Telecommunications Solutions for Global Business: International Call Forwarding and SIP Phone Numbers
Technical support is a term that can be used to describe any industry that serves businesses and individuals seeking to improve their experience with a wide range of mechanical and electronic devices. Since it is most closely associated with communications technology, however, it is imperative that tech-support firms are bolstered by secure, reliable, cost-effective telecommunications that can not only bridge geographic boundaries, but also integrate video, chat and other mediums. With the exception of knowledgeable, diligent employees to answer the calls, the platform on which those calls come and go is the most crucial element of a technical-support operation. As the Internet telephone revolution progresses, many businesses are finding that VoIP backed by Session Initiation Protocol provides superior results.
Session Initiation Protocol
Unveiled in 1996, Session Initiation Protocol, or SIP, is a communications platform that is renowned for its flexibility, security and ability to deliver several modes of communication — including audio, video, text, file transfer, fax over IP, emergency services and even online games — through the same line. Generally used by larger companies with more than 20 employees, SIP is the framework on which many voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, telephone systems are built. Traditional public switched telephone network, or PTSN, lines required bundles of physical cables to be stretched from the provider to the business. SIP technology bypasses the need for such hardware by replacing the traditional trunking service with the Internet through a SIP-enabled device.
Immediate Benefits of SIP
By providing a direct connection between your business and your Internet telephony service provider, or ITSP, through a SIP trunk, the technology generally makes a business's communications network considerably less expensive to operate and maintain, eventually making up for the initial investment. An SIP framework — as opposed to the popular private branch exchange, or PBX, system, for example — can produce a VoIP system that is not only less expensive in the long run, but far more customizable and flexible.
SIP and the Technical Support Industry
If your business is tech support, telecommunications is a load-bearing pillar of your enterprise. Aside from monetary savings (SIP trunks cost around half as much as analog circuits, long-distance termination charges are significantly cheaper than traditional analog or TDM rates and calls are a fraction of a penny per minute), SIP ensures customer familiarity. Since incoming and outgoing calls are attached to local area codes, all calls are local calls with SIP. For a tech support facility, SIP affords the luxury of having local, long distance, international and broadband Internet service rolled into one entity.
Rerouting and Disaster Recovery
Workflow and productivity can suffer an immediate interruption when a technical-support firm encounters disabled communications due to an emergency, outage or instance of data loss. SIP trunks are bolstered with failover services that automatically reroute calls to remote locations in the event of an outage, corrupted connection or power interruption. Whether the user opts to have the calls diverted to a satellite office or simply a personal mobile phone, SIP diversion allows workflow to continue unhindered, even in an IT crisis.
Unified Communications and SIP
Unified communications, or UC, is a conceptual practice that doesn't have a set definition, but that strives to incorporate multiple levels of communication into a single entity. The race toward a VoIP-dominant world is predicated largely on reduced costs, but also on UC. VoIP backed by SIP allows the merging of voice, video, text, chat, email and other modes into a single, integrated system — a setup that is designed to bolster technical-support enterprises. Technical contact centers have seen gains of more than 20 percent after switching to an SIP-based, integrated UC system.
So many businesses outsource their technical support to overseas call centers because, strategically, it often makes sense. Outsourcing allows a business to focus on its core competency while farming out important, yet distracting necessities to third-party specialists that are dedicated to doing only that. From health insurance to legal services, virtually every business outsources something, and tech support often falls into the category of functions that can be better handled by a specialist while freeing up finite resources for work that must be handled locally.
The Labor Cost/Service Tradeoff
Although it's natural for entrepreneurs to hesitate to entrust a crucial segment of their business to an outside firm, outsourcing technical support almost always reduces labor costs — especially if a U.S.-based firm elects to base their tech support in another country. Savings are realized not only in relation to direct staffing costs such as lower pay and diminished or non-existent benefits, but outsourcing brings indirect labor savings in the form of payroll taxes, human resources requirements and personnel documentation. One key tradeoff, however, is that language and accent barriers — as well as a general stigma associated with American firms moving jobs overseas — can diminish the experience of the client or customer initiating the call. This concern can be mitigated with an international call forwarding system — attached to a local number, a toll-free number or a universal international freephone number — that can route a call originating from essentially anywhere in the world to a central location without the customer being alerted. That leaves it up to the company doing the outsourcing to hire a reputable firm staffed by representatives with competent language and service skills.
SIP provides the underpinning for some of the most modern, efficient and integrated VoIP communications that exist in business today. For technical-support firms that rely on organized, secure telecommunications as a cornerstone of their business structure, SIP offers the flexibility of almost-limitless customization, security against power or connection failures, total UC integration of virtually any mode of communication and, of course, significant and long-term savings in cost. For businesses that outsource their tech-support, SIP provides the built-in framework to handle international call forwarding, which can route a call made from anywhere to a call center in any location. The smallest businesses, with less than 20 employees, are not always good candidates for the start-up costs and infrastructure maintenance associated with SIP, but for many larger tech-support firms, SIP is a logical package deal.