Looking for Setup Advice

I have a client that is a little out of my realm. (I’m pretty new to this, and previous experience has been with real estate agencies and investors) I am hoping for some advice, I have a meeting tomorrow to present a project manager with a proposal.

This client currently has 3 locations, possibly adding a 4th in the near future. One location should be considered a corporate/main office, another is where 95% of the phone traffic is. Another is a warehouse and currently has no phone service, the 4th if added will at least at first be another warehouse.

The main office currently has 3 incoming lines, one exclusively for faxes.

The satellite with the most phone traffic currently has 4 incoming lines, plus one exclusively for faxes.

Both locations are on Key systems.

At the least, the satellite is under an AT&T phone contract since they have JUST (dec 8th) upped the line count from 2 to 4 non-fax lines.

A VERY rough guess of the number of incoming/outgoing calls from the satellite is around 1000 per day during most of the year. During the busy season (summer) this number could double. Hours of operation is from about 7am-10pm.

Agent staffing has just been raised from 2 on duty, to ranging from 2 in the early morning and late night, to 4 during the heart of the day. Aside from those 4 extentions there is 1 supervisor who handles escalations, 1 office manager, 1 warehouse person, and 1 admin person.

This business has grown rapidly over the past few months, and is struggling to grow it’s infrastructure to keep up.

The business consists of roughly 45 field techs who call in jobs to dispatchers in the office. The techs are spread out over 4 cities in 2 states. Each call might average only 1-2 minutes. The dispatchers must also call each customer after the job is complete to get a survey done about how the tech did at the job. This call might last 2-3 minutes. Dispatchers must also sometimes call customers before the tech arrives if the customer requests a call to meet, so they can get home from work to meet the tech. This call might last 30 seconds.

So, now that you know what is required I have a few questions.

  1. what server specs would you say are needed for the satellite office? I am hoping an old desktop can be converted for cost reasons. While there are lots of calls, there aren’t a huge number of concurrent calls.

  2. Routing Plan. My idea is to enter the tech’s cell numbers and have them routed to either their own menu, or directly into a queue. These techs call in 10-20 times per day and a robust menu system would get tedious and annoying. Meanwhile having another menu for customers who call in with their own queue. Does anyone have a better way to minimize menu options for techs but still give customers a fuller range to choose from?

I thought of doing this based on incoming phone numbers, but whatever shows up on caller ID is what both customers and techs will end up calling in on.

  1. Hardphones or softphones? I think that the dispatchers could use softphones, but the rest of the office will need hardphones. Is there any way to get around having to purchase all new hardware and/or interface with the key system to avoid that cost?

  2. Advantages. Quite honestly I am having a bit of a time coming up with as many advantages as I normally can. The cost of this upgrade for the client keeps extending any savings. Scalability and internal monitoring for QC seems to be the biggest advantages. I have to be missing something…

  3. My thoughts on the other locations are to use old PCs that are sitting around not doing anything and setting all trunking up through the office with the greatest phone traffic. Thus negating the need for more AT&T bills than is absolutely needed. Anyone see any problems with doing this? The warehouses barely have a need for service, so getting them involved is more of a bonus than anything else.

  4. Bandwidth? Assuming 4 AT&T lines to be in place for at least the foreseeable future with only overflow going to SIPs I don’t think that any more than a business class TWC internet connection is needed. I believe it is 1.5M down, 768 up. Considering VPN requirements for everyone at the office would this be enough if everything was done via SIP and AIX?

I know this was long and I don’t know if anyone is willing to answer, but if you took the time to read this thank you in advance for any advice you can give.

You’ll probably get varying opinions as to what is a good setup. So here is mine :smile:

For the satellite offices, install an embedded asterisk pbx. There are a few different vendors that provide these including Digium AA-50, VDEX-40, etc… With the embedded system there is less chance of failure than using an old pc that is collecting dust.

For the routing plan, you can route based on callerid. If you have each of the techs numbers in a database somewhere you can do a lookup when they call call in and route accordingly. You can even use astdb if you want for this.

Regarding integrating with your current key systems it is possible, but would likely be cheaper to just purchase the sip hardphones and ebay the existing key system. If they still wanted to integrate, include the costs of the additional interface cards.

Advantages are tough, it depends on what the customer is doing. If you can provide a better way of doing something or automate a manual task (Customer ID lookup or screen pops) for the customer that could be something. Some companies just want dialtone for the cheapest price which asterisk may or may not be the best fit.

Bandwidth is tough… It depends on what they plan on doing with the link. If it is going to be used for transferring files over the vpn, or watching youtube videos all day, you are going to potentially have issues. If it is strictly for voip, you can get a few simultaneous channels up the quantity will depend on the codec chosen.