Having managed 1000's of telephone system deployments over my career, one subject continues to be the project "speed bump". You might think that the core issues of network configuration, WAN traffic planning, QOS and DHCP services might be the issues that cause a phone system deployment to go "sideways", but you would be wrong. Those issues clearly need to be defined, planned, developed and tested, but we always seem to get the technical issues worked out. The speeds and feeds, the duplex and the QOS always seem to become clear and the system deployment is executed as planned. I am a big fan of incremental, process improvement every day, every step of the way!
The area that always seems to require the most post cut support, however, is not the technical area. It is the User Group area in general and the entire subject of "call flow" in particular that needs more up front planning to assure a successful "go live". When you are hammering out the details of the phone system deployment, we always seem to get the bits and bytes defined, but how about those automated attendant scripts? For reasons that I can only summarize as "procrastination", it seems that "call flow" is the last item to be implemented! Not only has the "call flow" not been carefully considered, the scripts have not be written, reviewed or recorded. It is one hour before "go live" and most deployment managers are scrambling to get a voice to record the Automated Attendant.
On my deployment system design check list, call flow is second only to the dial plan, as a mission critical design issue. It is essential that project deployment managers engage the User Group early on, often and at each step of the deployment to assure success! Clearly without the IT Director, the network definition is going to be less than easy, but without User group buy in on "call flow" you are headed for a disaster come "go live". I make interviewing the Company Operator a key part of our deployment planning and I make sure that there is a User group decision maker present at every planning meeting in which a "call flow" option is being discussed.
What exactly is "call flow"? Each new caller to your place of business, will have an audio experience. "Call Flow" is how we define a vision for that callers experience. Do we want each new call answered by a real person? How do we feel about the use of Automated Attendants? Will a caller have a different experience based on the "time of day" or the "day of the week"? Do all callers dial the same number? Will the "live answer" point be an individual or a group of individuals and do we have a vision of what the caller should experience if the target live answer is not available? Theses questions taken in their entirety define the subject of "call flow" and it remains one of the most important parts of your phone system definition and deployment.
There are a variety of tools that we can employ to create a "call flow". These tools include "automated attendant" menu's that allow callers to "self navigate" through your phone system. "Hunt groups" and "Work groups" can also be used with automated attendants to create "call flow" solutions that, while complex, are designed to assure a positive caller experience. Taking the time to consider how a call flows through your company and planning for all the eventualities (e.g. busy, no answer) is not only essential to your customer service process, but it drives professionalism and demonstrates consideration for the calling public. We have all been abused by Automated solutions, so take the time to consider the message you want to send to someone when they call your place of business. Remember. "you only get one chance to make a first impression".