Contact Center SIP Trunks Part 1 — Reducing Costs and Improving Call Control for Outsourced Contact Centers Today

Cisco has partnered with several outsourced vendors over the years for initial handling of many front-line calls and general information inquiries.  Connecting these vendor environments into a single Cisco customer contact environment is critical for good customer care, but costly and not always easy.  However, early this year we made a change:  we’re using SIP trunking and Cisco Unified Border Element to bring us much closer together, and save money into the bargain.

Traditionally, when engaging vendor services our Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise (UCCE) system routed calls to the desired outsourced vendor over a simple PSTN connection. However, this can get expensive, and doesn’t always provide the best service.  It got expensive because our call volumes (and call costs) continue to grow, and because of tighter budget constraints we couldn’t continue routing calls over the PSTN.  It just was not scalable both from a risk and budget perspective:  it was costing Cisco nearly US $8 million per year just to route our customer calls between our call centers calls throughout the globe.

Another point to consider when using basic PSTN to interconnect contact centres:   you lose important customer information entered at the entry IVR level.  For example if you are requesting specific client or call data (like a ticket or account number, calling number etc) then this is not passed over PSTN.  This can impact customer service as the client and agent may have to re confirm specific data that was already entered upon calling the Contact centre. Secondly when sending calls out via PSTN there is no absolute certainty that the call has been successfully delivered;  we are just sending the call to a predefined PSTN number configured at the partner location (we call this a “Blind Push”).  If a rare  outage occurs on the PSTN circuits or at the carrier exchange you may not know this until informed by a client which can negatively impact your client experience without you even knowing about it.

To reduce this significant spend, mitigate risk and increase business resiliency, we implemented CUBE  on the local voice gateway routers (ASR 1004s) with two DS3 SIP trunks between Cisco and the vendor. Thanks to this configuration it now allows us to route the call over dedicated IP links to the vendor’s Cisco UCCE system. Importantly, there is no more sending the call “blind” over the PSTN network not being certain of 100% successful call delivery 100% of the time. With two SIP circuits and two PSTN circuits for failover at each site, we gained a more robust redundancy and survivability model for these critical communications links.

As a direct result of combining SIP trunks and the Cisco Unified Border Element this has helped us achieve an annual reduction in spend by nearly US$2M.  That’s just the most impressive of many benefits for our contact centers.  I’ll describe some more of these benefits, and where we’re going in the future, in a future blog.

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