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Work-from-Home Solution Deployment Guide White Paper

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Updated:April 6, 2020

Available Languages

Download Options

  • PDF
    (147.6 KB)
    View with Adobe Reader on a variety of devices
Updated:April 6, 2020
 

 

Cisco’s work-from-home solution for Unified Contact Center Enterprise and Unified Contact Center Express

Introduction

The global spread of COVID-19 has sparked the need for companies to look for ways to support their customers with information about the virus and its impact, while also reducing potential exposure risk to their employees. Many are reaching out for advice on how to expand the capabilities for contact center agents and supervisors to work from home. They’re looking for ways to quickly respond to customer concerns and questions, while also proactively preparing for any potential impact to the business.

Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise work-from-home solution for large enterprises with up to 24,000 agents

Cisco® Unified Contact Center Enterprise (UCCE) includes multiple approaches to enable agents and supervisors to perform their jobs from home. This feature set includes Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), contact distribution, and reporting capabilities to remote agents in branch offices or at home, through either a broadband network connection or their home phone line. As each option is presented, there are two components to consider:

1.     Agent desktop (Cisco Finesse) – Cisco Finesse® provides agent and supervisor desktop functionality. Agents use Finesse to control their agent state, perform call control, and access call center statistics and customer data. Cisco Finesse relies on a VPN connection to access the customer data center from home. An important consideration for work-from-home agents is to ensure that bandwidth requirements are understood and built into the design. The Cisco Finesse bandwidth calculator is an important tool as you plan your work-from-home strategy.

2.     Media termination endpoint – Agents need a media connection (i.e., a phone) to be able to interact with customers over voice. The two media termination options discussed in this document are Cisco Jabber® and Mobile Agent. Mobile Agent allows a contact center agent to use the phone of their choice, which is typically the agent’s mobile phone or home (analog) phone. Note that Cisco Contact Center Enterprise supports Cisco Jabber for Windows, Mac, and VDI. Other variations of Cisco Jabber are not currently supported with Contact Center Enterprise.

Remote Agent with Jabber and Finesse over VPN

The most straightforward approach to allow agents to work from home is to utilize Jabber and Finesse over VPN. This option does not mandate any additional sizing considerations for the contact center components and offers feature parity with agents in the office. In this model, the agent would use the same phone extension that they use at the office for their endpoint and log into Finesse in the same manner as they do at the office. While this is the most straightforward approach, it does require sufficient bandwidth for both Cisco Finesse and Cisco Jabber. Agents who can’t meet the network requirements should use Mobile Agent.

The Jabber Planning Guide is an excellent resource to help ensure that Jabber is provisioned correctly, including network requirements.

Mobile Agent and Cisco Finesse

The Unified Mobile Agent feature gives the contact center the ability to allow agents to work from home and have the flexibility to use their preferred phone choice. Agents specify their destination phone number during sign-in time and can change the number as often as they want. Agents can be on any phone device on any third-party switch infrastructure. Agents would use Cisco Finesse over VPN.

The agent can access Unified Mobile Agent using any phone number, as long as the agent can dial the number using the Cisco Unified Communications Manager (Unified CM) Dial Plan. System administrators configure the Unified Mobile Agent to use a nailed (permanent) or call-by-call connection. The remote CTI port calls the agent, either at sign-in for a nailed connection, or when Unified CM routes a call to the agent for a call-by-call connection. To participate in outbound campaigns, mobile agents use the nailed connection mode for all outbound dialing modes.

The Unified Mobile Agent deployment scenario provides the following benefits:

   Unified Mobile Agent can send calls to any PSTN or mobile phone.

   Contact centers can employ and retain higher skilled employees where they live and integrate remote workers into geographically-dispersed teams with access to equivalent corporate applications.

Keep in mind the following technical considerations when deploying Mobile Agent:

   All mobile agents need to use the same codec (either G.711 or G.729).

   The Unified Contact Center Enterprise (UCCE) administrator must assign two Media Termination Points (MTP) for every Mobile Agent. Consult the UCCE Design Guide for sizing guidance.

    One MTP is for the remote CTI port, and the second for local CTI

    CTI ports do not support in-band Dual-Tone Multifrequency (DTMF) (RFC 2833), and MTPs perform the appropriate conversion

    MTPs should not be placed at the egress gateway

   When using silent monitoring, inbound gateways need to be distinct from the Mobile Agent gateways to have RTP media streams traverse the VLAN, so that it can be monitored.

   The Mobile Agent uses more system resources and capacity than a local agent because of the two CTI ports used per customer call and the bridging of media.

Remote Agent with Jabber over Cisco Expressway and Finesse over VPN

The Cisco Collaboration Edge architecture includes Unified Communications Mobile and Remote Access (MRA) to enable access by devices that are not in the enterprise network. MRA uses Cisco Expressway to provide secure firewall traversal and support for Unified CM registrations. Unified CM can then provide supported devices with call control, provisioning, messaging, and presence services.

Learn more about Collaboration Edge in our documentation.

For details on Expressway deployment and configuration, consult our documentation.

When using MRA, consider these points:

   The connection between the Cisco Finesse client and server is over a VPN, not over the MRA connection.

   Certain phones do not support Extension Mobility over MRA.

MTP usage on the Unified CM trunk:

   You cannot use MRA with Unified Contact Center Enterprise features that rely on a phone’s Built-In Bridge (BIB). These features include agent greeting, Unified CM-based silent monitoring, and recording.

   You cannot use Jabber with MRA and the Finesse desktop on the same client machine. In some cases, such as the following topologies, you can run with them split onto two clients:

1.     A remote agent who runs Jabber on a mobile phone over MRA and the Finesse desktop with a VPN connection on a second client machine.

2.     A remote agent who runs a Jabber softphone on a laptop that is connected over MRA and runs the Finesse desktop as a Citrix XenApp thin client.

Summary

Cisco recommends one of two options for work-from-home agents. For agents who do have sufficient bandwidth, Cisco Jabber and Cisco Finesse over VPN is the best option. For agents who can’t use a softphone or don’t have sufficient bandwidth, Mobile Agent is the best approach.

Additional resources

Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise 12.5 compatibility guide.

Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise 12.5 Solution Design Guide, including guidance for Mobile Agent scaling limits.

Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise 12.5 feature guide.

Cisco Unified Contact Center Express work-from-home solution for small and medium-sized companies with up to 400 agents

Cisco Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX) includes multiple approaches to enable agents and supervisors to perform their jobs from home. This feature set includes Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), contact distribution, and reporting capabilities to remote agents in branch offices or at home, through either a broadband network connection or their home phone line. As each option is presented, there are two components to consider:

1.     Agent desktop (Cisco Finesse) – Cisco Finesse provides agent and supervisor desktop functionality. Agents use Finesse to control their agent state, perform call control, and access call center statistics and customer data. Cisco Finesse relies on a VPN connection to access the customer data center from home. An important consideration for work-from-home agents is to ensure that bandwidth requirements are understood and built into the design. The Cisco Finesse bandwidth calculator is an important tool as you plan your work-from-home strategy.

2.     Media termination endpoint – Agents need a media connection (i.e., a phone) to be able to interact with customers over voice. The available options include: (a) Cisco IP phones; or Cisco Jabber; or (b) Cisco IP Communicator; and (c) PSTN or Mobile device using the Extend and Connect feature for Unified Communications Manager (Unified CM). Note that Cisco Contact Center supports Cisco Jabber for Windows, Mac, and VDI. Other variations of Cisco Jabber are not currently supported with Cisco Contact Center Express.

Remote agent over VPN

Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX) supports remote agents using Cisco Unified IP phones, Cisco Jabber or Cisco IP Communicator over a broadband Internet connection. Connectivity between the remote agent (for Finesse and the endpoint) and the enterprise must be over VPN. Note that UCCX does not support shared lines, so configuring the agent to use different devices at work and at the remote location is not an option. The deployment must adhere to the Finesse and endpoint requirements related to the bandwidth and latency for the broadband connection. Refer to the Cisco UCCX Design Guide for details.

Cisco IP phones over VPN or Cisco IP phones that natively support VPN allow agents to work remotely with the voice quality that Cisco IP phones provide.

Using Jabber at work and the remote location is the most straightforward approach with the need to deploy an additional phone at the remote location. This option does not mandate any additional sizing considerations for the contact center components and offers agents the same experience at work and in the remote location. This does require sufficient bandwidth for both Cisco Finesse and Cisco Jabber. The Jabber Planning Guide is an excellent resource to help ensure that Jabber is provisioned correctly, including network requirements.

While Cisco IP Communicator has reached the end-of-sale milestone, it is supported by Cisco until September 30, 2022. Using the Cisco IP Communicator feature gives the contact center the ability to allow agents to work from home and have the flexibility to use.

Remote agent over broadband with Cisco Jabber

The most straightforward approach to allow agents to work from home is to utilize Jabber and Finesse over VPN. This option does not mandate any additional sizing considerations for the contact center components and offers feature parity with agents in the office.

In this model, the agent would use the same phone extension that they use at the office for their endpoint and log into Finesse in the same manner as they do at the office. While this is the most straightforward approach, it does require sufficient bandwidth for both Cisco Finesse and Cisco Jabber. Cisco Unified Contact Center Express does not support shared lines for agent devices, so the agent needs to be configured to use Jabber in the office and while working from home.

The Jabber Planning Guide is an excellent resource to help ensure that Jabber is provisioned correctly, including network requirements.

Remote agent with Extend and Connect

With the Extend and Connect feature, Unified Contact Center Express agents and supervisors can work from a remote location using any device. This feature gives the user (agent or supervisor) the flexibility to answer or make calls using devices that are connected to the PSTN or to mobile or other PBX networks. You can enable the Extend and Connect feature through the Cisco Jabber client by selecting only the Extend mode. Refer to the documentation for additional details.

Remote agent with Jabber over Expressway and Finesse over VPN

The Cisco Collaboration Edge architecture include Unified Communications Mobile and Remote Access (MRA) to enable access by devices that are not in the enterprise network. MRA uses Cisco Expressway to provide secure firewall traversal and support for Unified CM registrations. Unified CM can then provide supported devices with call control, provisioning, messaging, and presence services.

Learn more about Collaboration Edge.

Read more details on Expressway deployment and configuration.

When using MRA, consider these points:

   MRA is supported only from UCCX Release 11.5 and newer.

   The connection between the Cisco Finesse client and server is over a VPN, not over the MRA connection.

MTP usage on the Unified CM trunk:

   You cannot use MRA with Unified Contact Center Express features that rely on a phone’s Built-In Bridge (BIB). These features include Unified CM-based silent monitoring and recording.

   You cannot use Jabber with MRA and the Finesse desktop on the same client machine. In some cases, such as in the following topologies, you can run with them split onto two clients:

    A remote agent who runs the Finesse desktop with a VPN connection on a client machine and Jabber on a different device over MRA

    A remote agent who runs a Jabber softphone on a laptop that is connected over MRA and runs the Finesse desktop as a Citrix XenApp thin client

Summary

For agents who do have sufficient bandwidth, Cisco Jabber and Cisco Finesse over VPN is the best option. For agents who can’t use a softphone or don’t have sufficient bandwidth, Extend and Connect is the best approach. Agents who need the same work environment at home as in the office can use the remote agent over broadband with an IP phone.

Additional resources

Cisco Unified CCX Design Guide

Cisco Unified CCX Compatibility Matrix

Jabber Planning Guide

Learn more