Cloud communications provide a quick, convenient way to talk with your customers by voice, video, and chat. Unfortunately there are some hosted solutions that deliver poor service quality on voice and video calls, making them worse than useless. This is because the provider isn’t following Voice Quality Management (VQM) best practices. When hosted communications are set up improperly or aren’t adequately measured, users experience gaps in their communication that can impact both their internal productivity and effective communication with customers. These companies and their users may experience issues like lagging in calls, skipped words or sentences, slow download times, and more. So what is Voice Quality Measurement (VQM), and how can you ensure that your provider is adhering to VQM best practices?
In short, “VQM is advanced monitoring used to mitigate and resolve issues before they become catastrophic”. VQM works by using both active and passive testing on a users’ communications. With the typical on-premise VoIP implementation, voice data travels over the client's existing LAN. As with any other data, network congestion can delay voice packets or even cause some to be dropped. While this is just a minor inconvenience for most forms of data -- an Intranet page taking slightly longer to load, for instance -- even a few dropped VoIP packets can introduce unacceptable echoes or breaks in a voice stream. Customers are used to the nearly flawless voice quality they get with standard phone lines and will not settle for lower quality with VoIP services. VQM solves these problems by sending voice packets back and forth on the customer’s communication lines, constantly monitoring them and reporting on their quality. This method ensures that any issues that might exist are caught by the VQM tool, before you even experience them.
VQM isn’t an add-on service. It is a tool that should be included in your hosted VOIP system, completely free of charge. In fact, if your provider doesn’t include VQM with your communications system, or requires an extra fee for VQM, it is a big red flag. VQM is a service that all top tier providers include as a foundation to their services, because it ensures that you always have high-quality communications.
The truth is that the value of VQM aside, many providers fail to exercise VQM best practices. This leaves customers with an inadequate communications system, which often doesn’t come to light for many months. By the time the issues are truly recognized, the situation has typically escalated to paramount proportions, typically resulting in the user canceling their contract and starting over with a new provider.
Providers can do better. And, now that you understand VQM and its value, you have the tools to assess your provider’s VQM to guarantee you will always receive the best communications.
To guarantee quality phone calls, your provider needs to focus on application and execution, which can be broken down into four stages; assessment, planning, analysis and ongoing management. Although each of these steps may seem trivial and non-essential, proper execution at scale produces a reliable and scalable service deployment and exponentially increase the likelihood of overall success. When you are assessing your provider’s VQM, review each of the following stages with them.
Your VQM provider must start their relationship with you by completing a comprehensive network assessment. A comprehensive network assessment (more than a 5 minute overview) will ensure that they aren’t just scratching the surface and get a full picture of your network. This step is the most critical (and often the most overlooked) as it regularly discovers latent network issues that are magnified upon voice implementation. Hosted VoIP customers need a well-designed network (both LAN and WAN) to effectively minimize the factors (e.g. delay, jitter, and packet loss) that degrade voice call quality and it is through this assessment exercise that these issues are uncovered, recommendations are made and changes implemented. The best and easiest way to achieve this is by deploying lightweight application active test agents that simulate end user traffic, which can be configured to generate realistic test loads on network infrastructure and application services.
Your VQM provider must have a clearly outlined project plan demonstrating the steps they will move through to guarantee your VQM is properly implemented. Project planning ensures network readiness and a well-thought out and documented roll out process further stacks the odds in favor of a smooth deployment. Establishing a pilot system to compare partners, suppliers, features, and functionality, and comparing those this matrix with the stated customer needs is certainly a winning strategy. Establishing mid-deployment milestones with checks and balances is key to ensure the entire project remains on task and in check.
It’s not enough to implement VQM and then walk away. Your provider should conduct post-deployment impact analysis of both voice and data applications to confirm that the deployment was successful and didn’t negatively impact previously well-running network services. This is achieved by leveraging telemetry data from deployed endpoint and midstream equipment (e.g. rfc6035 reports - https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc6035) and by continuing to leverage the previously deployed active testing agents to measure application performance from a variety of key vantage points.
Lastly, your provider should deliver ongoing management of the converged network entity to keep performance optimized for the long haul. Your provider needs to continue to assess and manage your network to guarantee that call quality is always high. Just as there are benefits in combining all applications on a single unified network, there are also discrete benefits of uniting performance management in a single application. Device telemetry data can and should be used to continue to monitor end user application performance and perpetual active testing can monitor deviation from previously established baselines to effectively take organizations out of firefighting mode and give them a proactive edge.
Effectively exercising each of these four phases yields an extremely productive and easily reproduced scalable deployment methodology that will increase customer satisfaction, decrease churn as well as lower employee turnover and increase morale as employees and potentially even customers are empowered with this information.
In short, your communications provider needs to demonstrate a commitment to voice quality from the get go. VQM should be included with your communications system, and your provider should be able to walk you through their VQM process while you’re assessing their program. And if your provider can’t, you need to find a new provider.
Are you experiencing voice quality issues with your communications system? Vertical can help. Contact us today for a free, comprehensive network assessment. We will determine where your voice quality problems are originating and how we can help you solve them. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877-837-8422 to get started.