Build Low-cost Call Center using Elastix and Asterisk (Part 2)

This post is continuation of the previous post: http://blog.secaserver.com/2012/10/build-low-cost-call-center-elastix-asterisk-1/

Now we should have our PBX ready to receive call. But we are not yet configure on how to manage calls and agents. We should have a system to monitor agent’s activities. We can achieve this by using Call Center module inside Elastix. Install it by go to Elastix > Addons > Call Center > Install. Wait for a while until the process finish.

Configure Call Center

1. Create agent. Agent is the person who will need to login into the call center system and answer the call in queue. Go to Elastix > Call Center > Agent Options > Show Filter > New Agent. Enter agent’s details, example as below:

Agent Number: 501
Agent Name: Mark Derp
Password: 123456
Retype Password: 123456

Click Save and add another agent details:

Agent Number: 502
Agent Name: Karim Benz
Password: 121212
Retype Password: 121212

2. Create Group. We need to allow agents to login into our Elastix system to view the agent’s console. This console will tell the agent which incoming queue coming from, how long is the call durations, what type of calls that coming in and much more. This will be configured later. Go to Elastix > System > Users > Groups > Create New Groups. Enter information as below:

Group: Agent
Description: Call Center Agents

3. Assign Agent Console to Agent group. Go to Elastix > System > Users > Group Permissions > go to page 4 > tick on Agent Console > Save Selected as Accessible.

4. Create user. This will be used by call center agents to login into Elastix system to view campaign, calls and also view the phone book. Go to Elastix > System > Users > Create New User and enter agent #1 details as below:

Login: mark
Name: Mark Derp
Password: q1w2e3
Retype Password: q1w2e3
Group: Agent
Extension: 201

Click Save and create another user for Agent #2 as below:

Login: karim
Name: Karim Benz
Password: hgp4ss
Retype Password: hgp4ss
Group: Agent
Extension: 202

5. Create Form. This form will be used to enter customer’s details when they call in. This is required for reporting. We will do this so agent can fill up some details on the call description and remark. Go to Elastix > Call Center > Forms > Show Filter > Create New Form. Enter details as screenshot below:

 

6. Select Queue. We need to select which queue that will be used inside our call center and activate it. I will activate my SalesCallQueue which has been created on previous post. Go to Elastix > Ingoing Calls > Queues > Show Filter > Select Queue > Select Queue > 301 SalesCallQueue and click Save.

7. Now we can create campaign. Every incoming calls and outgoing calls that agents will call/receive need to be through a campaign. Inside this campaign, we will insert which queue, which form and some description for the caller’s type. Go to Elastix > Call Center > Ingoing Calls > Ingoing Campaigns > Show Filter > Create New Campaign and enter required details as screenshot below:

Click Save and you are done on configuring call center agents, call route, IVR and call queue. We can now proceed to this call center with our call center agents.

 

Install & Configure Softphone (SIP Client)

There will be a lot of SIP clients available which you can used for this purpose. I am going to use X-Lite. You can download the software here: http://www.counterpath.com/x-lite-5-for-windows-download.html

1. Login into the call center agent’s PC and proceed to download and install the software. We will be using this application to connect to PBX server which it will route the call to your PC based on extension number. For agent #1 PC, login as extension 201 with password [email protected] as below:

For agent #2 laptop, login as extension 202 with password [email protected] similar to screen shot above. You should now has log into your extension (consider your phone) into the PBX system.

NOTES: You are not login as agent yet in this step! You just login your phone. Just think that this softphone as your normal phone.

2. Login into Elastix’s Agent Console at https://192.168.0.70 and use login as created in step #4 under Configure Call Center section.

3. Now select the Agent Number and Extension number that has been setup in the PC for agent #1 as screen shot as below:

4. After you click Enter, you should receive a call from the PBX server (the Caller ID will be Anonymous) and you will be asked to enter the agent’s password. Now enter the password that you have setup for this agent as in step #1 under Configure Call Center section by pressing the PC keyboard and press ‘#’ (shift + 3) button. You will now login as agent and will be redirected to the console as below:

 

Testing and Costing

Now call the number that associated with the direct line from mobile phone. You will then be entertained by a digital receptionist with IVR menu. Select the appropriate options and your call will be put on queue. Then automatically your call center agent will get the respective call and hear your voice. The ‘Hangup’ and ‘Transfer’ button in agent console will only available if the agent is having active calls.

As for total cost of this call center, here is my calculation:

===================================
Stuff                |   Cost (MYR)
===================================
Phone line setup fee |   50 x 4
Phone line rental    |   800/month (200/month x 4)
Server Hardware      |   1400
Telephony Card       |   1980
Agent's Phone        |   0
Agent's Headset      |   250 x 2
PBX system           |   0
Call center system   |   0
===================================
Total                |   4080
===================================

As what I stated in the subject of this post, I have achieved my objective in building a call center/centre with lowest cost possible using mostly open-source tools. My total setup cost is only MYR 4080 or around ~USD $1330 with monthly cost for calls by telco which is MYR 800/month or around ~USD $261/month.

Build Low-cost Call Center using Elastix and Asterisk (Part 1)

My company requires me to build a simple call centre whereby:

  • It can receive incoming call from customers
  • Digital receptionist with interactive voice response (IVR)
  • Make outgoing call
  • Call queue
  • 2 call center agents workings to attend all calls

In order to achieve this, we need to know how many concurrent calls that we usually get during peak hours. In my case, we will usually get/make 3 concurrent calls in a same time. We will require 4 direct line from the Telco provider. The steps will be as below:

  1. Apply 4 direct phone lines from the Telco provider.
  2. Apply another toll-free number to be mapped to this 4 direct phone lines. Example: 1-800-88-1919.
  3. Prepare a server to control this communication aka PBX server.
  4. Buy a telephony interface card to be attached into PBX server.
  5. Install Elastix.
  6. Configure Elastix (extension, call route, IVR, queue).
  7. Install and configure Softphone in agents’ PC. This is the tool that call center agents used to communicate with customer.
  8. Buy a headphone set for call center agents usage.

I will not going to cover whole steps in this post. I am assume that step 1 and 2 has been done by your side. So I will start on step 3 and so on. The architecture that we are going to setup will be as below:

 

I will be using following variables:

Operating System: Elastix 2.3.0 Stable
PBX Server: 192.168.0.70
PBX Hostname: callcenter.mydomain.org

 

Prepare the PBX Server

1. Get a server. I will be using simple Core i3 server with 250 GB HDD and 2GB RAM.

2. Download Elastix ISO from here: http://www.elastix.org/index.php/en/downloads/main-distro.html. During this writing, I will download the 64bit version of Elastix 2.3.0 Stable.

3. Burn the ISO into a CD. We will use this CD to install the Elastix operating system.

4. Start the installation process by boot the CD. Follow all required steps until finish. Make sure you do not miss steps on setting up MySQL root password and Elastix administrator password.

 

Telephony Interface Card

After the installation finish and before we configure Elastix, we need to buy a telephony interface card which not usually available in normal IT store. This card usually being produced by PBX company like Digium, Sangoma and Rhino.

Make sure you understand the difference between FXO and FXS before you buy the telephony card. Since I will be using Softphone for all call agents, I will need to buy 4 FXO port (for direct line) with no FXS port (for station line). You may refer to here for further explanation: http://www.3cx.com/PBX/FXS-FXO.html

For me I am going to buy this analog telephony card from Digium:

 

Configure Elastix

1. Now login into the Elastix server using web browser as admin. As for me, I will be login to https://192.168.0.70 .

2. We need to detect the telephony card before start configuring the PBX server. Make sure the direct phone lines has been attached to the back of the telephony card port. Go to Elastix > System > Hardware Detector > Detect New Hardware. You should see something like below:

This picture shows that only 1 direct phone line is detected and connected to the server. If you attached more than 1 line, you should see the respective port will turn into green.

 

3. Lets start configuring Elastix. The most basic things that we need to have is extension. Go to Elastix > PBX > PBX Configuration > Extensions. Select Generic SIP Device and click Submit. Fill up required data as below for Agent 1:

  • Under ‘Add Extension’
    • User Extension: 201
    • Display Name: Agent 1
  • Under ‘Device Options’
    • secret: [email protected]
  • Under ‘Voicemail & Directory’
    • Status: Enabled

Click Submit. Now for Agent 2 repeat similar steps and add information as below:

  • Under ‘Add Extension’
    • User Extension: 202
    • Display Name: Agent 2
  • Under ‘Device Options’
    • secret: [email protected]
  • Under ‘Voicemail & Directory’
    • Status: Enabled

 

4. Create queue. This will define the incoming call to be queue and which agent will required to communicate with them. I will need to create 2 group of queue which is Sales queue and CustomerService queue. Go to Elastix > PBX > PBX Configuration > Queues and enter following details:

  • Under ‘Add Queue’:
    • Queue Number: 301
    • Queue Name: SalesCallQueue
    • Static Agents: A201,0
Click Submit. Now for customer service queue, repeat similar steps and add information as below:
  • Under ‘Add Queue’:
    • Queue Number: 302
    • Queue Name: CustomerServiceCallQueue
    • Static Agents: A202,0

 

5. We need to create some recordings. We will use the voice recording to welcome every incoming call using IVR. You can refer to following video on how to use System Recordings:

As for me, I will be using Text to Wav features under Elastix > PBX > Tools > Text to Wav to create a simple welcoming voice.

 

6. From the voice recording on previous steps, we will need to configure IVR so our digital receptionist could route the call correctly. Go to Elastix > PBX > PBX Configuration > IVR and enter details as screen shot below:

 

7. We then need to configure the Inbound Routes. This will tell PBX on what is the first thing to do when receiving calls. Go to Elastix > PBX > PBX Configuration > Inbound Routes and enter following details:

  • Under ‘Add Incoming Route’:
    • Description: IncomingLine
  • Under ‘Options’:
    • CID name prefix: IncomingCall
  • Under ‘Set Destination’:
    • IVR: Welcome
Click Submit and also click the notification: Apply Configuration Changes Here.
Notes:
This post continues at part 2 on how to install Call Center modules in Elastix and configure the call center agents’ PC to to use Softphone.