Enhance your ShoreTel ECC with Speech Recognition & Chat Bots!

Press 1 for English!

Two characteristics of telecom technology in the 21st century continue to not make sense to us.  Why are we still using fax?  How come we still “Press 1 for this and Press 2 for that”?   I mean really, it is the 21st century after all.   Let’s put fax aside for the moment and focus on the continued use of DTMF key presses in interactive voice response solutions like automated attendants and embedded applications, like bank account balance enquiries.   You would think in this age of AI and Chatbots, you would no longer need to “Press 1 for English”.   The application should be “smart” enough to to know what language you speaking!


ShoreTel ECC

The Shoretel ECC was originally designed and built by a team of engineers led by Avi Silber, former VP of Engineering for Tadiran, who left to form Easy Run a new brand of call center.   Easy Run would ultimately enter into OEM deals with 3COM (remember the NBX?) and later ShoreTel.  We had been working with the ShoreTel ECC since the Easy Run days and considered it one of the best small to medium call center solutions in the market.  We still love it, but it has not had a major feature enhancement in years!  In a call center world dominated by omni-channel solutions, this lack of new functionality, in our humble opinion, seems to be the end of the road for this product.  (As an aside, Avi is now back at Tadiran and the company has acquired the Easy Run code).


For most of the last decade a primary revenue source for DrVoIP was the ongoing support of ShoreTel ECC contact centers.   We think we have installed and maintain more ECC call centers than any other vendor on the planet.  Clients would regularly make requests to enhance ECC.  A common request for example, was to enable SMS or TEXT messages to be routed to the next available agent.  We would code the solution and satisfy that client only to repeat that exercise the next time someone asked for that solution.   For this reason, we determined to productize the solution and created Click2WebChat which brought Text, Video, Chat and Web sharing into the ShoreTel ECC arena.

ShoreTel Speech Recognition IVR?

There is no reason for ShoreTel ECC to be without speech recognition, natural language processing or chat bot technology.  We now regularly front end ShoreTel ECC with AI bots that eliminate the need to “Press 1 for anything”.    You can place a call into a ShoreTel ECC and have a much richer customer experience by offering a natural language interface.   Imagine calling an ECC and having it answer “welcome to the customer support line, how can I route our call”.   Speech Recognition is clearly a more effective solution that rattling off a long list of possible options that the caller can self navigate with a good memory for lists and a touch tone dial pad.  We have been designing and building AI bots that work with ShoreTel ECC and make life a lot easier for both ends of the call center phone conversation.  It is good for the customer and good for the Agent, shaving valuable minutes off each phone call to your ECC.

ShoreTel Chat Bots?

If you look at the content of phone calls to your contact center, you will notice that some large percentage of your customer requests are for the same reasons.   Most call centers have already learned to create a Frequently Asked Questions (i.e. FAQ) database for use by the agents.   The agents do not have to be subject matter experts to answer questions, they just need access to the FAQ database.   Now, what would happen if that database was at the end of a Natural Language processing speech recognition bot that could handle that entire customer interaction without requiring a agent at all?   It is not going to eliminate agents, but it will shift the work load such that agents are used to handle the percentage of your customer requests that are outside the FAQ database.   This is where Chat Bots come in and do an excellent job 24X7, without vacations, holidays, sick days or breaks!

Long ago, we had a company Cobotyx that made “robot receptionists” or COBOTS.  We learned that saying you were replacing low pay receptionists with a low cost machine, was not very smart.   We borrowed an expression from the cybernetics thinker Dr. Norbert Wiener in his 1950 publication “The Human Use of Human Beings” and learned that we are not here to replace humans; we are here to free humans to do the things that only humans can do.

So, if you are considering updating your ShoreTel ECC to add any of this functionality, give us a call and learn just how easy and cost effective this technology can actually be.  – DrVoIP@DrVoIP.com









What is new in ShoreTel Contact Center Version 7?

ShoreTel Recently announced the availability of Version 7 of the Enterprise Contact Center.  It is not secret that I am a big fan of this product, so I was anxious to see what the new version had to offer.    The product has a number of new features and capabilities that are both feature specific and impact the infrastructure of the product.    Anyone who has worked with the ShoreTel iPBX for any period of time will become instantly comfortable with the new ECC system administration interface.  It is now a browser based portal, very similar to the interface used for the iPBX administration.  In fact I would be willing to bet that the new ECC portal will become the standard for the ShoreTel product line and the iPBX  Shoreware Director will take on some of the characteristics of the new ECC 7  administration portal.

Another area in which the ECC has adopted the exiting iPBX  paradigm is in the area of licensing.   Early versions of the ECC required the installation of a hardware dongle on the server and each desktop that ran the Supervisor software.   Dongles are a pain for everyone and beginning with Version 6, ShoreTel began to migrate away from this requirement by eliminating the dongle requirement for Supervisors.  Previous versions of ECC required the installation of the USB Hasp on the server before installing the ECC application.  No dongle, not ECC!   With ECC 7, not only are the dongles not needed, you get the familiar 45 day grace period to run the ECC application and try all the features before you have to provide the license keys.   The server key locks to the MAC of the server, in a fashion similar to the iPBX key.   The ECC application also reads the BIOS serial number of the server for added software protection.

Other infrastructure changes include the support for Windows 2008 R2 64 Bit Servers.   The ECC will support Citrix and WTS clusters and most importantly, roaming profiles are now supported.     The system will now allow for 100 concurrent Supervisors and 1000 concurrent Agents, though you may define 2000 agents in the database configuration.   The application support 400 DNIS reports and historical data can now be kept for 24 months allowing for year over year trend analysis.

An exciting new feature is the addition of Personal Queues.   I am sure we have all had the experience of working with an “agent” on a particular customer service issue, maybe given a “home work “ assignment only to call back and have to start over with a new agent.   The concept of a “Personal Queue” makes it possible for inbound callers to reach specific agents, if you desire that option.  In this way, after completing the “home work” assignment, you can call back in and queue for the agent that originally handled your call in the first place.    Agents can move high priority calls to their personal queue with a simple mouse click.   Historically, if you wanted this option you had to configure a group and service for each agent that required a personal queue.  With Version 7, this process has been streamlined with the creation go a new entity that defines how the caller should be handled while in the personal queue.  A very powerful option and very useful in direct selling environments.

The familiar graphical scripting tools has not changed and scripts are generated using the established procedure.  The Diagnostic console has been upgraded and is more usable for trouble shooting at the System Administrator level.    I am particularly excited about the creation of a Lab SKU, something I would like to see ShoreTel do with the entire product line.  The Lab SKU makes it possible for you to purchase and run a small scale Contact Center along side your production environment.  In this way you can create new scripts,  strategies, call flows and of course, test new upgrades before putting them into your production environment!

ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center “Change Call Profile” icon

How many people hit the Auto Attendant and then dialed one for Sales? One of the most requested reports from ShoreTel clients is the analysis of Automated Attendant key strokes. With in the ShoreTel iPBX there are probably several ways to implement this, but we prefer the use of “route points” (see past blog). “ Thank you for calling our company during our normal business hours. For Sales Press 1, for Service Press 2 or stay on the line and the next available member of our staff will be right with you”. Typical Automated Attendant? We set the time out value to go to a “hunt group” and each of the menu items to a route point. You can actually run a User Detail report against a route point, as long as that route point terminates on a Shoretel end point other than a TAPI end point. For this reason, you can then run the report and find out exactly how many callers dialed one for sales!

Recently, we had to create an Automated Attendant on an Enterprise Contact Center. At first this seemed almost boring, but then we ran into an issue. You can use the MENU icon to create your Automated Attendant script, with a TRANFER icon to each destination selected by the caller. You can use the SCRIP icon to send the caller on to a script to collect information like the callers account number for a SQL database look up; but how do you send a caller to “service”? Now that was a more interesting challenge and I have to thank Chad Burnett for pointing out the use of what has become my favorite new ShoreTel ECC scripting icon: “the Change Profile” action. This icon is a powerful call profile manipulator and enables the Enterprise Contact Center configuration to explode with call processing options.

Using the Change Call Profile icon you can select various Call Profiles for manipulation. Each system contains a number of mandatory system level call profiles like ANI and Caller ID. You as a system designer can also create Call Profiles to meet the needs of your exacting design requirements. For example, you might add the Call Profile “Account Code” that you might use in a script that prompts the caller to enter digits that you will use to look up a record in a SQL database.

The Change Call Profile icon also allows you to select a previously defined SERVICE. The following video clip reviews how the iPBX and the ShoreTel ECC interconnect. It demonstrates the use of the Change Call Profile icon, by demonstrating the creation of a simple automated attendant!

ECC Medical Applications

With all the talk about “health care” you would expect growing demand for  more application integration for this particular industry vertical!  The ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center can process “dial lists” that enable the system  to make outbound phone calls.   The “dial list” typically gets a list of phone numbers from a MySQL database that can be populated by some other application, like scheduling software.   It would not be out of the realm of possibility for the ShoreTel ECC to be used to confirm appointments or to generate a broadcast message that could be confirmed by a script that captures DTMF responses, including the ability to talk to a live person!

The ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center, though primarily and inbound call processing solution, can be applied to do outbound campaign dialing.   In addition to the native SQL scripting tools,  the system  can integrate with a wide variety of applications through either OBDC, XML or “triggers” and we have had experience with each of these options.    There is a young man up in the bay area, Houston Neal,  who has been writing a bit about Health Care Applications and you might take a minute to check out his recent article on this subject:  Seven Great Applications for PBX systems in Medial Practice.

ShoreTel ECC Integrated Tool Bar

The ShoreTel Contact Center or Enterprise Contact Center product development effort has and continues to be a “process” not an “event”.     That is what characterizes software development efforts in general.   You have to know where to draw the line and make a supportable release.     New features are always being added to any evolving product, but knowing when to package up what we have in the process, document it and be able to support it, is what characterizes a new release.    ShoreTel 4.66.07 and Version 8.1 of the ShoreTel IPBX enabled the stable, sustainable release of an integrated Agent tool bar.  (The current Release of ShoreTel ECC is Version 5 is more fully matured)   In prior releases, you had the ShoreTel Personal Call Manager (e.g. PCM)  for your PBX requirements and a separate “Agent” tool bar for your Contact Center requirements.   Today, you can implement a Contact Center with an “Integrated Agent Tool Bar” that combines both interfaces into a single GUI.  

 For those of you familiar with the ShoreTel Workgroup Call Manager will see an immediate resemblance between the new ShoreTel Integrated Tool Bar and the old workgroup toolbar.    Where it might have said Workgroup on the PCM, it now says Contact Center.   You can program tool bar options for “Wrap of Codes” and “Release with Codes”.   Under the Contact Center, supervisors get a range of options that include all of the individual components that make up the various ECC modules.   The only disadvantage that I can find at this time, is that with the standalone Agent Tool Bar, you are able to “write” to the status line of the Agent Tool Bar.  I have not yet been able to do that with the Integrated toolbar, but that is a small price to pay for having a single GUI to manage at the agent desktop.   Using the Agent toolbar alone also enable you to create an environment in which you can have a day shift and a night shift using the same telephone extension.   Changing the log in of a ShoreTel PCM is not a straight forward “user” type process and for that reason, you might elect not to use the integrated toolbar.   Otherwise, take a look, it is an amazing technology and a significant step forward for the product line.  As I said, “development is a process not an event”, so we should expect continue incremental improvements from the ShoreTel ECC team!