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call management

What is call management?

Call management is the process by which inbound telephone calls are routed to call center agents.

Routing calls can be as simple as having the phone ring simultaneously at everybody's workstation. Or it can be as complicated as routing the call to a specific agent after analyzing caller attributes.

What is call management software and how does it work?

Call management software is the tool that routes inbound calls to individuals who are best suited to answer specific calls. This is also known as skill-based routing.

When a customer calls a call center, if they speak to an agent who does not have the skills, access to systems or general knowledge to answer their question, they are transferred to someone else. Other times, they will hang up and call again.

In the worst-case scenario, the customer doesn't even call back and could possibly end their relationship with the organization.

A poor call management process can be disastrous for an organization.

Types of routing in call management software

Call management software can route calls in many ways. Some require customer effort, and some require integration into an organization's systems.

The simplest types of routing that call management software performs is sending a phone call to all individuals who are available to answer the call -- also known as a hunt group. It can also send the call to the agent who has been available the longest amount of time.

But with skill-based routing, there are many ways a call can be sent to the best agent to handle a specific phone call.

Routing calls by DNIS number

The phone number that a customer calls is also known as a Dialed Number Identification Service (DNIS) number. An organization may have different phone numbers for different products or services.

Call management software can see what DNIS number a call is coming from and send that call to the queue or individual most knowledgeable about the specific product or service that the number supports.

Routing calls by ANI

The phone number that a customer calls from is also known as an Automatic Number Identification (ANI) number.

Call management software can access a database to see if it contains the ANI number. If there, the call management system then follows specific rules to send the call to a specific queue or individual to best handle the inquiry.

An example would be when the call management software accesses a database and determines a customer is past due on a bill. The software can then follow routing rules to send the call to an individual who is trained to seek payment from the customer.

Routing calls as directed by caller

When a caller reaches an organization, they may be greeted with an automated message that asks them to press or say a specific number for different departments.

Once the caller makes a selection, the call management system will route the call to the appropriate queue or individual.

Routing calls as a result of a customer identifier

When a caller reaches an organization, they may be greeted with an introductory message and be asked for a piece of identifying information, such as an account number or phone number.

If the system finds a match for a specific identifier in the database, the call can be routed in many ways. Here are some examples:

  • If a customer's account is past due, the call can be routed to someone who is trained to collect payment from the customer.
  • If a customer called previously, the call can be routed to the same agent who answered the previous call from this person.
  • If a customer is in a particular place in the lifecycle of a product -- such as having an obsolete wireless phone -- the call can be routed to someone who can help with an upgrade.
  • If a customer speaks Spanish, the call can be routed to someone who speaks Spanish.

If an organization plans to route calls based on a customer identifier, the call management software must be able to integrate with specific databases.

Common call management features

There are several features which are common among call management systems.

Call presentation

Once the call management system selects how to route a call, it is forwarded to an agent to be answered.

Here are the most common ways calls can be presented to agents:

  • A call can ring at multiple workstations at the same time until someone answers the call.
  • A call can ring at an individual workstation until the agent answers the call or a preset amount of time passes. If no one answers, the call will ring at another agent's workstation.
  • A call can be automatically presented to an agent by being dropped into the agent's headset.

Reporting

Call management systems provide real-time and after-the-fact reporting that can be used to measure both the performance of the call center and the performance of the queue or agent.

On the real-time dashboard, some examples of data that appears include the following:

  • number of agents on the phone
  • status of agents
  • number of calls in queue

In after-the-fact reporting, some examples of data that appears include the following:

  • number of calls offered
  • number of calls answered
  • service level
  • average handle time

Call recording

Call management systems can usually record the audio part of phone calls -- though some systems also support screen recording.

This feature enables an efficient quality monitoring process where customer service managers can listen to and analyze recorded calls. Managers can then provide feedback to agents on how to improve performance.

In some industries -- such as financial services under the Dodd-Frank Act -- call recording is required in the event a call must be reviewed to respond to legal and regulatory issues.

Benefits of call management systems

The biggest benefit of a call management system is that it supports the attainment of first-contact resolution by routing customer calls to agents who have the best skills to resolve the issue.

Call management systems capture important data, such as call volume statistics. These statistics include calls offered, calls handled, calls abandoned, service levels and average handle time. This type of data is important for analyzing the workload of the call center and projecting future staffing requirements.

Considerations before choosing call management software

There are many items to consider prior to choosing call management software. Following are a couple big considerations:

Cloud vs. on-premises

An initial decision that organizations need to make is whether to acquire a cloud-based or on-premises system.

Many organizations are moving toward cloud systems due to lower upfront costs, easier scalability and access to newer technologies and capabilities.

This is an analysis that differs from company to company. And it requires input from many departments -- such as the contact center, IT and finance -- to make the appropriate decision.

Channels of communication to be supported

The contact center must understand the current state and long-term vision of the communication channels it wants to support.

If there is a need to support channels beyond voice -- such as email and chat -- and the contact center wants to use a call management platform to support those channels, it would be wise to select a system that can support an omnichannel environment.

Implementing a call management system

Implementing a call management system is a combination of science and art.

A call management system will route calls in a specific manner to maximize specific outcomes -- such as callers having higher satisfaction when they speak with the same agent.

While this sounds like an optimal process, some call routing decisions may have adverse impacts that are not as easily measured. Two examples include the following:

  • If an organization sets up routing to a specific agent -- such as the same agent the caller previously spoke with -- it needs to be careful that the caller does not wait in queue for an extended period of time before speaking with the agent.
  • If an organization sets up routing to drive calls to the highest quality agents, it should be careful not to burn out those agents.

Call management software vendors

There are many call management software providers. Each vendor provides basic call routing. The challenge is deciding which additional capabilities and features are required for both the current and future state of the contact center. As the capabilities increase, so, too, does the price.

The following are some of the more popular providers of call management software:

  • 8x8
  • Avaya
  • Five9
  • Genesys
  • Nice CXone
  • RingCentral
  • Talkdesk
  • Cisco
  • Mitel
This was last updated in November 2021

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