Verizon Business bolsters VoIP offerings for call centers

* Verizon Business to offer several hosted VoIP services for call centers

Verizon Business in September will offer several hosted VoIP services aimed at call centers that are migrating from legacy telephone services to converged voice and data services running on the IP.

The new services include IP Tollfree Service for routing incoming toll-free calls and IP interactive voice response (IVR) for call processing. Both of these will allow call centers to support IP across their WANs as well as on their LANs.

Verizon Business also announced IP Trunking, which allows customers to eliminate the need for premise-based gateways. With all of these services, Verizon Business now supports IP phones from Avaya as well as Cisco.

Verizon Business officials said these new services are designed for call centers that are re-engineering themselves via IP to support new features and distributed operations including remote- and home-based workers.

"Our customers are making a journey into IP, and we are there no matter where they are at in that journey because we know they are not going to forklift out their [legacy] equipment and replace it with IP," says Jim Tyrrell, executive director of advanced voice services for Verizon Business.

Until recently, most call centers consisted of several hundred telephone agents in one location answering toll-free telephone calls. Increasingly, companies are supporting more than one call center in remote locations as well as home-based workers.

Companies are migrating to all-IP environments for their call centers because it allows them to re-engineer their processes to support distributed operations. For example, Yankee Group estimates that by 2007 nearly 50% of all customer contact centers will deploy VoIP to agent desktops.

"IP is perfect for this because it is location agnostic," says Michael Barnes, director of contact center services product marketing for Verizon Business. "IP allows you to tie together multiple locations and multiple agents to provide better customer service."

IP also offers reduced costs. Verizon Business estimates that IP can lower access costs by up to 20% and call transfer costs by five centers per call. With the new hosted services from Verizon Business, customers can save $25,000 to $50,000 by eliminating the need for gateway equipment to convert regular telephone calls to VoIP.

The new IP Tollfree service supports multiple media, including phone calls, e-mail and instant messaging. It allows call centers to transfer calls using the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) at reduced cost.

IP IVR supports call processing in a pure IP environment, for both inbound and outbound calls. It supports voice compression and bandwidth allocation for improved efficiencies and cost savings especially for global operations. Incoming calls can terminate to traditional time division multiplexer (TDM) or IP endpoints.

The new IP Trunking service supports Avaya Communication Manager as well as Cisco Call Manager and Cisco Call Manager Express. Verizon Business says it is working with two additional IP PBX manufacturers and hopes to announce support for their equipment by year-end.

"You will see further interoperability announcements with other large vendors as well," Barnes says.

Verizon Business is signing up customers for trials of these new services. Most of its call center customers are in healthcare, financial services and government.

"What this is really about is allowing customers to do more for less, to change their business processes and globalize their operations," Barnes says. "A company might have a contact center in Dublin, Ireland and another in Dublin, Ohio. Now they can globalize their operations and combine everything from outsourcing to home sourcing. IP allows them to re-engineer their business processes and save money by lowering their total cost of ownership."

Read more about these offerings here.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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