Voice certification long overdue

As the worlds of voice and data converge, having people with the proper knowledge and skills sets in both is becoming increasingly important. One analyst says the call centre industry has been lagging in its expectations of professionalism and in structured programs like certification because the industry is seen as being more operational than technical.

“Technology solutions are getting more complex and particularly call centre solutions are very complicated…there are many pieces that have to fit together in order to make it work,” said Roberta Fox, senior partner with Fox Group Consulting in Markham, Ont. “One of the neat things about convergence is data and voice technology are coming together and voice technology is expecting to have the same kind of [certifications] as data.”

Vendors like Avaya Inc. are starting to recognize this trend and last month, the Baskin Ridge, N.J.-based company announced it is offering two new certification credentials in the areas of voice services and contact centres.

“As we are moving into the converged environment we are adding a little more complexity. We want the people that impact the organizations within our customer base to be as effective as possible [and] to provide the most impact to organizations,” said Ernest Eisentraut, director of national solution sales and engineering, for Avaya Canada.

He added since Avaya has been a leader in contact centres and IP telephony it made sense to develop certifications in both voice and contact centres. Eisentraut said the new certifications validate the knowledge and increase the skill levels of such people as contact centre managers, telecom managers and network engineers.

“We wanted to provide education to those groups of individuals and establish them as leaders within their organization in those two functional areas,” he said.

While Avaya is just offering certification in voice and contact centres, Cisco Systems Inc. has had professional certification in these areas since 2003. The networking equipment company has several voice certification tracks such as an associate (CCNA), professional (CCVP) or expert (CCIE). As well, there is a Cisco qualified specialist certification in contact centres.

“In the last two years we’ve seen an incremental increase in business in the voice arena. Cisco is a significant player…to support the market, the training, performance and knowledge skills of IT professionals to be able to implement and operate and troubleshoot voice over IP solutions,” said Ray Garra, senior manager of learning and development for Cisco. He added Cisco has made significant investment in its voice certification program to support partners, customers and also internal employees.

Fox applauds the likes of Avaya and Cisco for offering such certifications as it indicates to her both companies want people to be certified professionals in order to work with Avaya or Cisco equipment. “Hopefully it means you have more reliable infrastructures [and] better applications to meet business needs,” she said.

The value of being certified not only gives you credibility, Fox added, but also respect amongst employers, customers and peers along with almost $3,000 more a year in salary versus an uncertified technician.

Fox said the industry should be seeing more and more manufacturers developing their own certification programs. She added that, although expensive to develop, the return on investment of doing certification for the telecom industry is a good direction to go.

“It raises the bar of the professionalism of the knowledge required by the manufacturers and is a good source of revenue,” Fox said.

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