Monday, October 28, 2013

2Ring COMPACT AGENT v1.1: Is this really just a minor release?

As I am writing this brief overview of 2Ring COMPACT AGENT v1.1.0, this fresh release has already been deployed in its first Cisco demonstration lab. It is also being deployed in another Cisco lab with the goal of testing this solution as an alternative (simpler) interface to Cisco Finesse for Cisco Remote Expert solution. We are very happy that we see a lot of excitement about this from all sides!

For those who don't know what 2Ring COMPACT AGENT for Cisco Jabber is, let's say that it is a simplified version of the Cisco Finesse agent desktop application utilizing Cisco Finesse API to connect to Cisco UCC Enterprise v9 and above or to UCC Express 10 and above. The first version of 2Ring COMPACT AGENT only provided an alternative user interface for agent state control and also for accepting/rejecting incoming phone calls. Cisco TechWiseTV recently did a nice overview of version 1.0 in one of its episodes here or you can watch a bit more detailed overview here. 

FEATURES THAT YOU EXPECT

1) Agent State Control including Delayed States
An agent can change his state to Ready or NotReady, including selection of the appropriate reason code. Also added was support for delayed agent states: an agent requests a change in his state, but he will not be switched to the desired state until it is possible (e.g., if an agent switched to NotReady - CoffeeBreak while on a call, his status is shown as "not ready - pending" and once the call is finished, he is free for his coffee break).

2) Comprehensive Call Control
It is possible to accept or reject incoming calls. On top of that, it is also possible to place a call by pasting or typing in a number that should be dialed. Calls can also be put on hold (and yes, they can also be resumed ;)). Agents can do call transfers (via a warm or single step transfer), join calls to a conference, or do consult calls.

3) Documentation
Detailed admin and user guides make deployment and configuration of the solution seamless. No need for 2Ring professional services, do it all on your own!

FEATURES THAT ARE EXCEPTIONAL

1) Powerful and Flexible Data Visualization
Not only is every incoming call (inbound or campaign call) accompanied by a display of call variables (as configured in Cisco Finesse), but it is also possible to extend the call context via the use of configuration of 2Ring COMPACT AGENT. This allows you to display custom labeled values as hyperlinks. To give you some practical use cases of what agents can use these links for:
  • open a caller's contact card in the company's CRM system
  • open a page with shipment details
  • open an IM / chat session (Jabber, MS Lync) with ADM (Account Delivery Manager) or AM (Account Manager)
  • open a new email message to a caller or other contact related to the caller's account
  • open a new project in a case tracking system
  • open a file-share with project documents
  • open a guiding workflow or advanced wrap-up form provided by 2Ring SCRIPTS&FORMS
  • ..
2) Touch-First
You will notice that the buttons have gotten bigger and generally, the entire UI was developed with users on touch-screen devices in mind first.
Remote Export / Agent on a call via 2Ring COMPACT AGENT v1.1 inside of Cisco Jabber Client for Windows
HOW CAN I GET MY HANDS ON 2Ring COMPACT AGENT?
Yes, there are multiple options:
  • Request a live demo and have a discussion about becoming a 2Ring ADVANCED PARTNER and about getting this installed in your lab
  • Go to Cisco dCloud. 2Ring COMPACT AGENT v1.0 and older version of our GADGETS are both part of the UCCE v2 environment. Please note that we can also share an updated version of the UCCE v2 environment with you. Updated means that it contains the latest 2Ring GADGETS and the latest 2Ring COMPACT AGENT. If interested in this option, please email us your CCO Login.
  • Wait a little bit and go to dCloud in Q1/2014. 2Ring GADGETS (incl. COMPACT AGENT) will be part of the final version of Cisco UCCX10 and UCCE10 environments that are currently being prepared.
To stay in touch (and be the first to learn about a video showing the new COMPACT AGENT), follow us on Twitter or sign up to the RSS feed on the right.

Cheers!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

2Ring PHONE SERVICES - Benefits for Education


My first two blog posts covered a bit of history and theory about reporting and alerting on 2Ring PHONE SERVICES. Now it is time to show you how to use this solution in real life. 

The first vertical that I am going to focus on is

EDUCATION
Generally speaking, in education, many IP systems are located outside (speakers, cameras, door entry system, safety devices), but even more of them can be found inside of buildings - in hallways, classrooms, .. (speakers, intercoms, cameras, emergency buttons, safety devices, IP phones). These are just the most common devices used for communication, live and periodic announcements, security, and emergency. 

Let's see how 2Ring PHONE SERVICES helps here:

Regular, Repetitive Tasks

  • Locks - group and schedule opening/locking of IP locks, so e.g., the main entrance(s) are  automatically locked / opened at different times than class locks
  • Announcementsschedule special broadcasts, e.g., school bells, prerecorded morning announcements, or closing time announcements, for the appropriate group of IP speakers. These announcements do not have to be limited to broadcasts, but they can also be delivered in the form of a text message or image displayed on Cisco IP Phones. 

Ad-hoc & Emergency Events

  • Live & Ad-Hoc Announcements - allow authorized users to start live announcements to specific groups of numbers (e.g., to the whole school or teachers' offices, ..)
  • Locks - open or lock appropriate locks directly from Cisco IP Phones, smartphones and/or tablets. When a call arrives from a door entry system - when someone presses a button on the door-entry system to open the door, a phone, such as the one on the teacher's desk in the classroom displays a picture from the camera as well as a button (soft-key) for door opening 
  • Cameras - access streams from IP cameras on Cisco IP Phones, smart phones, and tablets
  • Panic buttons - launch predefined actions (play audio sound, send messages or even call specified numbers, open / lock locks, etc.) directly from Cisco IP Phones, smart phones, or tablets as well as from selected hardware solutions.
  • 911 alerts - a call to 911 (or to other defined numbers) can start an alert in the background allowing security personnel to receive information immediately

Mobility
Remote users are other important alert targets. Using your regular home phone or smartphone, you can start or receive a page voice broadcast. If you have your smartphone around, you can use it to open/lock locks and receive messages - e.g., those sent by 2Ring PHONE SERVICES alerting.


Summary
Create your own special configuration with respect to your emergency procedures, and prepare everything to keep your students and staff safe even in situations like these:

  • Fire & Weather Emergency
  • Water or gas leak, or other facility/equipment malfunction
  • Chemical alert in a lab
  • Intruder
  • ..
Last but not least, you manage everything from above via a single web GUI. 

Please do not hesitate to send us feedback, feature requests, and questions regarding the solution. We will listen and work hard to add features that meet your needs.


Jiri Princ

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What’s new in 2Ring PHONE SERVICES v6.4?

The brand new 6.4 version, already available as a 60-day trial here, adds another rich set of features enhancing Cisco IP Phones:

1. New, even more powerful, CLID information
Now receive even more detailed information about every incoming call. CLID info can cover any contact information synced to the database of 2Ring PHONE SERVICES (e.g. site, supervisor, VIP status, revenue generated in the last year, etc.).
2. Real-time notification of your missed calls
Have an email or a text message (SMS) sent to you about missed calls (to all extensions that are assigned to your user account). Not only will you get notified about the number trying to reach you, but if the number is already part of 2Ring PHONE SERVICES, then you will also get complete information about the caller (name, surname, company) so you can call him back from wherever you are.
3. More Universal Voice Paging

You can still use your Cisco IP Phone as a universal paging system – broadcast your message to Cisco IP Phones, IP speakers, and overhead systems. Now, traditional paging via multicast can also be extended with calls to Cisco Jabber or any external, e.g. mobile, numbers. Plus, you can start the broadcast from you cellphone – all you have to do is to call a dedicated extension registered on CUCM – and if you use this type of broadcast, you can first record your message, listen to it, and if it is all good, then send the broadcast.
4. Cisco IP Phone Background / Wallpaper Changer
Administrators, change the background/wallpaper on IP Phones with ease.
5. Initiator of paging gets to see the list of paging members 
View a list of active/inactive extensions directly on your IP Phone.
6. RSS Reader
View personalized RSS feeds.
7.     Weather Forecast
View current weather info and weather forecasts (in pure text form).
Please help us spread the word about all these new features added to 2Ring PHONE SERVICES (IPPS) v6.4 - Advanced Edition.

Cisco Support Community is still full of posts about problems that could easily be solved by using 2Ring PHONESERVICES. Therefore, if you like our 2Ring PHONE SERVICES, please spread the word around and let other folks know that they do not really have to work hard to build their own custom directories, phone-lock service, caller identification, blacklists, and more. The full list of features provided by 2Ring PHONE SERVICES is available here.

Take advantage of your Cisco IP telephony like never before.
The 2Ring Team





Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2Ring at GITEX

GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK is the biggest technology event of the year in the entire Middle East. This event will take place in the Dubai World Trade Center October 20-24th. We would be more than happy to see you at our partner’s booth at Zabeel Hall Z-B30 Cisco/B-Smart where 2Ring will be represented by our EMEAR Channel Director Peter Kolenic



Peter and our partners from B-Smart will be presenting a number of awesome 2Ring solutions. Get ready to see in the action new version of 2Ring PHONE SERVICES IPPS v6.4 and 2Ring DASHBOARDS& WALLBOARDS. Make sure to ask Peter about our solution GADGETS for CiscoFinesse and much much more. 

And that is not all. Whether you have deployed Cisco IP Telephony or Cisco Call Centre make sure to stop by. You will be amazed by our solutions we have to offer to enhance your IP telephony and/or Cisco Contact Center.

So, do not hesitate and stop at B-Smart (our ME partner) to learn more about Cisco IP telephony enhancements. In case you cannot make it to the GITEX, give a shout out to Peter on twitter @Peter_Kolenic  to ask him anything or just network.

We hope to see everyone there,

2Ring TEAM


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Example of an Incomplete IVR Tree Design

I have lived in the US for a while now; in fact, I am celebrating 1 year of living here this weekend. One of the things that I learned quickly was the need to register all  phone numbers with the Do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov). However, life is not that simple and you can end up on someone's list.

I am not sure how my cell number got on Wells Fargo's campaign list. I mean, either the bank is calling the previous owner of my number or someone else just wrote their number down wrong. Either way, I started getting these automated Wells Fargo IVR campaign calls: "This is an important message for XY regarding card services. If this is XY press 1, if not press 5." (or something similar to that). The IVR tree is smart enough to eventually offer the option of "this is a wrong number," but when you go on that path, it tells you to call a generic 1-800-???-???? number. That's exactly how much I remember from that number and that's the problem. I always get the call when I am not able to write the number down. Would it be such a huge problem to repeat it a second time? Also, if you really need to talk to me, and just selecting the option of "this is not a correct number" is not enough, why doesn't the IVR offer the option of being connected to an agent? Or why not send a text message to the number saying, please call this number to be taken off the list. I have nothing against Wells Fargo, but this is fantastically annoying.

So when designing your IVR tree, think about the other side - the recipients of your calls - and account for all possible scenarios thoroughly.


@MichalGrebac (www.twitter.com/MichalGrebac), 2Ring




Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How to integrate Cisco Contact Center with the tools/applications that agents use?

There are three approaches to handling agents' user experience in a Cisco contact center:

1. Integrate apps to an Agent Desktop
Integrate applications and systems that agents use often (e.g. a CRM, Case Tracking System, Knowledge Base, intranet resources, ..) inside of an agent desktop application. There are multiple choices such as Cisco Finesse or Cisco Agent Desktop, or for those with Package UCCE or UCCE, even a CTI-OS Based desktop with integrated browser.

For those with a CCO login, here is a nice comparison of these three agent desktop platforms. Please note that some features can be added to Cisco Finesse via the use of 3rd party gadgets, such as 2Ring GADGETS for Cisco Finesse (described here in detail – part 1 and part 2).

2. Integrate agents’ controls to an application
Integrate call center functionality (such as call control and agent state control - via the use of Finesse API) inside of the system that agents use (e.g., Salesforce). This can be done via Cisco Unified CRM Connector.

3. Do not integrate
Use a so-called liaise-faire approach. Agents use an agent desktop application for the contact center functionality and perform all other tasks in different (usually in multiple) application windows. This results in a messy screen with
  • too many distractions related to switching among various application windows during calls,
  • manual caller identification (no automatic passing of data from the contact center system to the CRM application).
  • usually not a very seamless contact history management as any interaction with a customer is not stored automatically.
This is not a complete list of the disadvantages of this approach, but I will leave it at that since this is obviously not a desirable approach.

Why to integrated systems inside of Cisco Finesse?
The goal of this blog post is to focus on comparing Approach #1 and #2. So for what reasons should an organization with Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise (9.1 and up - including Package UCCE)/Express (10 and up) decide to go with Approach #1 – to integrate all the systems inside of Cisco Finesse?

1. Cisco Finesse is a thin, web-based agent desktop platform that doesn't require the installation of any components on the agents' workstations. This makes agent setup/management much easier, keeping operational costs low.

2. Cisco Finesse provides means for a very easy and quick extensibility of the agent interface by adding gadgets containing new resources or tools. To quote a client of ours who has experienced customizations related to a CTI-OS based desktop and is now using Cisco Finesse, “It is much faster to extend Cisco Finesse than, for example, a CTI-OS Based Client or a CRM system.”

3. Cisco Finesse offers team-based configuration, meaning that every team in the contact center can work with Finesse integrated with a different set of applications, tools, systems, ..

4. Cisco Finesse also allows very basic homegrown integrations, such as opening the contact card of a caller in a new tab of a browser.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I will stop here for a second since I would like to make a case for the added value of some 2Ring GADGETS that extend Cisco Finesse. I would even argue that for a properly designed integration of Cisco Finesse with multiple systems, you need 2Ring GADGETS - especially 2Ring ORCHESTRATOR, 2Ring (Multi-Tab) BROWSER, and 2Ring infoPANEL.

We at 2Ring have brought the configurability of the user interface to another level. When Cisco Finesse is extended with the 2Ring BROWSER Gadget, it is possible to run multiple systems inside of one GADGET - in one area. After all, you don't want your agents to be scrolling up and down in Finesse as if it were a long newspaper article. The multi-tab browser from 2Ring makes it super easy to switch between various applications manually or to have 2Ring ORCHESTRATOR do so automatically.

Imagine that on the arrival of a new call, depending on the customer's choices in the IVR, or by using other information available about the calling customer, a particular tab inside of 2Ring BROWSER can be brought to the front and some values about the call can be passed to this tab/to this system.

This can lead to opening the contact card of the caller or setting up a new ticket in the case tracking system with some of the fields prefilled for the agent – all resulting in enormous time savings. Again, you don't want agents to leave the tab with Finesse to go serve a client in a CRM system. Agents need to have quick and easy access to all the other resources that Finesse can offer - after all, just to end a call or change a state means a few additional time-eating and distracting clicks.

But back to the primary topic of this post.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Those were the benefits of integrating tools that agents use into Cisco Finesse; however, it should also be pointed out that Cisco Finesse provides no means for integrating thick clients running directly on a desktop. Your odds get a little better when you add 2Ring ORCHESTRATOR which is able to communicate with various services. However, if an organization only uses one (CRM) system and is planning on sticking with it for a long time, then it should explore the use of Cisco Finesse API to bring @CiscoCC controls into it. This will allow you to:
  • leverage the native API of the CRM system,
  • have easier access to all data of that CRM system.
  • navigate super easily between different screens within one CRM system.
Conclusion
So, those are my thoughts on this topic - obviously I find integration into Cisco Finesse much more flexible. What are yours thoughts? Any other pros/cons that you can think of or that you have seen/experienced? How did your organization decide to handle the integration of @CiscoCC with the tools that agents use?

Looking forward to your thoughts in the discussion below.
@MichalGrebac

PS: I would also like to thank @Mirronelli for his precious inputs. Without his help, this blog post would have probably just stayed in my head or have been added as another bullet on my list of things to do/to write about.




Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What do 2Ring GADGETS bring to Cisco Finesse? (Part 2 - Enhanced Bundle)

In the first (and a little bit longer) part of this blog (if you missed it, read it here) I described the standard bundle of 2Ring GADGETS for Cisco Finesse. Part 2 will focus on two solutions that are added in the ENHANCED bundle: 2Ring DASHBOARDS & WALLBOARDS and 2Ring SCRIPTS & FORMS.

1. 2Ring DASHBOARDS & WALLBOARDS
A client-server solution that empowers supervisors to control content displayed on plasma screens in Cisco Contact Centers (Express or Enterprise) or on any Windows-based machine. I say "content" because in addition to displaying any of the out-of-the-box KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or any KPIs that your MS SQL engineers build, you can also display other content - a message ticker (marque), web reports, pictures, PowerPoint slides, flash videos or flash apps.



 The solution comes with a neat web-based configuration tool that includes an intuitive slicer allowing supervisors to easily build new or modify any of the existing layouts, modify thresholds on existing KPIs, and change any visual aspect of the layouts.




A free trial will allow you to download a 2Ring DW Client application that will access data from 2Ring's server in the cloud (MS Azure). Plus, you will obtain access to the web-based configuration tool on the same MS Azure server (the login screen is here), so you will be able to check out all the configuration options and even build a completely new layout to run in the downloaded 2Ring DW Client. It is truly a quick way of testing the solution's user interface before tying it into your existing UCCX or UCCE environment. 

A detailed presentation, including a schema that explains how the solution works, can be found here.

2. 2Ring SCRIPTS & FORMS
A web-based solution that Cisco Contact Centers can use in two ways - 1) as a very advanced and flexible wrap-up form (to collect information on which services are provided by agents on every call), and 2) as a scripting tool navigating agents during a call (mostly used for outbound campaigns).

The out-of-the-box wrap-up form options provided by Cisco have their limitations. In Cisco Finesse, the wrap-up form offering has improved a lot (compared to a CTI-OS Toolkit or CAD) since an agent is provided with a new wrap-up form upon a new call. If your needs are basic, then you are OK with the out-of-the-box forms, but if you need to use multiple wrap-up forms with many possible entries and multiple levels, then you should look into 2Ring SCRIPTS & FORMS. Click here for an example of an advanced form. It uses basic checks & balances (if an agent selects something on the 1st level, s/he won't be able to submit the form unless a 2nd-level value is selected as well) and can be built with check boxes, radio buttons, or even blank fields following a tree structure split into multiple columns if needed).



Guiding agents on calls - either inbound or outbound - is another common use for 2Ring SCRIPTS & FORMS. Depending on the customer's answers, the form slowly unfolds along the appropriate branch and offers the agent another level of the script. From the agent's perspective, it is positive that the form allows the agent to input the customer's data directly into the form, so the agent doesn't have to switch to another application or applications during the call. Obviously, it is possible to use multiple forms and scripts at the same time and provide the agent with the appropriate form depending on call variables (driven either by selection in the IVR or the customer's profile or other logic). 

Every submitted form/script is stored in a database (MS SQL Server) along with CallID and some other call-related data, so it is then easy to provide advanced reporting either using Cisco Unified Intelligence Center or other reporting tools (such as MS SQL Reporting Services).

Coming back to Cisco Finesse, the forms/scripts can be hosted in a separate gadget or even in a separate tab of the browser in which Cisco Finesse is running, but usually these gadgets run in one of the tabs of 2Ring BROWSER, and agents have a button configured in 2Ring infoPANEL to access the list of other forms/scripts in case the one that was populated automatically is not correct for the current situation.

A detailed presentation, including a schema that explains how the solution works, can be found here.
I don't want to keep this too long, so I will finish here for now, but if you have any questions, please post them below or reach out to me on Twitter.

Michal, @MichalGrebac


Monday, July 1, 2013

2Ring PHONE SERVICES 6.3.1: ALERTING

Last time I wrote about the reporting services of 2Ring PHONE SERVICES (read the blog here), and today I am going to cover Alerting.

As with reporting, Alerting also started with our CLID (Caller Identification) feature. Once we have information about incoming, outgoing, or internal calls, there is no reason why we cannot send notification about these calls. This easy-to-see discovery led to a stream of ideas about what we can do, e.g. monitor long calls or calls to emergency numbers (911, 112) and also provide missed call alerts. Through our discussions, the concept became quite easy to imagine.

In IPPS, 6.3.1., it is possible to create rules that invoke alerts when a device/extension (or a group of devices/extensions) makes/receives a call or when a call is received from or placed to a particular external number (or to a number that is on a list). Such rules can be then limited to call length, business hours, etc.


And what about actions?
When we identified the list of events that could trigger an alert, we started working on identifying what an alert should look like. Should it be a simple text message and image? Another question that needed to be answered was who should be the receiver of these alerts – an administrator, a manager, an internal line "owner"? It was obvious that the answer would be different in each case, and thus, we decided to support it all: sending alerts to specified numbers, email addresses, or groups as well as having the option of sending an announcement to the line owner. The types of notifications/alerts that you can use are wide:

·         Texting to IP phones, Cisco Jabber clients, cell-phones or emails
·         Sending an image displayed on IP phones
·         Paging a prerecorded voice message
·         Placing a call to a specified number
·         Launching live paging on a specific device to a specified group of numbers
·         Dropping a call
·         Clearing an IP phone’s screen
·         Opening an XML page on a IP phone(s)
·         Sending a URL request

And, as you probably already assume, a rule can be associated with an unlimited number of actions.

And as the cherry on top, you do not need to run actions via rules; instead, you can launch them manually and/or schedule them via the 2Ring PHONE SERVICES internal scheduler, Windows scheduler, and or any other scheduler that is able to target a URL address.

That’s my piece on IPPS Alerts, and next time, I will cover several use cases of how they are used in production.

Until next time, live long and prosper!

Jiri Princ @Princatko