Creating Better Customer Experiences with an Upgrade to Cisco UCCE 12

CISCO

Depending on your industry, your contact center interactions are often the most critical relationships that customers will have with your company. Long hold times, inconsistent responses, or unknowledgeable reps can irreparably harm your brand. But the good news is that the right contact center solution—paired with an incredible team—can create an unforgettable experience.


In the healthcare industry in particular, top notch communication can mean the difference between a patient having a positive experience or a terrible one. While I’m not on the front lines of healthcare, as a networking engineer, focusing on LAN and WAN, I help run the behind-the-scenes systems that support the business and lay the foundation for operations to flow smoothly.


I was hired at HBCS in 2017 as a networking engineer, focusing on LAN and WAN. HBCS specializes in healthcare revenue cycle management, meaning that we help hospitals and healthcare providers with things like: virtual patient registration and account resolution; insurance reimbursement; claims and denials management; and patient engagement and customer service support. At the end of the day, patients need to know they have options when it comes to paying their healthcare bills, and HBCS works with hospitals and healthcare providers to help them do just that.


In my initial role, I didn’t think too much about collaboration or the tools that would make those types of activities easier. I was more concerned with the network being up to speed and ensuring that everything was running smoothly. But a guy can learn, and learn I did.

A Renewed Focus on Our Contact Center

Our organization relies on our contact center as being the frontline to our customers and creating great experiences for our customers. Behind the scenes, it takes a lot of work to make that happen. That’s where we rely on the Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise (UCCE) solution.  


Cisco’s solution has been an important part of our contact center for a while, but when I joined, we were running UCCE 10.5—which was released in 2014. Using an outdated solution can make sense from a budgetary point of view, but it comes with limitations. Upgrading to a newer version of UCCE would allow us to continue providing our exceptional patient-friendly service. At a day-to-day level, there were specific areas where our team wanted to go deeper. 


For example, using the dated platform made collaboration amongst our teams incredibly difficult, which in turn could impact our customers. Our supervisors love to share screens and relay new best practices to our customer service representatives. Unfortunately, that functionality is limited in 10.5, but is ingrained into UCCE 12. 


Any customer-centric department will tell you that training employees and great collaboration is vital. Greater screen sharing capabilities would allow our supervisors to quickly train contact center staff and disseminate information more rapidly than trying to do so via an email with attachments. 


We use Microsoft solutions at HBCS, and as a result we were using Skype for collaboration, which didn’t always meet our needs or work as expected.


This is just one of the reasons that we decided to update our Cisco contact center platform to release 12, and we’ve learned a lot along the way.  

Upgrading: It’s More Than Meets the Eye

When we started our contact center upgrade project, we got new hardware, including a new Cisco UCS chassis, the blades that go on the UCS chassis, and fabric interconnects. While hooking them into our existing infrastructure, we had to utilize adapters and scale down from 40GB QSFP ports to 10GB SFP ports.  


Purchasing those adapters caused us to invest in upgrading the temperature control for at least one of our data centers. We determined that the root cause of the issue was that they’re not thermally tolerant, and we had to ensure that our data center was cooler to accommodate that. 


On the networking side, we’ve had to implement a number of configuration changes on both our firewalls and our Cisco Unified Border Element (CUBE) gateways. Just before we started the upgrade to UCCE 12, we had to replace the CUBE with new hardware. We went from Cisco 3945 Integrated Services Router (ISR) to a newer router, and doing so helped with some past call routing experiences we’d had. 


Behind the scenes, the newer CUBE is easier to support, as it’s running on the Cisco IOS XE system software. And since we implemented the firewall, we now have a greater understanding of our networks and any potential threats. On the data center side, we’ve found that upgrading to the latest version of the contact center platform benefits those of us working on the front end as well as those of us who work on the back end.   

Enhanced collaboration makes knowledge transfer easier and more efficient. @CiscoCollab @HBCS_revcycle


There’s been a lot of knowledge transfer in my role as the system undergoes this upgrade. I’m still far from an expert, but I understand so much more now, and I see how collaboration has made that possible. Upgrading our UCCE 10.5 environment to UCCE 12 has been a long process, but we’re getting close to deploying the new environment and it can’t come soon enough. 

Collaboration at Our Core: The Key to Updating Our Cisco Contact Center Solution

UCCE 12 will bring with it a lot of change to HBCS. Cisco IP Communicator, which is a Windows PC-based softphone, will be going away. With it, we’ll be moving to Jabber for greater collaboration. 


Other improvements include Mobile and Remote Access (MRA), and Cisco Expressway is the gateway solution we’ll use to tie all these tools together. 


Our vendor has been provisioning the servers since the original UCCE implementation, and internally, we handle what our VP likes to call “the pipes”: the network infrastructure and the data center infrastructure. At the same time, the CUBE is still part of the environment, as well as the server hardware. 


Working at HBCS through our systems upgrade has improved both my technical knowledge and my understanding of the bigger picture when it comes to collaboration. 


When I first started at HBCS, my troubleshooting capabilities were somewhat limited—and it became a bigger, more difficult task when I got to the networking level. Collaboration is not something I ever thought I’d need to learn or even become familiar with. To be honest, I didn’t even know it was something I was missing. But I can say it’s certainly been helpful as I’ve taken on more responsibilities. Now that I have built up more knowledge over the years, it’s much easier for me to troubleshoot issues and resolve them more quickly. 


As we wrap up this upgrade to UCCE release 12.5, I’m excited for what it will enable. The Cisco Contact Center solution is feature-rich and can have a big impact on businesses with call centers. We can handle omnichannel interactions more easily, facilitate training better, and overall get greater insights into the experience that we’re creating for customers. A lot of this work will be behind the scenes, but we know it won’t go unnoticed.