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Jason Bloomberg

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Why SD-WAN Technology is Essential for the Modern Contact Center

As enterprises undergo digital transformation, the nature and purpose of their call centers transform as well.

For a pre-digital enterprise, call centers are simply cost centers. As such industrial era companies transform themselves into digital firms, however, call centers become multi-channel, multi-technology contact centers that provide top-line value, rather than simply adding costs to the bottom line.

The secret to this transformation: as digital enterprises seek to delight their customers at every digital moment throughout the customer journey, they must be prepared to engage the customer at those moments when they choose to call, text, chat with, or email the company.

The Transformation of the Call Center

The pre-digital image of a call center as a room full of representatives on headsets is becoming but a small part of the modern contact center story. Today, the renamed contact center rep is just as likely to be on a computer, interacting with customers via chat, social media, or other interaction channels.

Furthermore, reps may not even be in the same room at all. They may be in any of multiple locations around the globe, or even at home. The reality is that today’s contact centers are likely to be virtual, multi-location, and global.

Even today, voice is still a major part of the contact center story, of course – but what has changed is that voice typically goes over Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), freeing contact centers from needing voice lines – but commensurately burdening their Internet connections.

To support this need for diverse, heavy duty Internet access, companies have turned to a combination of Wide-Area Networking (WAN) technologies including Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and broadband – the latter essentially similar to consumer-grade, low-cost Internet connections.

MPLS, however, is an older, expensive technology. For its part, broadband has all-too-familiar performance and reliability issues. Solving these challenges: Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) technology from vendors like Talari Networks.

By dynamically routing traffic over multiple paths to optimize performance, SD-WAN can improve reliability and quality of service, and thus the customer experience as well. SD-WAN solutions also make routing decisions based upon the traffic type, and can thus optimize VoIP performance while maintaining the quality of other interaction channels in real-time.

Talari, for example, measures quality multiple times per second per packet, and is thus able to make sub-second routing decisions. The Talari SD-WAN is thus able to support real-time unified communications within geographically distributed contact centers. Such capabilities make it well-suited for the most demanding situations, including 911 emergency contact centers.

Additional Challenges for Independent Contact Centers

While some enterprises manage and staff their own contact centers, more often than not, companies will outsource this capability to a third-party contact center operator.

Such operators must offer high-quality, cost-effective services to multiple enterprise customers – but not necessarily the same quality to everyone. In fact, most contact center operators prefer to deliver tiered service levels to different customers.

Such tiers do not simply relegate poor performance to budget-conscious customers. Rather, each customer may have different specific requirements. For example, some may wish to use video while others do not. SD-WAN supports such tiering.

Regardless of the business motivations, there are continually increasing demands on internal network and WAN capabilities beyond simply supporting voice calls – demands that lead such operators to implement SD-WAN solutions.

Unified Software in the Cloud

As the capabilities enterprises require of their contact centers proliferate, contact center software vendors have risen to the challenge. They now offer unified contact center applications that combine video chat and social media capabilities along with VoIP, text-based chat, and email.

In addition, such software often runs in a cloud environment, either as a SaaS offering, or hosted within public or private clouds. Given the geographic distribution of the reps themselves, this modern, cloud-centric context for the contact center places even more burdens on the network infrastructure.

Adding to this complexity is the increased role of automated call distributors (ACDs): software that distributes calls among agents based upon a number of rules – but not upon how the network itself is performing. SD-WAN fills this gap.

SD-WAN solutions, therefore, can supplement ACDs by improving reliability, quality of service, as well as offering multiple service tiers – while reducing network costs at the same time.

The Problems with MPLS

Long the standard network technology for WAN links, MPLS today faces two challenges: first, it can cost ten to one hundred times the amount a company pays for the equivalent broadband bandwidth.

Second, it can negatively affect the customer experience during network failures, as dual-MPLS solutions will usually drop calls when the primary MPLS connection goes down.

For contact centers that still rely upon MPLS, therefore, SD-WAN is absolutely essential, because it addresses both of these challenges.

Because contact center WANs transport a mixture of voice and other real-time traffic as well as more standard web traffic, optimizing the usage of such connections can improve both the cost-effectiveness of the MPLS links as well as the reliability and performance of all the connections available to the contact center.

SD-WAN also provides for centralized management, reducing management costs, particularly as organizations geographically distribute their contact centers.

Without such centralization, such contact centers are at the mercy of separate MPLS providers. With SD-WAN technology, in contrast, companies can minimize the number of MPLS providers without jeopardizing any of the other benefits of the technology.

In many cases, contact center operators can leverage SD-WAN technology to replace some or all of their MPLS links with broadband connections – without foregoing reliability or quality of service.

Today, few contact centers are replacing all of their MPLS links, but they nevertheless find that moving to redundant broadband connections is both cost-effective and reliable for remote locations as part of a SD-WAN deployment.

The Intellyx Take

Digital transformation initiatives require strategic decisions about the customer experience. For enterprises with contact centers, such decisions must extend to all parts of the contact center strategy, including the network itself.

Before attempting such transformations, companies have treated contact centers as separate silos, and the networks that support them as technology silos in their own right.

No more. Customer delight is now a strategic priority, and the experience a customer has when they wish to contact a company is at the forefront of delivering such an experience.

Far from being a technology silo, network considerations are now central to such digital initiatives. SD-WAN technology makes this digital priority a reality, while managing costs in the process.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Talari Networks is an Intellyx client. At the time of writing, none of the other organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx clients. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this paper. Image credit: public domain.

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More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).