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!



Deploying the ShoreTel Personal Call Manager through AD Group Policy!

Installing a ShoreTel IPBX solution is a process not an event. I have previously published a book entitled “VoIP System Planning Guide” that can be download from the DrVoIP site. This guide covers the basics for planning and managing a VoIP deployment in general and a ShoreTel solution in particular. The “devil is in the details” however and though the process can be understood, the individual tasks required to complete the process generally prove there is no substitute for hands on experience!

Every installation technician comes to that fork in the road that deals with the deployment of the ShoreTel Personal Call Manager software. Deploying the actual telephone instruments is a pure act of labor, but the Personal Call Manager is an act of commitment! Each desktop in the installation will need to be touched by someone, and I do not consider an installation complete until the Call Managers are deployed and operational. There is a component of this effort that involves interVLAN routing, (e.g. getting from the desktop data network to the phone server), but I am now focused exclusively on the actual installation of the PCM software.

There are three strategies that are generally employed to accomplish this. The first strategy is obviously to visit each desktop with a DVD or Thumb drive and load the software! For the installer this is very labor intensive and requires that the install have administrative desktop privileges or maybe even domain privileges. The second option, is to push the software out to the desktops through and email link set from the ShoreTel Director portal to each ShoreTel user. This is a bit less labor intensive, but it still requires the desktop users to have administrative installation rights to their own desktop computers. Most large IT environments do not grant this privilege to plain vanilla users!

The third option, however, has the most promise as being both labor economical while maintaining network security. We can create and Active Directory Group Policy to push the PCM out to the user and have it installed without user involvement. To do this you will need to create a few objects, modify the organization unit containing the computers and users that will be effected by the new group policy. (Refer to Microsoft Knowledge base article 816102). First you create a Distribution point; the create a Group Policy Object, assign a package and then publish your installation package. This strategy is the preferred implementation practice for deployments of any scale and installation technicians should become familiar with the basics of implementing this solution. We will publish a video on both the blog and the DrVoIP site that will demonstrate this solution.

ShoreTel Contact Center – Integrated Agent Tool Bar

ShoreTel Contact Center Agent Tool Bar
The ShoreTel Contact Center provides two strategies for call management at the desktop.   We have found that the basic ‘agent tool bar’ is an excellent solution for call center desktops in which different shifts sit at the same desk, use the same computer and phone.  It is easy enough to program the tool bar to prompt the agent for there log-in information.   In this way, you can set up your phones with extension numbers that multiple agents can use.  When an agent reports to work, they go to their assigned desk and log-in, using an extension that might have been used by a different Agent on the previous shift.  The ShoreTel Contact Center keeps track of what agent used what extension during what time slot.   On desks that are dedicated to an individual agent, the agent tool bar can be integrated into the ShoreTel Personal Call Manager.   The Personal Call Manager looks like a Workgroup Agent call manager, but the tool bar indicates “contact center” and the drop down list contains information that is appropriate to the ShoreTel Contact Center or Enterprise Contact Center.    There is one additional advantage of the stand alone Agent Tool bar.   You can push custom parameters, named “call profiles” in ShoreTel documentation, to the Agent Tool bar.  We find that you do not have the same flexibility with the Integrated Tool Bar inside the ShoreTel Personal Call Manager.

ShoreTel Personal Call Manager with Integrated Contact Center

Priority Call Management?

Are all your customers equal?  Every business owner, large or small knows the answer to that question and the answer is no!    We have Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze customers,  each of which represents a different value to the business.  For this reason, we often want to structure our call flow to prioritize these customers.     You do not have to work in a “call center” to manage this priority scheme.   The ShoreTel Personal Call Manager, for example, provides a visual call management tool that enables you to apply the concept of “priority call management”.  I know the value of my current telephone conversation.  It is the value of the next phone call that I want to be alert for.   We have all had the experience of being on the phone talking and suddenly seeing the messaging waiting light illuminate on our phone!  You immediately know that the very phone call you had been waiting for, slipped right past your ear and into the voice mail.   With a personal call manager, I can see the next phone call as it arrives and take appropriate action.  I can ask the current caller to hold.  I have my ShoreTel Call Manager set so that a second important call to my desk  can be sent to a greeting that says “Hi, I see you ringing in and if you hold the line, I will wrap up the call I am on and be right with you”.  (Send me an email and I will share how I set that up).  Optionally, I could have put the first call on hold and taken the second, higher priority caller.  The issue is simply:  when the financial, time or relationship value of the next call is more important, you will truly value having a visual, personal priority call manager only a click away!