The ROI of a “Call Back” option!

In his newly released ebook, Fonolo founder, Shai Berger, defines Abandoned Calls Rate as the Number of Abandoned Calls / Total Calls.  Abandoned calls represent not only a lost revenue opportunity, but they cost you hard dollars. Shai does a masterful job at outlining these costs in a way that business folks can understand.  Throughout my 35+ year career in telecommunications,  I have witnessed the pain of  Call Center management endlessly struggling to increase customer service levels and response times with limited available resources.   One solution,  hire more agents until there are no busy signals is never considered.  Yet business managers never tire of adding more incoming telephone lines,  queuing more and more customers to wait on hold for longer periods of time, resulting in lower customer service levels and higher abandonment rates!


Recently we heard of a company, HOLDYR,  that actually makes a product that allows people to select what music they want to hear while on hold!  As Shai points out in his book, if you think this is a joke, take a road trip with your browser open to to see the rants of folks who have been on hold.  Putting customers on hold will result in lost business and high frustration levels.  You will also be tying up a phone line for the duration of that hold period.  Couple that phone line to an incoming toll free number and the cost per minute of hold is even more dramatic. Only the IRS can leave folks on hold and care less about abandoned call rates, most competitive businesses prefer to take action.

Call Backs offer reduced operating costs, smooth traffic demand, and fully employ customer service resources,  so why not provide callers that option?  After  answering an incoming call and finding no agents are currently available, the caller is offered the option to “receive a call back without losing your place in queue”.   If the customer elects this option, we can confirm their caller id or ask for the number we should call them back at.  Fonolo offers a number of equipment agnostic “virtual queuing” solutions that can be added to an existing call center.


We can take this strategy to yet another level by providing call back options that do not even require a call to your customer service center at all!   Web based call backs are one example, in which a client on your website provides a phone number and requests a call back.  We are particularly fond of TEXT based solutions in which the customer sends a text message, and either receives a call back immediately, or receives a text with an estimated call back time.  This text can prompt for an alternative call back number or time for call back.  In both cases however, there is no need to queue callers or to have more telephone lines than you have customer service agents.  (In fact, if you think about it, under the right conditions you might not need a call center at all!)

Send “TextMyECC” to 760-867-1000 for a sample interaction.  We can even build these  solutions around Smartphone apps which completely eliminate automated attendants, IVR and queuing, but allowing the customer to directly interact with the correct call center queue to schedule a “call back”!
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The sad sound of a silent voice

Since late 1998, I have had the pleasure of working with the wonderful folks at OnHoldAdvertising!  The husband and wife team of Brent Brace and Karen Kelly have produced literally millions of voice prompts for thousands of systems throughout the American Business Communications landscape.  Karen can be heard on more automated attendants and voice mail systems in this country than we have touch tone keys to push!  Behind the scenes, unless you required a superior male voice artist, was Brent working away tirelessly as the editor and producer.  They brought “a human voice to a technical wilderness” and great joy to those they worked with.


Brent had been fighting one of those long term muscular and neurological diseases for years, but not once did you ever hear him complain about it.   A Vietnam Veteran,  Brent soldiered on, and built an outstanding business, and a greatly admired professional reputation.  Most recently in the Denver area where he and Karen had relocated from Southern California, he had been teaching voice artistry workshops.  Brent entered Hospice at home a few weeks back, yet he was still directing our voice production!   Unfortunately, Brent passed away in the early morning of this Memorial day weekend. We will miss his voice forever!  Our heart is heavy and we are again reminded that “business” is conducted by “people”.

Karen will continue the wonderful work of On Hold Advertising but will need some time to process all that has happened this year.  If the voice these folks have produced has touched your life, please send Karen a note of care and consolation.

“Soft and safe to thy my brother, be thy resting place.”


ShoreTel ECC “Sticky Email” ?

Call Center or Contact Center?

Call Centers had no sooner become “Contact” Centers  when multimedia “nice to have” features became “must have” requirements.   The more mobile the customer base, the more likely they are on a smart phone and not sitting at a desk computer.  They want “contact”, however they want to communicate.  That used to mean voice by telephone, but might now mean text, chat, email and now video!   (See our Blog on this subject.)  Email, however, is an interesting option as it cuts across platforms and can be read at the desk or on the phone. For this reason, it is still a strong feature requirement on the Contact Center landscape.

ShoreTel has had the ability to route an incoming email to an agent, much the way an incoming phone call is routed to the next available agent.   Send an email to and the ShoreTel ECC will grab it from the mail server and route it to the next available Agent.  ShoreTel ECC will even allow an Agent, already engaged in a phone call, to take that email and work with it, increasing Agent productivity and cutting customer service response times.

One of the challenges with ShoreTel ECC email however, has been the ability to route the email to the same agent who initially responded to the customers’ first email request.   An Agent might get an incoming email, answer the email and send it back to the customer.   The customer might have a follow up request and when they hit reply, to the reply, there is no assurance that the original Agent will get that same email.  Often the email is routed to the next available agent, as if it was a first time contact.

Why do you “Sticky Email”?

The solution here is to create a “sticky” email. One that will relate the original customer request to the Agent who initially handled the response until such time as the case is closed.  This can be done with the existing ShoreTel ECC tool set.   Using the C2G or Interaction reporting database and some SQL glue,  an incoming email can be reviewed before it is passed on to the Agent.  That review process would check the Interaction database to see if the FROM field has been previously entered into the database during, say the last 30 days.   If so, the email is routed to the personal email queue, within ECC, of the Agent who responded to that email!

Simple, elegant and actually it is really quite cool!   We have been using this process to manage our Text to ECC email messages for some time and have now adopted it for ShoreTel ECC routing.  Text the word “STICKY” to the phone number 858-223-1040 or email us at We can get your Contact Center connected! While you are at it,  we can set you up with TEXT to Agent as well!

(Note – The CISCO UCCX has “sticky email” built into the application along with Chat, and Social Mining!   This is a great overview of how CISCO does this feature).






V14 Configuring ShoreTel SIP Trunks P2 -SonicWall or InGate SBC?

A question that keeps coming up in the support ticket system is the subject of InGate and Session Border Controllers.  Folks want to know if you need a SBC to configure a SIP trunk.  Why not just use a Firewall?  Can you configure ShoreTel SIP trunks to work without a SBC?  The simple answer is “yes” but the smart answer is “no”.  In our humble opinion, just because you can do it, does not mean you should do it!   Session Border controllers, like those offered by Intuit for ShoreTel,  provide functionality not normally found on a firewall.   “Normalization” for example, the ability to mediate ShoreTel SIP and your carrier’s  SIP, as they most likely speak a different “dialect” of the common language SIP, is not a standard firewall feature.

Application Level Gateways, sometimes take actions that are injurious to SIP messages.  Remember, SIP was not designed for NAT based networks.   Something has to keep track of which internal private trusted network users made a SIP request for service to another IP address across an untrusted boundary!  Which RTP (voice, video or “media”) ports need to be opened to support this request?  SBC can do this more effectively than firewalls. At the end of the day, you end up turning off the SIP ALG functions in your firewall to make it work! (In SonicWall turn off  “consistent NAT” and “SIP transformations”.)

We have never recommended bringing your SIP services into your VoIP deployment over the same circuit as your Internet circuit, but so be it.   At least, let’s use a separate IP address and make use of the DMZ port on your firewall, if you are not going to use a separate circuit!  Let us try to keep the SIP traffic from undergoing the same port specific inspections you put the Internet traffic on!  Again our best practice recommendation for ShoreTel, if you are serious about SIP trunks as the main Communications link for your company, is get an Intuit SBC and bring your service in on a separate circuit or IP!

SonicWall has for sometime, had a number of “service objects” to support the ShoreTel MGCP phones.  In fact, before SIP was enabled on ShoreTel, all media flowed on port 5004 which was really great for enabling transport level QoS!   Though there is a steady trend to use TLS and get both SIP messages and RTP over a single port, most SIP carriers expect to send messages on UDP 5060.   So if you are using a SonicWall, you will need to create new Service Objects, and put them in new Service Groups to get SIP to work.   You will need to configure Network Objects for your ShoreTel SIP proxy and configure access rules.  We recommend you also create a network object for your ITSP rather than enabling  an open 5060 for all the script kiddies running SipVicious!

We will do this again on a  CISCO ASA 5505 just for giggles as we get a lot of requests for that as well!  At the end of the day, however, for a serious business application of SIP trunks on ShoreTel, get a separate circuit and invest in an Ingate SBC!  Heck, you can even get a virtualized version of InGate!

Network Security begins with an “Acceptable Use” Policy!

Most folks seem to understand what a firewall is and why it is so very important. They intuitively understand they need something between the “trusted” internal computer network, and the wild west we call the Internet! The installation of a firewall is generally something all business do, from the wireless network at the local coffee shop, to the medium size law firm and the giant multinational distributed enterprise. The barbarians are at the door, but with a firewall we all feel protected! The largest percentage of cyber security risks, however, do not come through the front door and your firewall will never see them enter. The largest risk to the security of your network comes from the employees and guests allowed, either connected by wire or wireless, to attach to your corporate network.

As a CISCO Certified Security Professional, DrVoIP does a great deal of work in the area of computer network security. When called on to do a “Security audit”, “voice readiness” or “network assessment”, the first question we ask executive management is where is your AUP? After all, we can tell you what protocols are running around on your network, and even which user is consuming the most bandwidth. We cannot, however, tell you if they are allowed to use that bandwidth! The creation of an “acceptable use” policy (i.e., AUP) is an essential first step in network security. The AUP communicates to all network users what is supported and what applications are allowed on the network. It describes what is acceptable regarding personal email, blogging, file sharing, web hosting, instant messaging, music and video streaming. It defines what activity is strictly prohibited on the network and clearly outlines what constitutes “excessive use”. The computer network is a valuable corporate asset and as such, it needs to be valued, protected, and secured.

Does your company have a network access and authentication policy? What is the “password” policy? Do you even 0need a password to use the company network? Can anyone just come in and plug whatever phone, pad or computer device they happen to have into the company network? What is the data storage and retention policy? Do you allow VPN tunnels that extend your company network to a home office or coffee shop? Do you allow your users to connect third party provided equipment to your network? Is it acceptable that Bob just added a hub to his office network connection so he can plug in his own printer? How do we feel if Bob plugs in his own wireless access point? Do we have a “guest” network and do we let those folks know what is acceptable on your network?

What are the legal ramifications and liabilities you are exposed to if you are providing a computer network as part of a lease agreement? Are you liable for damages if your computer network is unavailable or “down for any reason? If Home Land Security shows up because your company’s public IP address was traced as originating a terrorist treat, do you have the user agreements in place to mitigate the costs you are about to incur defending your good name and reputation?

Computer network security is more than a firewall. A computer with an Ebola virus, Adware or nefarious RAT (remote access terminal) will infect all computers on your network, threaten your corporate data and render your firewall as useless as a screen door on a submarine. If your company has taken the prudent step of providing a Human Resource or employee manual that spells out the company’s position on work force violence, sexual harassment, vacation day accrual and drugs in the workplace, why don’t you have a manual that defines the acceptable use of your most vital corporate assess, the computer network?

Contact and ask us to send you a sample AUP!   We can assist with the creation of an acceptable use policy that makes sense for your company and your employees while protecting your valuable communication and collaboration asset, the company Intranet!  Then and only then can we do an effective “network assessment”. – DrVoIP