
    • IT services set-up for VoIP sometimes required by IT manager / third party IT company
    • Equipment and ADSL rental costs can outweigh savings in voip phone call costs
    • “Break-Out” calls to the PSTN from the internet can be expensive, and most calls are still made to mobile phones, which will be the case for some time until VoIP SIP connections improve and become more widespread.
  • Choosing How Your Business Telephone System Works

    Telephone systems are designed in different ways and perform telecoms functions differently. It’s important to decide exactly how your business needs to communicate, before selecting your preferred phone system manufacturer.

    PABX Phone Systems

    PABX is a common term used for telephone systems of any kind, however PABX actually stands for Private Automated Branch Exchange and refers to a specific mode of phone system operation.

    Mode of operationInbound calls to the business are generally recieved via a single main telephone number, and handled by a main telephonist or group of receptionists.

    Staff use basic telephones or Plain Ordinary Telephones (POTs) and have little phone functionality

    ApplicationsOrganistions with no need for direct-dialling facilities. Popular in Hospitals, Schools, Larger organisations, and many Hotels

    PABX telephone systems are designed to deliver calls to a highly-featured telephonist position who then distributes the calls on to the telephones in the organisation.

    Business Key Systems

    Key system is a little-known term in telecoms, however key systems and key system-hybrid systems account for the majority of telephone systems installed in the UK over the last 15 years.

    Mode of operation Key systems work well with ISDN lines and functions, and deliver inbound calls to users, groups and main telephonists, depending on the call type and time of day.

    Users have more functionality, delivered via Keyphones or Key station telephones. User status, interactive displays and quick one-touch functionality defines keyphones and key systems.

    Applications Busy organisations who need fast and easy operation, plus a reduction in operator workload benefit from key systems.

    Regular callers to the business can contact staff directly and calls are handled efficiently. Firms with mobile users also prefer key systems combined with direct-dialling, particularly with useful mobile twinning features.

    Hybrids Key system hybrids combine key system efficiency with PABX receptionist power. Hybrid phone systems combine telephonist, keyphone users and low-usage phones in one phone system.

    Many IT-orientated companies first used convergence phone systems, however more and more businesses across the UK are using Convergence as thier preferred method of communications.

    click here for the UK’s most advanced convergence telephone system

    If you need advice on what system you should be going for, let us help. We offer free consultancy meetings in which we explain the technology in plain English, allowing you to choose your way forward for telecoms. Just call us on 01256 391 070, email us or use our easy online contact form

  • CTI – The Art of Screen-Popping and Dialling from Database and CRM Contact Records

    What is CTI? Computer Telephony Integration is the function of interacting with database and CRM contact records on the PC screen simultaneously with the phone call at the desk telephone.

    Screen-Popping Using a standards-based protocol, usually TAPI, the telephone system delivers the inbound caller ID to the computer network and CRM / Database. This initiates the opening of the contact record on the user’s screen as the phone rings on the desk. The contact record “pops” on screen when the call arrives.

    Staff have client details and information immediately available, for improved customer service and effecient phone call handling.

    CLI Routing This is an advanced feature, where the database instructs the telephone system on where to send the calls. Changes in database fields therefore change the recipient of calls from customers, depending on thier client status.

    Power-Dialling TAPI is a bi-directional code. You can make outbound phone calls from the CRM customer record. Predictive dialling takes this a stage further, automating telesales calls by dealling from the database and presenting them automatically to agents and telesales staff.

    CTI technology has been in use for many years. Most modern telephone systems support TAPI integration to some level, and therefore your CRM or database will integrate if it is TAPI compliant.

    What you need:

    • A phone system that supports TAPI
    • A TAPI-compliant database / CRM
    • Software to complete the integration, installed on your CRM server and/or client PCs. Known as “Middleware”, this allows your database and the telephone system to complete the TAPI link.

    No TAPI? If you don’t have TAPI compatibility, it may still be possible to integrate, however the costs will be higher due to the need for bespoke software development.

  • Cabling Architecture – Plumbing Your Phones In

    1308 “Block” or “Star” Wiring

    “Block” or “Star” wiring is the traditional historic method for installing telephone system cabling.

    All telephone cables route from the wall sockets back to a main distribution point in the vicinity of the main telephone system.

    Larger block cabling systems include multiple distribution points, allowing cables to be installed across multiple buildings, floors and areas.

    Due to the relative complexity of adding additional extensions, block cabling is no longer the preferred cabling system for UK telephone systems, as CAT-5E structred cabling is much easier to adapt as staff move around.

    Block cabling allows telephone signalling to travel long distances. Most digital telephones can operate at cable distances of over 500m (analogue devices can work at more than 3 times this distance). This has a distinct advantage over CAT-5E which has a regulated length of 90m.

    Indeed, many large sites such as School campuses still have requirements for block cabling to link buildings that are beyond the reach of standard CAT-5E installations.

    Digital telephones still operate perfectly well via old 1308 cabling systems, and if you continue to use TDM technology instead of VoIP, your business probably won’t need to upgrade it’s telecoms cabling. Normally in these cases, we simply replace the socket face plates to accept the RJ11 phone connections after testing.

    We provide free site cabling surveys as part of our phone system consultation.

    If you need advice on cabling or a free phone cabling survey, please call us on 01256 391 070, email us or use our easy online contact form

     

    CAT-5 & CAT-5E Structured Cabling

    Structured cabling systems have been installed in thousands of businesses in the UK to provide a convenient and easy method of managing the connection and relocation of voice and data devices.

    Modern telephone systems are designed to be fitted within the CAT-5 communications cabinets in the comms room, along with ethernet switches and other networking equipment.

    The telephone extensions can be “patched” to thieir locations in the same manner as computers, making it easy for IT managers to re-patch devices when staff relocate, without having to reconfigure the phone system or add more cabling.

    Most structured cabling installations provide double sockets to each user. One is used for a computer, the other for a telephone.
     

    CATEGORY-6 Cabling

    CAT-6 cabling is installed in the same manner as CAT-5E cabling, and looks virtually identical, still providing the flexibility of a structured cabling system.

    Cat-6 is the cable standard for Gigabit Ethernet and other network protocols that are backward compatible with the Cat-5E and earlier cable standards.

    Cat-6 features stringent specifications for crosstalk and system noise. The cable standard provides performance of up to 250 MHz and is suitable for 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX (Fast Ethernet), 1000BASE-T / 1000BASE-TX (Gigabit Ethernet) and 10GBASE-T (10-Gigabit Ethernet).

    Category 6 cable has a reduced maximum length when used for 10GBASE-T.

    Cat- 6a cable, or “Augmented” Cat 6, operates to 500 MHz and has improved crosstalk characteristics, allowing 10GBASE-T to be run for the same distance as previous protocols.

    CAT-6 cabling can cost up to 30% more than equivalent CAT-5E cabling systems. If you need advice on cabling or a free phone cabling survey, please call us on 01256 391 070, email us or use our easy online contact form

  • Voicemail & Voice Processing Systems

    Many voicemail systems nowadays incorporate one, two or all of the features and functions below, providing businesses with a number of options for voice processing and automated answering services.

    Automated Attendant

    “Press 1 for sales…”

    Automated attendant systems provide pre-recorded greetings to inbound callers, allowing them to select which department or service they require.

    Auto attendant advantages:

    • Can act as a backup to the main operator during busy periods
    • Useful for out-of-hours answering services
    • Allows calls to be routed to departments in large businesses and organisations
    • Can be used to filter high-volume regular calls – eg. “Press 1 for Support or hold reception”. Many schools and college phone systems filter absentee calls during busy morning periods.

    Automated attendant can be detrimental to customer service if it is too complex and/or it has too many levels. We have full experience in implementing voicemail and automated attendant systems for business and will provide you with the best advice if you need it.

     

    Call Queueing

    True Digital Call Queueing

    With true digital call queueing, the telephone system automatically keeps the inbound calls in sequence, and presents them to the phone or group of phones in the correct order.

    Callers receieve regular comfort greetings, and can also be provided with position-in-queue, time-to-answer information and options to leave a message.

    Queue Callback is an advanced contact centre feature, allowing callers to leave thier telephone number and be called back when thier call position reaches the front of the queue.

    Voicemail systems can also provide call queueing functions, however this is NOT true call queueing. If a voicemail system plays a caller a greeting, it ANSWERS the call and takes it out of the queue, returning the callers to the rear. Worse, when the voicemail system is playing the greeting, it’s possible for the receptionist to hang up and take another newer call that arrives – an unwitting queue jumper!

    Voicemail

    “I’m not at my desk…”

    Voicemail systems provide messaging services for many areas of a business:

    • Individual user messaging
    • After-hours messaging
    • Group messaging (eg. sales, accounts)
    • International services (eg. callers from France can be answered by a French-speaking mailbox message)
    • Announcements (eg. opening hours, emergency announcements)
    • Surveys (combined with automated attendant, perform automated customer questionairres)

    In addition, the following voicemail features can also aid voicemail functions:

    • Remote access – users can dial in to thier mailbox and change greetings, settings and listen to messages
    • Break out – allow callers to try a colleague or receptionist if they don’t want to leave a message
    • Multiple break-out destinations. Eg. “Hold to leave a message or try 1 for my mobile, 2 for my PA or 3 for reception”
    • Remote notification – the voicemail system can call your mobile and present new messages
    Unified Messaging

    Voicemail-to-Email Integration

    Voicemail systems are now able to integrate with email systems and servers. When you recieve a new voicemail message, you will also recieve an email in a number of formats:

    • A simple notification email, giving you the sender’s details in the subject line. Use a convenient telephone to dial into your voicemail box and collect the message.
    • An email with an attachment. Listen to the message via the computer/speaker arrangement. Very useful for staff on the move. The attachment can be forwarded to other members of staff, and/or archived if necessary. You can also dial into the voicemail system to listen to the message in the usual manner.
    • An email with a moved attachement. As above, however the message is removed from the voicemail system to maximise storage space.

    Call Recording

    Ad-Hoc Call recording

    Add a “record” button to the desk telephone and users can record conversations if they wish to.
    The recording is saved as a new voicemail message in the user’s voicemail box, and presented as a new message in whatever format has been configured..

  • When is a Hunt Group Not a Hunt Group? Contact Centres and Call Centre Technology

    Group Calls

    When inbound calls are presented to multiple telephone users, the calls are delivered to the telephones in one of the following ways:

    ARing Group or “All At Once”
    All telephones ring simultaneously. The first user to pick up the telephone answers the call.

    Sequential Hunt Group
    Calls are always presented in a hierarchical arrangement, starting at a preferred telephone/user and then overflowing to users with lower skills/relevance for the call. Eg. a call to an accounts department may ring a number of senior accounts telephones before being offered to the office junior.

    Rotary Hunt Group
    Calls are evenly distributed. Calls are presented in order and circulate through a group evenly, with no preference or hierarchy.

    Group calls can be combined with call queueing services in informal contact centre arrangements. For formal, managed contact centres, ACD is the answer.

    ACD – Automated Call Distribution

    ACD is used in formal contact centres to deliver calls evenly to agents and provide optimum customer service. Calls are delivered to THE LONGEST WAITING AVAILABLE agents. When an agent becomes available to take a call, the system times them and delivers the next call to the agent who has been waiting longest. This ensures fair and even call distribution. Call centre operatives are call AGENTS and always have STATUS:

    ACD Status Types:

    ACD Status Description
    Logged Out Not at work.
    Logged In In the workplace.
    Available Agent is available to recieve an inbound customer call
    Unavailable Agent did not answer a call. The phone system automatically assumes that the agent is not available for calls and makes them “unavailable”. The agent must make themselves “available” again manually.
    Break Mode Agents select this mode when they leave their desk or carry out other non-contact centre activities. Reason codes allow agents to show colleagues and managers why they are not taking calls (eg. “Coffee break”, “Admin Tasks”, “At Lunch”)
    Incoming call Agent is talking to a caller.
    Outbound call Not at work.
    Logged Out Agent is making an outbound call.
    Wrap-Up A pre-set timeis usually allocated at the end of an inbound call, to allow the agent to make notes and complete any tasks associated with it. The agent can manually extend the wrap-up time on an ad-hoc basis if required. Reason codes can also be entered to speed the process (eg. “Customer enquiry”, “Booking”, “Sale”, “Technical Query”, etc)
    Off-Hook Some ACD systems can recognise that phones are left off-hook and give them an associated status. This defeats a well-known agent trick to make themselves look busy!
    Management Infomation & Statistics (MIS)

     

    MIS provides Contact Centre managers and supervisors with real-time and historical information, detailing agent and call traffic activity for the call centre.

    MIS information is presented to Supervisors, Agents and publicly viewable wall-boards within the contact centre.

    Historical reports allow the managers and supervisors to detect trends and organise staff levels and responses according to the requirements of thier customers and callers.

    Skills-Based Routing

    Skills-based routing takes ACD call handling to the next level. Inbound calls are delivered to agents according to thier ability to answer the call.

    If a call is delivered to a group with 3 agents available, all with the same skill set, then ACD determines who gets the call first.

    <tr< p=””>

    Agent Blue widgets Red Widgets Green Widgets
    Tom 1 2 3
    Dick 2 1 2
    Harry 1 3 1

    In this example, Tom and Harry are first in line for callers wanting Blue widgets. Dick will be the first for Red widgets, and Harry is the preferred agent for Green widgets

  • Phone Acronyms – Glossary of Telecoms Terms and Abbreviations

    VoIP Voice Over Internet Protocol Telephone calls and voice traffic are converted in data (IP) and sent across data networks such as LANs, WANs and Internet. See also: Qos PoE
    ISDN Intergrated Services Digital Network Telephone calls and voice traffic are converted in data (IP) and sent across data networks such as LANs, WANs and Internet. See also: DDI,CLI,CTI
    QoS Quality Of Service When using VoIP, QoS has to be configured on a data network to make sure call quality is preserved. Data networks without QoS risk degradation of phone call quality, and in some cases calls are cut off entirely.
    PoE Power Over Ethernet VoIP telephones require electrical power. This power is usually provided by your ethernet switch (known as a PoE Switch), which powers the telephone as well as delivering the VoIP phone call data to it. If you don’t have PoE Switches, you will need 3-pin electrical power adpaters for each telephone, with an associated power outlet at the workstation.
    CTI Computer Telephony Integration The inbound CLI of the caller is delivered to a database, CRM or application on the PC. Traditionally the caller’s data “pops” on screen when the phone rings. Also known as “Screen Popping”. “Power Dialling” uses the contact number within a contact record, and by clicking “dial” on screen, the telephone on the desk makes the call for you. “Predictive Dialling” takes power dialling a stage further, automating the process for outbound contact centres, usually linked to an outbound call campaign for call centre agents.
    ACD Automated Call Distribution Used in Contact Centres to distribute telephone calls evenly to available agents. The agent who has been waiting the longest gets the next call. Also known as “longest wait” or “most idle” call distribution. See also MIS,.
    DPNSS Digital Private Network Signalling System An older (no longer available) digital protocol used to link telephone systems together across corporate networks. DPNSS allows calls to be answered by centralised receptionists and then transferred to any office. Staff in different locations can contact each other directly, as if they were on the same system. Superceeded by QSig
    QSig QSig superceeded DPNSS as the digital standard for networking telephone systems together via direct leased-line connections. Uses the modern Q931 protocol associated with ISDN30.
    LCR Least Cost Routing LCR software within the telephone system (or via an external “smart box” or “call router”) adds a 3 or 4-digit code to each outbout telephone call, notifying the local PSTN exchange to route the call via a call services vendor. The customer will have a contract with thier particular call vendor/carrier already in place. LCR software can be re-programmed, making it easy for businesses to change call providers if required.
    CPS Carrier Pre-Selection Removes the need for LCR. The local exchange is intelligent and knows the routing preferences of each telephone line connected, sending calls via the preferred call providers automatically without the need for software or telecoms equipment to be installed at the end-user premises.
    DASS Digital Associated Signalling System DASS is the old UK-based standard for ISDN30 installations. Many businesses still use ISDN30 with the DASS protocol, whcih will need to be upgraded to ISDN30E before a new telephone system can be installed. DASS is identified by the co-axial type connectors used on the NTE box.
    Q931 Q931 is the European protocol for ISDN that superceeded DASS in mid-1990s. This was in turn superceeded by ISDN30E.
    BRI / Basic Rate Basic Rate ISDN Another term for, ISDN2e. Used often by IT professionals and telecoms engineers.
    PRI / Primary Rate Primary Rate ISDN Another term for, ISDN30e. Used often by IT professionals and telecoms engineers.
    E1 ISDN30-based protocol for linking corporate telephone systems together across multiple sites. Used as an alternative to QSig.
    T1 North-American term for ISDN30.
    E & M Analogue DC-voltage signalling over “E” and “M” leads, used to link telephone systems together with basic integration features (call set-up, hold, transfer). E & M lines can be likened to direct analogue lines between telephone systems.
    AC 15 Another term for E & M, used for long-distance connections.
    ADSL Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line ADSL is the popular format for broadband internet connections. Download speed is usually much higher than upload speed – the data bandwidths are Asynchronous.
    SDSL Synchronous Digital Subscriber Line ADSL is the popular format for broadband internet connections. Download speed is usually much higher than upload speed – the data bandwidths are Asynchronous.
    DC 5 Another term for E & M, used for short-distance connections, usually 100m or less.
    EPS-8 / 9 Also known as a “Baseband” circuit. This is a leased analogue line, capable of transmitting as much as 512 kbps of data (subject to signal quality and termination equipment) between two sites that are located in the same geographical exchange area. The line travels from one site to the other directly via the local exchange. Not available via multiple exchanges.
    Dark Fibre A high-speed fibre-optic data link, installed locally between separate sites/offices via the local telephone exchange. Bandwidht options are usually 10Mb/s or 100 Mb/s.
    KILOSTREAM A fixed, private data link between separate sites, usually providing data transfer speeds from 64 kbps (Kilostream 64) up to 512 kbps. Installation and rental costs are based on the distance between the two locations.
    Megastream A fixed, private data link between separate sites, usually providing data transfer speeds from 512 kbps up to 10 Mbps and beyond. Installation and rental costs are high and based on the distance between the two locations. Often uses ISDN30-type connectivity and protocols.
    DP Distribution Point Cabling connection and distribution box for 1308 block cabling systems.
    KEYSYSTEM Distribution Point ISDN-based telephone system for busy businesses, designed to operate with ISDN lines, driect-dial functions and highly-featured telephones for all users. Fast and efficient call handling.
    IP PBX IP-based Private Branch Exchange Telephone system using VoIP technology to distribute devices and telephones.
    PBX / PABX Private Branch Exchange / Private Automated Branch Exchange Common term for telephone system or private telephone exchange, installed within a business or organisation.
    Hosted Solution VoIP telephone system that is hosted by a 3rd party from a remote location. Telephones connect via the internet to the main system and all services are rented on a per-user/per-telephone basis. Usually not financially viable for large businesses.
    Centrex Hosted telephone system using analogue lines. The local exchange acts as the telephone system, and each phone has a direct analogue line associated with it. Lines, phones and services are rented on a per-user basis. Also known as Featurelines
    IP-Centrex VoIP telephone system that is hosted by a 3rd party from a remote location. Telephones connect via the internet to the main system and all services are rented on a per-user/per-telephone basis. Usually not financially viable for large businesses.
    Convergence The use of a basic telephone on the desk, with a desktop PC providing telecoms functions via a dedicated software application. Calls are transferred using the mouse/keyboard.
    IP-Centric Hybrid system supporting both VoIP and TDM technology simultaneously. Highly flexible, allowing a number of “hard-wired” mission-critical phones to operate in case of network/LAN issues.
    Screen-Popping A CTI Function – see CTI
    Power-Dialling A CTI Function – see CTI
    Skills-Based Routing Call centre function. Calls are routed to agents according to thier skill level and/or ability to answer the call.
    Loop Disconnect Old analogue electrical connection, used for placing calls on hold and transferring them. Also known as Earth Break Recall. Superceeded by Time Break Recall. Associated with older analogue telephones with dials instead of tone buttons.
    Predictive Dialling A CTI Function – see CTI
    DDI Direct Dialling Inwards / Direct Dialling Inbound DDI numbers are applied to ISDN lines, allowing selected staff, services and departments to have direct-dial facilities.
    CLI Calling Line Identity The inbound caller’s telephone number. Associated as a phone feature mainly with ISDN lines, however also presented over mobile and SIP Trunk networks.
    MIS / Contact Centre Management Information Statistics Managing call centres and call centre operatives (known as agents) by using real-time statistics and historical reporting. Combines with advanced call handling functions from the phone system, designed to deliver telephone calls to the agent who has been waiting the longest.
    TDM Time Divisional Multiplexing The current PSTN format for delivering calls across the public telecoms networks. TDM telephone systems have hard-wired telephones (via block-wiriing or structured cabling). Alternative solution to VoIP systems for business who want to keep telecoms and computers separate.
    NTE Network Termination Equipment The NTE is the connection box for ISDN30 and other network services using ISDN protocols (eg. megastreams and MPLS services). An NTE can support up to 4 bearers, or trunks, of ISDN30 (ie. up to 120 phone lines). The ISDN30E connections are identified by RJ45 connections. NTEs supporting older DASS-type protocols have co-axial connections.
    MPLS Multiprotocol Label Switching A scalable private network, enabling multiple locations to connect to each other and transfer voice and data services via a private “cloud” arrangement. Associated with corporate organisations.
  • Frequently Asked Questions

    A selected of questions that our customers regularly ask.

    Telecoms Subject Question Answer
    Minimum Call Charges
    What are your minimum call charges? Nothing. We don’t charge you a minimum call charge for your telephone calls. Our billing is genuine per-second billing and you only pay for the time that your call is connected.
    Connection Charges
    Is there a call connection charge? No. There is no connection charge for telephone calls you make with us. Many Telephone Call providers offer low call rates to attract customers, however they then incur a connection charge for every call which works out to be far more expensive in the long run. Check the small print!
    Openreach Who are Openreach? Openreach were originally known as BT Wholesale, and are the network line providers that we use for telephone line and ISDN installations and rental. Our rental charges and ongoing costs are lower than BT Retail (who also use Openreach), and we strive to provide a more personal and faster support service with our in-house customer relations team.
    Transferring a Service How long does it take to swap over to the new system? Most telephone system replacements take a few days to complete, with the actual phone system swap-over taking just a hour or two, which takes place out-of-office hours during an evening or over a weekend.
    Can I Sell my Old System
    Is my old system worth any money? Second-hand telephone prices are very low/negligible at the moment, and it’s difficult for us to achieve part exchange values for most used phone systems more than 5 years old. We usually recommend that you try and sell your old system directly (eg. ebay) or via third parties. We can dispose of your old system if necessary at no extra cost.
    More Phones What happens when I need more phones?

    Just call our post sales department. We will send you a quote for the new phones / equipment and installation / configuration. Just sign the bottom and send your approval back to us and we’ll schedule the extra works.

    If you need more phones during a new system installation, the team leader on site will make the arrangements for you when you’ve agreed the extra costs.

    System Faults
    Who do I call if I have a system fault? Contact our technical support department on 01256 391 078, or email support@southern-comms.co.uk
    Maintenance Charges
    What are the maintenance charges for? Maintenance covers any unexpected equipment failures that are not your fault. new equipment is provided, including parts and labour. We also provide phone system operating software upgrades, and minor programming changes/alterations to your phone system are also carried out at no cost, up to about 15mins of work. Technical phone system and telecoms advice is also fully available from our technical support team or your account manager .
    Phone Lines Who sorts out the phone lines for me? If you use us for telephone lines and call services, we will make all of the arrangements for you. If you are using a third party, we can provide instructions and guidance to make sure you order the right services.
    3 Digit Billing
    What’s 3-digit billing?

    3-digit billing is the most accurate method of billing for telephone call costs, meaning that you pay the exact cost of the call on a per-second basis. 2-digit billing means that call costs are always rounded up.

    For example: A 30-second call with a rate of 1p/minute would be rounded 1p with 2-digit billing. 3 digit billing would allow it to be billed at 0.5p, which would be the exact cost of the call.