North American Customer Service Management Association

Support for Contact Center Professionals

Step 4 Hardware Review


Wired or Wireless, this is the question.

Wireless certainly has its mobility advantages. Employees enjoy accessing the network from anywhere in the building. Well, maybe not the entire building but wherever the signal reaches. Wired or Ethernet networks have greater reliability and faster speeds. Wireless networks are prone to dropping out if too many devices use the network at once. How does the user know when there are too many devices and the risk of dropping the connection is near? That’s the problem - users don’t know! In a contact center, it is imperative that agents are connected to the LAN when taking or making calls. Customers don’t want to wait for the network to reconnect. The best practice for the contact center is using a wired or Ethernet connection.

Every business wants to get the most life out of its equipment. Use it up; depreciate it until it has no value. It’s like paying off your car and you still get to drive it for a couple of years for free. Is it really free? The repairs are usually more than car payments. It’s amazing how many contact centers are still running XP and Windows 7. Companies run PC’s into the ground installing work-arounds and patches to keep things going. Is it cheaper running that old OS instead of upgrading to an OS that is still supported? The best practice is using a PC’s that have an OS that was released within the last two years.

A gigabit switch used in tandem with a gigabit router will allow you to use your local network at speeds up to ten times greater than the previous generation, 10/100 Mbps Fast Ethernet. Yes, it is time for a Gigabit switch.

Ethernet Cables Not all Ethernet cables are created equal. From the outside, the cables look the same but the inside is where the rubber meets the road. Bandwidth handling ability is what separates Cat 5, Cat 6 and Cat 6a. The more you shove through a cable the higher the frequency of the signal required. A cable designed to data pair with the dimensions and spacing to handle ten Megahertz won’t necessarily do at a hundred Megahertz because the dimensions become increasingly critical at higher frequencies. A Cat 5e must meet the requirements up to 100 MHz, Cat 6 up to 250 MHz and Cat 6a up to 500 MHz. There are no governing bodies that regulate network cables.

What makes Cat 6 cables so great? It is a standardized twisted pair cable for Gigabit Ethernet and is backward compatible with Cat 5/5e standards. Cat 6 is more stringent specifications for crosstalk and system noise. Out of the box it provides up to 250 MHz and provides symmetrical bandwidth that allows for much longer transmission distances and security. Cat 6 is a major improvement over Cat 5e. It is fast and reduces crosstalk while making you current for a longer period. If you do any remodeling it makes sense to put up the most current technology of the time.

Router
The router is the gateway or access point that data enters your network. No matter how big or small your contact center is don’t skimp on the router and use a consumer model. You need a business class router to handle the volume, the daily use and to offer more advanced features. Advanced features like intrusion detection, anti-virus features, more control over the firewall and the option to filter network traffic. A business class router also allows you to set up a virtual private network (VPN) allowing secure remote access to the network. This is essential for managers who work from home or while traveling.

Choose headsets carefully: clarity of sound, noise reduction and comfort are important. Equally important is the functionality and durability factors. These headsets get a lot of use daily and will experience getting dropped, as well as stretched and pulled to make them comfortable. Choose headsets designed for commercial use.

To get the best sound quality avoid wireless and USB type connections and stick with the 2.5MM two prong jack. You will save yourself a lot of headaches. Noise is a big concern both for the agent and the caller. Noise cancellation headsets can eliminate the surround noise and enabling both the caller and agent to talk without noise distraction.

And as tempting as wireless headsets may be, you don’t want to use them and here is why: they almost always run out of battery before the agent’s shift is over, in agent dense contact centers there are signal interference issues, and they are more susceptible to potential shrinkage(theft/loss) issues.

Agents wear headsets for at least 8 hours. To avoid any injury lawsuits, be sure that the headsets protect them from any potential injuries. Poorly fitting headsets create muscle aches and neck and shoulder injuries. They must protect agents from acoustic shock which happens when they have a loud caller, there is noise background on the caller’s end or loud noise from feedback causes the volume levels to spike in the agent’s ear. This can cause permanent hearing loss and injury. Injury increases workman’s compensation claims. When wearing a device for 8 hours, it should protect the agent from these common issues.

Some of your employees spend at least a third of their lives wearing the headsets you provide. Take the time to make sure you are purchasing the optimal headset solutions. Your agents, your customers, your supervisors – and even your lawyers, will all thank you.

Tips!

Your LAN is the backbone of your business. The data for all applications and voice traffic ride on your LAN. It is imperative that the backbone is of the highest quality. Your business depends on it.
You’re not buying just a headset; you’re buying a relationship with a headset company. Contact centers use a lot of headsets and the best support should be the first buying criteria. Returning and replacing with no issue must be part of the program.

Take the Next Step!

Contact centers are busy and many operate 24/7, never sleeping. Thus, it can be difficult to take the time to review the infrastructure the contact center runs on. Contact centers need preventative maintenance just like our cars but there is no sticker in the windshield that reminds us its time to pull in for service. Many contact centers are short-handed in IT help and operating system updates get overlooked, equipment becomes obsolete and the contact center just continues to operate as they have and they find they are limping along. Those two-year-old desktops are now 6 years old; how time has flown. The first step in a hardware review is scheduling the time and take inventory.

Agent desktops should be running the most current operating system and be no older than 2 years old. Desktop computers have come down so much in price it is no longer a cost issue. Upgrade the router to handle the current volume and move from Cat 5 to Cat 6 Ethernet cables. Routers and cables do wear out. Agent headsets are constantly improving the audio quality, durability and comfort. Take advantage of the newer technology and replace your old headsets.

Look at what agents complain about and how the hardware can be upgraded to support the team. The tools that agents use daily is important to the agent’s job satisfaction. If tools don’t work, that impacts their attitude about the job and company. A bad attitude then is taken out on the customer. Working hardware is more important than you think.

Work Space Vendors

Contact Center Furniture

Commercial Interior Designer

NACSMA Consultant

Furniture

Specialized Office Systems offers customized solutions to deliver printing, promotional products, apparel, office supplies and business furniture to multiple locations across the country. You will receive the personalized service you want and the attention to detail you need.

Interior Designer

Cresa Commercial founded in 1993 was convinced that representing tenants exclusively was the best way to go. Not only would it give our clients the kind of objective, unbiased advice they might not get elsewhere, but it would also give us a unique offering in the real estate marketplace.

Consultant

The North American Customer Service Management Association (NACSMA) assists Service Center professionals with improving the delivery of Customer Care to their clients by providing a collaborative networking approach to operational issues.