26th March 2020

Managing your voice communications through COVID-19

By Grant White

The Coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally changing how organisations run their operations.

Change that would normally take years is now having to be implemented immediately, placing demands onto communications infrastructure not designed for such agility. 

There is an urgent need for organisations to adapt to keep people connected and to continue answering critical calls. 

New challenges have emerged and organisations are needing to swiftly adapt. To help you manage your voice infrastructure, here are some examples of how other organisations are meeting this challenge.  

Routing calls to employees who are working from home

The situation and government guidance is continuously evolving affecting where and how employees work. Organisations need the ability to control inbound calls to ensure they are effectively managed and adapt to the changing situation. 

How you route calls is dependent on your voice communication infrastructure. 

SIP and ISDN options to route calls

If you have an on-premise PBX with SIP trunks or ISDN lines, ask your carrier for a network-level call divert. For customers using ISDN, the network divert is at the local exchange level which diverts calls to all your numbers to a single alternative location. Many SIP trunk services offer a DDI by DDI call divert at the network layer, it’s likely that your SIP trunk provider will be able to add this module for you if you don’t have it enabled.

UCaaS solutions to route calls

We have seen many organisations accelerate their adoption of services such as Microsoft Teams to aid collaboration between employees working at home. What may have started as a proof of concept has been swiftly extended to all employees to cope with the unexpected scenario of all employees working from home. 

While these platforms can provide the ability to route calls to each employee’s DDI there is often a concern about the disruption of inbound telephony created by a big-bang change. A concern that is heightened during this critical time. There are also often challenges in making published DDIs work with UCaaS solutions, but your carrier should be able to help you with this transformation.

Coping with an influx of calls

Organisations providing essential services are being overwhelmed with calls to their contact centres and their office numbers. Rather than playing a ‘busy tone’ to callers who exceed the capacity of existing voice infrastructure, organisations want to provide reassurance.

Again the solution depends on your voice communication infrastructure.

On-premise options to manage increased call traffic

One of the advantages of SIP trunks is that they can often quickly scale to meet business requirements. So speak with your SIP suppliers to increase the capacity of your inbound services. 

If scaling capacity isn’t possible or if you use ISDN, you still have a couple of options. You could play an announcement message for calls that would otherwise hear a busy tone to encourage them to call back later, use online services or dial a different number. Alternatively, you could overflow additional calls to other locations. 

Cloud-based solutions to manage increased call traffic

If you have already implemented a cloud contact centre solution then it’s likely that it can scale to meet the increased demand. Additionally, you can quickly route calls to agents working from home, or add an announcement message for callers if there aren’t enough people to answer calls.

If you haven’t already adopted CCaaS, you may want to consider a hybrid approach. Using this model your carrier would send normal traffic to your existing contact centre, monitor for congestion and send overflow traffic to a CCaaS platform.

Staying compliant by recording calls while employees work remotely

Industry regulations may mean that your organisation is required to record calls to your business but cannot scale to the sudden need for employees to work from home. 

You could route calls to employees working remotely. However, you need to ensure that these calls are recorded. Look for a network-based call recording solution that can be deployed to employees personal mobiles to swiftly maintain compliance. Additionally, look for solutions that provide the flexibility to route calls to other phones to overcome issues with poor mobile signal.

Monitoring your voice communications

Your colleagues let you know pretty quickly if their telephony isn’t working while you’re both in the same office. It’s a little more difficult to tell if your voice communications are working correctly when you’re both working from home. Real-time reports provide insight into your call traffic and ensure that your communication infrastructure is running as expected.

Getting set-up quickly

Faced with the need to enable business change in days not months, organisations need to implement new voice communications technology swiftly. While modern communications platforms will be quick to implement, there are a number of aspects that will need to be considered. 

Generally, if you will be using a new platform, you will need to port numbers into the new system to benefit from the additional numbers management capabilities to route calls to employees. There are industry standard SLAs that govern the time it takes to port numbers. Be prepared that it may take a few weeks to get the full system in place and possibly longer due to the effect of COVID-19. Telcos may have interim solutions that can provide a quick fix.

Another aspect to consider is to go for an option that works with your current voice communications architecture. That way if any issues crop up with the new solution you can quickly rollback. Having real-time reports to monitor call delivery will help with this.

How Smartnumbers can help

The team at Smartnumbers are at hand if you have any questions about managing your communications during this critical time (email info@smartnumbers.com or call +44 20 3379 9000). 

The datasheet outlines how Smartnumbers can be used to simplify and de-risk any change you make.