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Managing a Voice Network During COVID-19 Pandemic

Mar 20, 2020 | Network Management

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COVID-19 continues to impact our professional and personal lives more each day. With a focus on social distancing and more and more staff working from home, the demand on your network infrastructure is changing. Having the visibility into what is happening in your network and advance insight to oncoming problems is critical. And, most importantly, you can take action based on the analytics. 

Depending on how your organization is reacting to this pandemic and the industry you are in, the impacts on your voice network can drastically vary. At Impact, we have been working with our customers to analyze the dynamic nature of this new world we are living in and we have seen a wide variety of impacts. Our customers have been leveraging various Traffic Analyst reports to optimize capacity levels, analyze the impact of continual changes and trap network conditions before they adversely impact performance.

Call Counts & Usage
As a starting point, many customers simply need to track call counts and usage on a timelier basis. In a normal world, a daily or weekly report was sufficient. Now management is asking for reports multiple times a day to monitor activity. Seeing hourly or quarter hour trends is high priority as each day progresses.

And, of course, some of us prefer graphs over tables and also like more historical context. The chart below documents a dramatic decrease in the volume of inbound and outbound calls for the current week compared to previous weeks.

Network Saturation & Blocked Calls
With large workforces now at home, the calls that used to be internal may now be saturating your network facilities and blocking calls. Extra demand is driven from:

  • Employees calling each other now may tie up trunk channels
  • More call volume to voice mail
  • Increased inbound calls, particularly for healthcare, travel and other related industries.

The example reports below show real-time visibility into the peak percent utilization and ability to drill into the historical trends for specific circuits or trunk groups. With a single glance, the %Capacity chart provides a quick snapshot of capacity trends for the extended report period plus the last seven days, current day and the last 15-minute interval. And, it quickly highlights if the capacity is approaching high percentages of configured capacity.

For more detail, customers view the Usage Profile, as shown below. For this customer’s particular trunk group, there is an obvious decrease in the maximum concurrently used channels this week as opposed to the previous weeks as a result of COVID-19 impacts. Other customers are seeing just the opposite with some circuits experiencing double or higher increases. These analytics can drive timely business decisions to decrease or increase channel capacity in the network. This has direct impact on reducing financial investment and/or increasing network performance by avoiding blocked calls, respectively.

Frequently Called Numbers
Many of our customers are seeing huge increases to specific DID numbers for their call centers or even internal resource numbers such as conference bridges and voice mail. Others are noting overall decreases. Simple reports that show the top N called numbers by number of calls and/or duration provide essential insight into where the network may be vulnerable. And, digging into specific numbers and their trends is helpful too. The column chart below shows the hourly call volumes for past two days for a specific toll-free number.

Managing a voice network has always been challenging. COVID-19 makes it even more challenging every day. And, clearly you cannot successfully manage a network without the right visibility and analytics. Here are some thoughts from our user community:

  • For voice networks, Traffic Analyst KPIs and reports are driving action plans such as:
    • Add additional hotline numbers
    • Increase PRI or SIP capacity
    • Modify voice announcements for IVRs to better direct traffic
    • Leverage mobility solutions (lots of forwarding to cell phones!) and more video applications. 
  • For call centers:
    • Move agents home with soft phones.
    • For companies with agents still on site, they have had to move agents to different desks throughout a complex for social distancing and assure their calls follow them.

To help the entire community, we’d like to hear from you on ways you’re adapting your network to address the COVID-19 challenge. We’ll update this blog to share best practices. Thanks in advance for your contributions. Impact Technologies has been working with our customers for three decades, and if we can help you in any way, please contact us.

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