• September 22, 2003
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Advancements In VoIP

Plantronics today introduced DA60, its digital voice platform for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) softphones (digital voice software embedded on a PC), providing improved clarity, portable personal headset settings, and enhanced security. The sluggish telecommunications industry and poor-clarity issues facing VoIP have traditionally plagued the industry, spawning the perception that VoIP is "something that's still blue sky and way out there," says Paul Stockford, lead analyst at Saddletree Research. However, the fact that a sizeable company with $338 million in revenue is investing in the nascent technology may be just what the VoIP industry needs to kick it into high gear. According to a Yankee Group report released earlier this year, contact center managers are looking to implement voiceover IP over the next 12 months. In fact, 23 percent of contact center managers polled in the report, called "Web-Based Customer Care: The Gradual Move to Second- and Third-Generation Solutions," cited a growing interest in VoIP. VoIP and Internet telephony have raised eyebrows for their ability to communicate through an organization's WAN and avoid the tolls charged by ordinary telephone service providers. Customer care centers are beginning to understand the benefits of IP technology, according to Stockford, particularly in centers with 250 or fewer seats where IP deployments are starting to gain traction. Larger companies, he adds, have already made significant investments in their legacy public switched telephone network infrastructures prior to Y2K. The DA60 includes digital signal processing and call-clarity technology to enhance audio quality and suppress echo. This reduces agent talk time and increases productivity by minimizing the amount of times an agent has to repeat herself. Because call center agents and managers share workstations, the solution's PerSono Pro 2.0 stores settings on the network so agents can retrieve their own settings no matter which workstation they are assigned. To protect agents' hearing, the DA60 provides managers with continuous decibel monitoring of agents' exposure to loudness levels to comply with OSHA regulations. The DA60 includes additional security measures that instantly shut the application down when agents leave their desks to retrieve a file or take a break. "Agents are supposed to log off a screen when they check a file, but they almost never do," says Nick Eisner, principal product manager at Plantronics. Once an agent disengages the headset's Quick Disconnect feature, PerSono Pro 2.0 activates Windows' password-protect mode so that no unauthorized person has access to customers' financial data or personal details. "While the adoption rate is slow, virtually every one of our customers has a VoIP pilot and the number of customers that plan on implementing VoIP over next couple of years continues to grow," Eisner says. Despite the telecommunications industry's current economic slump, he expects to see it bounce back with stronger interest in VoIP by 2006.
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