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Issue of December 2002 
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Building a call center

Manjushree Infotech wanted to enter the IT Enabled Services space and decided to set up a call center in Kolkata. Although inexperienced in the call center business, the company decided upon the appropriate technology and solution platform after evaluation. by Soutiman Das Gupta

Manjushree Infotech decided to enter the IT Enabled Services (ITES) space because it felt that this area had a lot of business potential. It received a mandate from the Health Management Organization (HMO) in USA to support its call center in Tampa, Florida. And in order to support the operations of this facility, Manjushree Infotech decided to set up a call center in Kolkata with the required infrastructure.

In a nutshell
  • The company
    Manjushree Infotech is a part of the B.K. Birla Group of Companies. It wanted to enter the IT Enabled Services space and decided to set up a call center in Kolkata.
  • The problem
    Since it had no experience in call centers the company had to decide upon the appropriate technology and platform on which to construct the solution.
  • The solution
    The company deployed an appropriate call center solution which had QoS features and supported voice, data, and multimedia integration capabililties.
  • The benefits
    The call center is able to support 1,600 incoming calls a day. Customers can use multiple reporting capabilities through e-mail, voice, and the Web. It enables the company to track expenses and agent productivity.

THE SOLUTION PLAN
The plan was to build a small setup comprising 25 seats which could scale up when business picked up and new clients were acquired. The company had to keep a number of aspects in mind in order to plan the setup.

"We had to look for a technology platform and a call center solution that would be quick to deploy keeping in mind our customer's need, address our expansion plans, and support a future need for convergence," said Sam Swaminathan, CEO, Manjushree Infotech.

The solution had to be scalable enough to support the company's expansion plans. It had to be built on an integrated single infrastructure in order to exploit the convergence in data, voice, and video. It was compulsory for the WAN to have QoS features since voice would be the primary medium of communication. And the solution had to support multimedia applications and use the benefits of convergence to deliver multiple modes of interaction with customers.

It was also important to build the converged, multi-service infrastructure based on IP. The availability of a wide variety of applications on IP for voice, data and video were highlighted as key drivers for the adoption of technology. And this infrastructure had to interoperate seamlessly with legacy PBX, based on TDM voice in the US.
"Since we had no prior experience with call centers and there were various solutions available in the market to address our needs, we decided to adopt an extensive evaluation process. All vendors presented their suggested technology direction for voice and video to our decision-makers and teams of technical consultants belonging to our customer in the US," said Amit Choudhury, Principal Consultant, Manjushree Infotech.

The company conducted discussions with various vendors like Lucent, Nortel, and Cisco for architectural designs and directions for the call center technology.

"We chose Cisco because it had the requisite experience and expertise in setting up call centers. Cisco also promised to stay focused on customer satisfaction and offered an end-to-end solution," said Swaminathan.

IMPLEMENTATION
The implementation process began with the setup of a WAN, which connected Kolkata to the Tampa Florida-based call center. A 512K leased line link was set up via satellite. The link connected to the LAN at the Manjushree call center in Kolkata. This allowed the call center agents to communicate with HMO's US customers.

The company deployed Cisco's IP Voice Gateway and LAN gear, like the Cisco 3600 series routers and the Cisco 4000 series switch. The IP Voice Gateway was linked with the legacy PBX in the US and supported TDM voice call termination in the US. It also allowed the conversion of calls to IP for transporting to India.

The company then deployed Cisco IPCC (IP Contact Center) and Cisco IP Telephony solutions at the call center LAN at Kolkata.

Cisco's IPCC & IP Telephony solution comprised:

  • Cisco Intelligent Contact Management (ICM)
  • Cisco IP IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
  • Cisco Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) Desktop
  • Cisco Collaboration Server
  • Cisco Call Manager
  • Cisco IP Phones

"There were a few delivery issues with the equipment which were solved quickly. The Call Manager software needed to be tuned a bit and router software versions had to be upgraded", said Choudhury.

Disaster recovery set up
  • Power
    Two UPSs take over in case of a failure. Each is capable of supporting the entire load for 40 minutes. A full load generator can take over within two minutes of a blackout.
  • Voice switches
    Each Cisco Catalyst 4006 switch has two modules with 48 ports in each. This can support 48 agent seats.
  • Contact Manager software
    The central controlling system of the call center is the Intelligent Contact Manager (ICM) software from Cisco. Two Compaq DL 380 servers running two copies of ICM that mirror each other act as failover in case of disaster.
  • Call Manager software
    The primary system that controls all the calls of the call center is the Central Call Manager (CCM) from Cisco. The setup has two CCMs running on separate hardware boxes that act as a failover for the other.

The functions
The solutions helped to combine software Automated Call Distribution (ACD) functionality with IP telephony in a unified environment. The call center can also extend its current infrastructure to connect other geographically distant contact centers it may open in future.

The ICM software provides ACD functionality including monitoring and control of agent state, routing and queuing of contacts, CTI capabilities, real-time data for agents and supervisors, and historical reporting. The IVR unit performs self-service functions and call treatment messages to queued callers.

The CTI Desktop delivers a set of customer-specific information collected from the Internet, carrier networks, IVRs, databases, and other applications to the desktop of the call center agents. The agent can view the data and get pop-up screens which provide more information.

The Cisco Collaboration Server provides customers multiple communication choices like e-mail and Web-based chat. And the Cisco Call Manager software provides traditional PBX telephony features and functions like basic call processing, signaling, and connection services to a packet telephony device like an IP phone.

A VoIP gateway was deployed at the Tampa Florida call center.

FRUITS OF LABOR
The call center began operations on January 04, 2000 and now handles around 1,600 incoming calls a day. Each call consumes around 11.2 Kbps bandwidth.

The company is able to integrate PSTN and Web-based communication channels through Web collaboration and e-mail response management capabilities. Since the solution is on IP, the architecture is open, and able to support interoperability with other vendor devices and applications.

The solution also provides multiple reporting capabilities with various views of resource utilization. It enables the company to track expenses and agent productivity and provides dynamic reporting to end-customers.

IN FUTURE
The company plans to increase the number of seats to 100 and perhaps more when new customers are acquired. It also plans to upgrade its WAN link to 2 Mbps.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at soutimand@networkmagazineindia.com

 
     
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