Perform: Monitor to Assure a Great User Experience

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1 Whitepaper Perform: Monitor to Assure a Great User Experience

2 Introduction IP-based network infrastructures provide many benefits. They open the door to creating a Unified Communications (UC) environment that can handle not only voice traffic, but also web, , video, chat, and more. They can integrate with contact center systems (IVR, CTI, CRM, etc.) and enterprise applications (ERP, etc.). New functionality even allows companies to track presence, a process which provides an understanding of user status and availability and helps businesses understand how best to contact people (text, phone, , etc.). However, this expanded functionality comes with an increase in network complexity. If you are following best practices, you have preempted issues in your initial implementation by testing the pieces of the infrastructure individually and as part of the holistic environment, across all processes and applications before bringing it into production in order to preempt issues from affecting customers.at the same time, IP-based infrastructures are not static. Patches, upgrades, application additions, and other changes occur after networks go live. Misconfigurations can cause glitches such as one-way audio, screen-pop errors, or call routing issues. Increases in call and data volume can affect network performance, resulting in lack of service availability and dropped calls. Voice quality can also be affected, resulting in chopped or garbled, underwater sound. While all of these issues cause headaches for the IT department, they also negatively impact internal and external customers. Internal customers are annoyed by lack of voice quality, inability to access appropriate information, and failure to properly service customers. Even more importantly, external customers react to service issues by providing negative feedback (which can be quickly spread through various social media channels) and taking their business elsewhere. Customer loss results in a hit to the bottom line, one which is even more painful given today s slow economy. After preempting issues during implementation, you need to keep performance at peak levels by proactively monitoring the IP-based infrastructure end-to-end, in order to keep performance smooth by quickly identifying service-impacting issues, troubleshooting to find the cause of the problems before they affect customers, and preventing problems from recurring. Ultimately, this process will result in a good customer experience and increased business. Understanding the Customer Experience Good customer service can provide your company with an edge over the competition and help you retain customers. In fact, improvement of the customer experience index score produces a real dollar value, ranging from a low of $40M for large retailers to a high of $1.7B for wireless carriers. An improvement in the customer experience also has a positive impact on purchase intent, likelihood to switch to a competitor, and likelihood to recommend your business. 1 In contrast, a bad customer experience can and will be shared with thousands of others via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, rapidly causing damage to a company s reputation and loss of customers, old and new. One major challenge organizations face is in trying to understand the true experience of customers who contact them. Even when it looks as though each component of your network is working well on its own, there may be a breakdown in communication between components that is causing a negative user experience. Network impairments can cause packet loss (whereby words are dropped), delays (whereby the transfer of a phrase from the speaker to the listener takes so long that people overlap sentences), jitter (whereby audio is delayed sometimes so much that packets are lost), low signal level (whereby it is difficult to hear what is being said), and echo (whereby everything the speaker says is repeated). Network complexity can also result in speech distortion when, for example, gateways or varying telephony devices (e.g., cell or speaker phones) are involved. The only way to quickly solve (and sometimes avoid) these issues is to proactively monitor your VoIP infrastructure.

3 Discovering Issues Quickly End-to-end monitoring of your IPbased infrastructure provides proactive and predictive information that allows you to take action when and where it is necessary. In order to comprehend the customer experience, automated monitoring solutions often produce scores (e.g., Mean Opinion Score or MOS and Perceptual Evaluation of example, when you comprehensively monitor your communication systems and thereby reduce the number and impact of errors, you can increase your organization s ability to take calls, make sales, and raise customer satisfaction. You also reduce latencies and downtimes, provide a superior customer experience, and help minimize customer churn. MOS Quality Impairment 5 Excellent Imperceptible 4 Good Perceptible but not annoying 3 Fair Slightly annoying 2 Poor Annoying 1 Bad Very annoying Figure 1: MOS Scale Speech Quality or PESQ) that clarify In addition to solving current issues, the impact of an impairment. Once you can use monitoring solutions you know a problem exists, these to track trends in applications and solutions can help you drive through systems to highlight where issues the infrastructure s layers to determine may occur in the future, based on the origin of the issue and improve usage patterns, response or queuing your understanding of the customer timing, and IVR performance. experience. With the growing Uncovering recurring issues and complexity of IP networks, 46% of trends can sometimes be even more companies have new monitoring and important than discovering one-off analytic technologies in use and this issues. This type of discovery process provides them with a competitive can help you side-step the necessity edge. 2 of fixing the same issue multiple times or even avoid the problem There are many benefits to monitoring. completely. First of all, detecting and resolving problems early enables you to improve Moreover, monitoring helps prevent overall infrastructure performance. For the finger pointing that occurs between the different teams (e.g., contact center and IT). This is especially critical as voice and data networks merge, with VoIP driving the process. As technologies and teams come together, it becomes more challenging to understand the source of an issue. With a monitoring solution, you can better clarify how and where issues occurred and ensure that the correct team deals with the problem. There are a number of ways to monitor your communication systems to produce information that you can employ to better understand the user experience and fix issues that may affect that experience before your customers and business are negatively impacted. Each option brings with it advantages and disadvantages. The four main methods are passive network, passive device, active network, and active application monitoring. Perform: Your Communications Network Passive monitoring gives you a bird s eye view of the situation, similar to viewing highway traffic patterns from the air. It can be simple and low-cost, and it covers all traffic. A passive network probe continuously analyzes real user VoIP traffic in a particular network segment, providing Quality of Service (QoS) metrics around such areas as jitter, round trip time, and packet loss. The result is information that can be translated into a MOS

4 voice quality score. Because these metrics are gained from a source that is independent of the communication infrastructure devices, the results can be dependable. One thing to note, however, is that a passive network probe cannot monitor encrypted voice traffic. Passive device probes are another option. They gather VoIP/QoS metrics directly from the core IP telephony components and correlate the results to produce a MOS voice quality score. This type of monitoring is generally a software solution that is low cost and lighter weight than hardwarebased passive network probes. It is also simple to configure and generally a vendor-specific solution which is plug-and-play. On the negative side, because QoS metrics come directly from the PBX vendor, there is no independent measurement of voice quality. In contrast to passive monitoring, active monitoring is like looking at highway traffic from the perspective of a driver rather than a bird: you get a very detailed, up-close view of issues. There are several forms of active monitoring, including ones that only test the underlying data network, as well as ones that traverse the entire communications infrastructure. Active network probes involve sending synthetic transactions from a software agent to another agent, then analyzing the impact of the underlying network on that transaction to produce a MOS voice quality score. Active network monitoring is generally softwarebased and very useful in diagnosing teleworkers remote/home voice quality issues. It is also inexpensive and lightweight. Active application probes provide a more accurate solution. These types of monitoring probes offer independent, third-party validation that your infrastructure is working properly. In addition, they create real phone calls that can traverse your entire communications infrastructure, including simulating real customer calls. These calls can be made through gateways and IVRs, and over the network and PSTN in other words, anywhere a real phone call could go. Moreover, active application probes can handle encrypted networks and generate a referenced PESQ-based voice quality score, which provides very precise results. This ability to handle calls in real-world situations is important because, for example, calls may originate from the PSTN, enter an internal IP network through a voice gateway, traverse an Figure 2: Methods Comparison Key Points Passive Network Passive Device Active Network Active Application Packet analyzer Continuously monitors network traffic Monitors real user traffic Monitors any segment of the network Independent measure of performance Specialized hardware can handle high bandwidth Centralized way to collect performance metrics Lighter weight than packet analysis Auto discovers network configuration Vendor-specific solutions are plug-andplay Provides accurate user experience metrics Traverses entire communications infrastructure Provides independent, third-party validation Handles encryption Generates simple traffic patterns in synthetic transactions Traverses network infrastructure, not communications servers Performs quality measurements Lightweight, low cost Deployment options: small hardware, software-only, hard phone, WiFi, wireless

5 IVR or WAN and other communication infrastructure, and then finally reach another internal IP network where the answering phone extension is located. If this whole path cannot be monitored, you will miss critical information. After the call has been made, the resulting actionable metrics can be used to quickly discover and remedy issues. To measure the bi-directional experience of users on both ends of the call, a monitoring solution must be able to duplicate the call path and measure the quality of the call as a real user would actually hear it. Solutions that attempt to simulate IP calls by sending packets across a single IP network or that only gather packet metrics from switches and phones miss a significant portion of the communication path. These solutions can give you an indication of how well your network supports IP calls, but they cannot provide the true end-to-end experience of your users and customers. The most powerful monitoring solutions use a combination of active and passive monitoring, in order to provide companies with both horizontal (end-to-end) and vertical (deep dive) analysis of the telephony environment. In this way, you can proactively discover the source of any issues that occur anywhere on the network, as well as analyze content across all of the layers of the IP telephony environment. When you are alerted about an issue you can be predictive, drilling down through the network layers to rapidly identify what is occurring, as well as where and why it is happening. Finally, you can decide what should be done to solve problems, prioritizing which ones have the greatest impact on the customer experience and handling those first. Conclusion While IP infrastructures can provide numerous advantages, they can also be very complex, making it challenging to discover when and where an issue originates. Problems resulting from misconfigurations and other errors cannot be allowed to negatively influence customer relationships. The only way to assure that problems are stopped before they impact customers and keep performance smooth is to by continuously monitor your environment. A comprehensive, end-to-end monitoring solution includes a mix of active and passive monitoring. It should be powerful enough to monitor across the entire environment which could contain a single site or multiple sites as well as dive down through the layers to understand the origin of an issue. It should not simply supply a mass of information, but instead alert you when things do not go as they should and provide actionable information to help resolve the problem. The only way to assure that problems are stopped before they impact customers is to continuously monitor your communications environment. The information you receive from a monitoring solution can also be used to handle recurring issues. Moreover, you can discover how systems respond to trends, helping you predict failures before they occur and allowing for adjustments to be made in order to maintain acceptable performance levels. By continuously monitoring your communications environment, you can assure a boost in performance and provide high quality customer service, resulting in happier customers, a better reputation, and an increase in your company s bottom line. 1 The Business Impact of Customer Experience, by Megan Burns, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research, November Survey Results: Companies Unifying the Conversational Contact Center, by Dan Miller, Sr. Analyst, Opus Research, October 2010 For a complete list of offices worldwide, or to find an authorized distributor in your area, please visit: /contactus Empirix. All rights reserved. All descriptions, specifications and prices are intended for general information only and are subject to change without notice. Some mentioned features are optional. All names, products, services, trademarks are used for identification purposes only and are the property of their respective organizations. Empirix and the star symbol design are trademarks of Empirix, Inc., Billerica, MA ENT:WP:PMTAAGUE:0113

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