Archive for September, 2014

How to dial out with 3CX IP-PBX phone system

This blog will explain how to connect up Acarda Outbound Agent to dial out with 3CX’s IP-PBX. Acarda Outbound can dial out via phone systems that support RESTful API’s and HTTP URL’s; and so with 3CX’s IP-PBX it dials via their HTTP API.

These instructions apply to both the Team and Solo Editions of Acarda Outbound. For Acarda Outbound Team: In Acarda Outbound Agent click on the Tools menu up the top right side of the screen and select the Dialing Device submenu. For Acarda Outbound Solo: Click on the Agent View tab and in the top right, click the Tools menu and select the Dialing Device submenu.

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Figure 1: The dialing device configuration.

Once you have selected the dialing device menu from the drop-down, you will be presented with the dialog above. You can then select the “HTTP/Web API” from the current dialing device drop-down to use this dialing method.

The HTTP/Web API only supports commands for dialing a telephone number and for hanging up. Not all systems support the ability to end a call via an API. If your system does not support this then leave the hang up address box blank and it will not be used. You will not be able to use our software to hang up – but you should be able to use the phone systems’ phone or proprietary software to hang up.

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Figure 2: The HTTP/Web API configuration.

In the Command URLs you are able to set the URL to be requested as well as the HTTP request method (either GET or POST). Most APIs will use the “Get” verb. The dial setting above also treats the [ph] text in the URL as a placeholder for the telephone number needing to be dialed via Acarda Outbound. Other parameters used in the URL should be set according to the phone system’s documentation. In the case of 3CX’s phone system, the URL would look like the one below:

http://<pbx>:5000/ivr/PbxAPI.aspx?func=make_call&from=<ext>&to=[ph]&pin=<ext_pin>

Where the <pbx> is the IP address of the phone system computer, <ext> is the extension number of the device and <ext pin> is the extensions password. The request verb for this would be GET.

Note: Some phone systems will only accept calls to their respective API’s from the local network. This is for security purposes (and applies to 3cx systems). Often this configuration can be changed but you must understand the potential security risks in doing so.

To read up more on 3CX’s integration with HTTP API please refer to their blog at http://www.3cx.com/blog/docs/3cx-http-api/

For more information on Acarda Outbound go to: Team – http://www.acarda.com/telemarketing-software-team.html or Solo – http://www.acarda.com/telemarketing-software-solo.html  To download a free trial: http://www.acarda.com/downloads.html

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How to get a website up and running quickly

This isn’t the usual blog for Acarda however recently I have had several non-technical-but-computer-savvy people ask about website creation options. Their goal, to get a web site up and running quickly without paying a fortune for design or hosting.

One option is to use a free template design for your website. There are often 100’s of free templates to select from so it’s an easy way to get start without paying for a website developer to build you anything. Usually these service providers require you to host your website with them and if there is a free plan expect to find adverting added by the provider to your site.

One example of this is WIX.com (www.wix.com). They have loads of beautiful pre-designed templates you can use. It’s a fast way to get a web presence. You must host these template websites with them and their plans start at $4.08/month (displays Wix Brand Ads) or $8.25 for their Combo plan without ads. They have other options which give greater storage and bandwidth however the Combo plan should be enough for small sites.

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Another example is GoDaddy (www.godaddy.com/hosting/website-builder.aspx). They have several plans, a Personal which is just $1/month but only has access to 50 personal themes, and a business plan which is $6.99/month and you select one of 300 templates.

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WordPress themes are everywhere so using a WordPress website is another option to consider. Again GoDaddy (www.godaddy.com/hosting/wordpress-hosting.aspx) provides these. Their Starter plan is good for basic websites and blogs at only $1/month (when on sale). They have a Business plan for $9.99/month. These plans give you access to 1000s of themes and plugins.

Of course you could use WordPress.com https://wordpress.com/ where you can create a subname of your choice e.g. howtocreateawebsitequick.wordpress.com on their free Basic plan (may show ads) or pay $99/year to have basic themes and no ads with your own full domain name (http://store.wordpress.com/plans/).

You could set up a hosting plan with someone like Dreamhost (www.dreamhost.com) . They offer a WordPress Hosting plan (www.dreamhost.com/hosting/wordpress/) for $19.95/month and you have access to a huge number of templates for your website. It’s worth considering just using a normal blog for your website and adding a few static pages to the blog. This requires a bit more technical known-how but is only $8.85/month and you can host unlimited number of domains, unlimited all-sorts of stuff including a 1-Click WordPress Installer with access to the many WordPress themes. If you have some technical ability then this is certainly an option to consider.

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Another WordPress hosting site to consider is bluehost (www.bluehost.com/wordpress) who have plans starting on special offers at just $3.95/month. For larger and higher traffic sites look at their Optimized Hosting for WordPress plan at $24.99/month (www.bluehost.com/managed-wordpress-hosting) For a helpful beginner’s guide for WordPress take a look at www.wpbeginner.com. Once you have signed up you can access WordPress Video Tutorials.

There are other website creation and design tools that you can use to build websites quickly such as Weebly (www.weebly.com/features/#) and Joomla (www.joomla.org). Weebly is a web-hosting service that allows you to “drag-and-drop” with their website builder to create a website. Joomla is a free and open-source content management system for publishing and managing web content. Many website hosting services, including the above mentioned bluehost (www.bluehost.com/cgi-bin/signup) and dreamhost can host sites designed with these tools. If you are looking for an educational website with WordPress video tutorials and other web development resources you may like to look at FirstSiteGuide.

With the likes of Weebly, Joomla or WordPress you should be able to get your website up quickly and have a lot of fun while you do it. The hardest part isn’t so much developing the site but rather working out the right content to present.

 

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How to get started dialing with Acarda Outbound

This blog will show you how to get started dialing with Acarda Outbound. It’s written from the point of view of the outbound calling staff, the people making the calls so doesn’t look at management tasks like setting up a campaign or importing calling lists.

First, once you have logged into Acarda Outbound Agent you should see a screen like the following:

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The left of the screen, called the Dial Card panel, will be blank until you have a lead on the screen. The right side will like something like the above image however it will depend on how your Acarda Outbound system has been set up and what edition you have. It could show just a Script panel or a Script panel with an Objection Handler panel if you have the Advanced Edition. Alternatively, you may find that entire panel is turned off so you just have an entirely blank screen above the toolbar.

The toolbar which resides along the lower part of the screen is where you control retrieving a lead, dialing and saving the lead at the end of the call. The most common configuring for these buttons is Next, Next Dial, Hang Up, End Dial, Call End, DNC, Action, Response, and Call Back. Notice that some of these buttons are not enabled unless you are on a call.

Let’s look at each of these buttons:

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The next button gets the next lead on the screen displaying it the Dial Card panel. It does not dial it so it allows you to preview the record first. When a lead is displayed or active on the screen, the Next button changes to become the Cancel button. Clicking Cancel will reset the lead and return it to the calling queue.

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The Next Dial button gets the next lead on the screen displaying it the Dial Card panel and then it will dial it through the selecting Dialing Device. If the next lead is already displayed on the screen clicking the Next Dial button will only dial the current lead. This button doubles up as the Dial button allowing you to have the Next and Dial buttons separately in the toolbar.

 

Depending on the dialing device the Hang Up button can be used to hang up the voice conversation. This can be used with some softphones and with modems if you are not using the auto-hang up feature.

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Once on a call you can click on the End Dial button to end the call, saving the current Dial Card lead, retrieving the next lead and dialing it through the Dialing Device in on click. This button also doubles up as the End Next where it saves the current Dial Card lead and displays the next lead but does not dial it.

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The Call End button saves the current Dial Card lead however it does not retrieve the next lead. Use this button at the end of a calling session.

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The DNC button will add the current leads telephone number to your in-house Do Not Call list.


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The Action button gives you access to extended functions such as the ability to add a new lead from the agent, retrieving previously called records and checking numbers on the Do Not Call list.


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The Response button is a quick way to set a call disposition. You can click on this button and select the disposition then move on to the next call without needing to move up into the Dial card panel. If you need to add other notes then you can still use this button or you can use the Response drop down list in the Dial Card. You should always set a response when you have finished with this lead and made you final call to the recipient.


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The Call Back button is where you set call backs for busy, no answer, voice mail or when someone requests that you call back at a later time. You should use the Call Back button rather than having a response for a call back because call backs are treated in special way. If it’s the final outcome of the lead then set a Response whereas if you need to call again then use the Call Back button.

The behavior of the toolbar buttons is determined by way the Acarda Outbound is set up. These settings are configured in the Acarda Outbound Manager.

Now that we have covered the buttons let’s put it all together. To get started dialing click the Next Dial button and this will ask the server to send you the next lead and it will then be displayed on the screen. Note there are two timers on the lower right of the screen, one is the called the On Screen Duration and the other is the On Call Duration. The On Screen Duration is the time the lead is displayed in the Dial Card on the screen whereas the On Call Duration is the duration of the call itself which starts timing with the dial out and stops timing when you click the hang up button.

Once dialed out you will hear the ringing tone until the person either answers the call or you will have the busy signal as you normal do when you make a call. If no one answers or it is busy you then simply click on the Call Back button and select the appropriate call back reason.

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In the case you reach someone but they ask you to call back select Requested Call Back and set the date and time for the return call. When that future time arrives and you click on the Next Dial button the server will make that lead a priority and send it to you ahead of any other call backs or new leads. The server works out when to send other calls backs such as busy or no answer based on rules set up in the Acarda Outbound Manager.

Alternatively if you reach someone then you use the Response button. These dispositions are setup in the Acarda Outbound Manager and every call should be set with a final outcome based on these dispositions. Please note that you should usually only set a Response when you are at the final outcome of the call. If you need to call them back or it is busy or no answer, set a call back rather than a Response that says “Busy” or “No Answer”.

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When you have finished that call click on the End Dial button to have that lead saved back to the server and a new lead brought to you and displayed on screen. If you do not wish to carry on making further calls then click the Call End button.

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