In my previous blog, I stressed the importance of using cloud technology to quickly move call center agents to a safe, work-at-home environment, to continue support for their customers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. In this blog, I explore the challenges and pitfalls of a common alternative tactic many companies are employing to enable remote agents: using Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections to their legacy on-premises phone system.
IT executives across the globe are currently facing the urgent need to remote enable their contact center staff. If you’re still running an on-premises phone system, chances are you already have a VPN network in place to support a percentage of teleworkers – maybe 10 to 20% – for disaster recovery scenarios. So, one reaction might be to extend that VPN network to your entire staff, leaving your on-premises phone system in place.
On the other hand, you know you’ve been wanting to move your contact center to the cloud to take advantage of efficiencies, cost savings and better customer experiences, but haven’t had a compelling event to make the move. If there was ever a compelling event, COVID-19 is it. This is your company’s justification to move to the cloud immediately. Why not embrace the opportunity?
Which of these alternatives – VPN or Cloud – makes the most sense in terms of speed, cost and reliability? Spoiler alert: the right answer is NOT VPN. Here’s why:
Do you know whether your VPN has the capacity to scale and support high call volumes? You built your VPN network to support a relatively small subset of your workers and now you need to support 100% of your agents, who are working the phone constantly all day long – something your VPN was never designed for. So, you already have a dilemma. Have you done load testing at high volumes for a fully remote agent workforce? You most likely need to build out more VPN capacity – upgraded firewalls, routers and VPN concentrators. That takes money, and more importantly, it takes time. Are you going to risk that money and your business continuity on something that is untested? Additionally, you’ll need more internet bandwidth; an additional cost and the implementation from your internet provider can take 60-90 days.
Finally, what’s your contingency plan if the VPN option doesn’t work? How will you support your customers?
With a modern cloud contact center solution like Talkdesk ®, agent capacity is uncapped. You can have ten agents or 10,000, and you can flex agent capacity up or down in minutes. Talkdesk is hardware-free – there’s no technology build-out required. We also provide the advantage of unlimited inbound trunking and call queuing capacity.
Reliability and Voice Quality
VPN networks are notorious for instability and poor call quality. Do you know what the impact will be once all your remote agents are handling calls through your VPN? Have you tested for it? Imagine the impact of an unreliable network connection and poor call quality to your customer experience. There is a tangible cost to losing calls.
Talkdesk is the only contact center solutions provider to offer a 100% uptime SLA. Talkdesk GCN is built with distributed systems engineering practices using diverse cloud infrastructure providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS). Talkdesk leverages a webRTC client with the latest high quality adjustable codec (opus). And, we provide hands-free Quality of Service – there is no tuning or configuring required to prioritize voice. Talkdesk’s average MOS score is 4.25 globally and 4.28 for North America. Our call quality is guaranteed by a Global Low Latency (GLL) architecture that optimizes call quality for all geographies, ensuring that each call travels the most direct route through regional nodes.
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Speed to Deploy, Ramp
With a VPN build-out for remote agents you’ll need more hardware and more internet capacity. These will require weeks if not months to deploy, with unknown results. While the agents will be using the existing telephony system, there will still be training required and a learning curve to use the new home VPN setup.
Talkdesk’s web-based client deploys in minutes to agents and supervisors. There’s no waiting to build out a VPN infrastructure. They just fire up their web browser and they’re taking calls. Talkdesk’s intuitive agent UX paired with online training from Talkdesk Academy means agents can ramp quickly. Once on Talkdesk, agents will be instantly more productive and able to deliver better customer experiences.
Talkdesk offers several options to quickly remote-enable your contact center staff: With Talkdesk Now, we can move your contact center to the cloud and your agents to remote work in as few as 24 hours. This option will be faster and lower risk than a VPN build-out.
One of the most critical changes with enabling a work-at-home call center staff is team management. Supervisors who are normally accustomed to face-to-face management will now have a whole new set of challenges. For example, to monitor calls, they will no longer be able to sit next to the agent and “jack-in” to their desk phone. How will contact center reporting work with a home VPN? Will supervisors be able to report in real-time? How will they be able to monitor calls?
As a cloud-native solution, Talkdesk is inherently built for at-home workers, with robust remote supervisor capabilities. For example, HotelTonight operates 100% remote agents. With Talkdesk, supervisors can access real-time operational reporting dashboards any time, anywhere to track KPIs, agent performance and more. Talkdesk also provides a powerful business intelligence (BI) tool for remote operational reporting and analysis. Supervisors can also silently monitor and record calls of any agent regardless of their location around the globe. Talkdesk Workforce Management was designed to support the modern realities of remote call center operations.
With an at-home VPN deployment, consider that it can take roughly 30 minutes of IT time per person (at home agent) to configure the VPN clients – now multiply that by the number of agents you have. Add to that the ongoing support needed. So now you’re crushing your helpdesk, you’re spending a lot of money on extra hardware, and you have to roll up software clients for every home agent. All for something you’re not sure is going to work.
With Talkdesk’s cloud-native solution, there’s no hardware investment, no software to manually update and no IT overhead. Your agents just log into a web browser and they’re taking calls instantly. It’s that simple.
Investment for the Future
The urgency brought on by the coronavirus pandemic provides companies with a unique opportunity to invest in technology not only for the present, but also for the future. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive. On one hand, you can throw money at old 2001 VPN technology and further prolong the inevitable move of your legacy phone system to the cloud. You’re also buying and building out technology that you will no longer use once the pandemic is over and agents return to the contact center.
Alternatively, you can use this unique and unprecedented opportunity to set up your contact center for the future, by moving to the cloud and taking advantage of all that entails: First and foremost for the pandemic; getting your agents working remotely faster, in a more cost-effective and reliable environment. Second, providing more agent productivity, lower cost, higher agent satisfaction and superior customer service. Third, taking advantage of a stream of ongoing innovation that will drive further business agility, operational efficiency and customer experience excellence well into the future. The ROI is on the cloud.