Friday, November 18, 2011

The True Customer Experience of a Voice Service

Customers perceive the quality of a voice service and the reliability of a voice service based on many different experiences. Such experiences may be good or bad, but very often customers notice only the bad experience – obviously as they buy a service that is meant to work 100% at any time and from anywhere.

Bad experiences are often caused by network related problems:

• Calls with degraded voice quality
• Interrupted or Dropped calls or VoIP Dropped calls
• Unsuccessful call attempts
• Missed calls that did not ring or calls that were not signaled

Also end device related problems bring negative user experience:

• Empty battery on smartphone
• End device & VoIP Endpoint crashes
• Inability to setup 3 party conference call

For all voice operators, over-the-top (OTT) and legacy networks, these end-device related troubles are very important. Because in the end the customer does not care at all why something is not working! He will blame it on his voice service provider anyway.

As a result when considering the management of customer experience in next generation voice networks, it is very important to look beyond your own network infrastructure. Internet connections, utilization and network problems on the customers’ corporate LAN and end devices cause a large portion of the problems. So it would definitively not be a good idea to consider a service running well, simply because in one’s own network, all systems are up and running.

Instead operators also need to manage:

• End device & VoIP Endpoint firmware versions
• App/softphone software versions
• IP link quality characteristics
• Performance and problems at your Customers’ premises
• Error logs from the end device

Very often problems can be solved by optimizing configurations, codec settings, centralized firmware updates or pro-actively contacting the customer about up-coming problems with his device or software. So a tool is needed that see the endpoint or VoIP device as well as the network. But for all of that, a customer experience management system must provide the full set of information about how the customer truly perceives the service End-to-End.

When looking at customer experience management for VoIP networks, operators should choose a holistic approach and carefully select software solutions that are designed to look far beyond the usual scope and take care about the most important stakeholder in this game – the customer.

Monday, November 14, 2011

VoIP Service Assurance Available in the Cloud

Due to the huge amounts of traffic, telephone network analyzers are complex systems with beefy hardware requirements, complex setup procedures and the need for constant monitoring. For bigger networks the costs to run them is easily worth it, but for smaller networks deploying them might not be feasible. Be it for lack of time to learn how to run them, or because of a too big initial investment.

A recent trend in IT is the introduction of cloud services including for example cloud based service assurance or cloud based VoIP troubleshooting. In this setup the main part of the analyzer system is run in a central system, where it is managed by a knowledgeable and dedicated staff experienced in network monitoring and efficient VoIP troubleshooting. This leads to rapid deployment times and minimal investment to the point where one can just 'Try before you buy' so in other words, troubleshooting on Demand. The advantage of economy of scale brought by cloud based Network Management or cloud based Network Monitoring makes the most advanced analyzers available for even the smallest VoIP providers, leveling the playing field for all. You can even install it at the last minute in just a few seconds and use it when you have a problem

By deploying a VoIP traffic analysis in the cloud, you can usually achieve up-times far better than by using a complicated local setup and you can make sure that your running costs stay predictable. With today's technologies, security and data safety are a well-managed issue, all traffic streams being encrypted. A centralized software setup or hosted service assurance makes updates easier and your service provider is also able to diagnose and fix problems more efficiently by having complete access to the stack.

Cloud-based service assurance or network monitoring or VoIP troubleshooting can now be made available on a pay for use basis. Basically, you pay when you login to troubleshoot a problem on your network. If you do not have a problem, do not ever log in, you do not pay a cent. If you do login, for a small charge for one use, you fix the urgent problem that is troubling your customer. The return on investment for use of the network troubleshooting service is instant. The advantage of having paid the Per-Use fee is obvious to your management, because you have just fixed a difficult problem impacting your voice service. Keeping your customer, your customer and allowing you to move on to creating a new service or engineering your network

Cloud-based network monitoring gives you universal visibility and centralized and universal access to the analysis. One Installation and setup is so rapid it can be used on-demand when needed i.e. VoIP troubleshooting on Demand. In summation, cloud computing brings lots of advantages to VoIP service providers, (ITSP’s) who could not previously afford or justify the expense for a traffic analysis. With generally better availability, a transparent pricing structure (based on usage) and better support options, cloud solutions are surely an understandable trend in today's VoIP software stack market.