TEXT-2-AGENT Sending text and pictures to your call center?

Can you send a picture to your ShoreTel or CISCO Call Center

We have been integrating SMS to CISCO UCCX and ShoreTel Call Center deployments for customer service scenarios for some time.  The interface is very simple:  Login, pick a number from anywhere on the planet; assign a “keyword” and match it to an email address or list!   When someone text your “keyword” to your number, the text is converted to email and sent on to that address.   The email recipient can then hit reply and we convert the email back to SMS and forward it back to the original Cell phone.  Optionally, you can build a membership list with and auto response and the ability to send a bulk text to the list!


What is new in Version 3.1

We have released Version 3.1 and it now makes it possible to send not only text (SMS), but pictures (MMS)to the “next available agent” in your Call Center.    The application now supports:

  • Inbound SMS to email Address based on “keyword” match with REPLY ability; – this enables you to use one number and many different keywords that point to different email addresses.  The recipient can hit reply like any other email and send a response back to the sender of the SMS, usually a client who has a cell phone!
  • Inbound MMS to default email address – enables a cell phone to send a photo or picture into the customer service organization which will route to the default email address.
  • Inbound SMS to outbound SMS; – Stealth mode, you can forward an incoming SMS to another SMS.
  • SMS to List based on “keyword” match – This enables you to build an SMS marketing list.   Each list is built by “keyword” match and you are able to send auto responds and “bulk” SMS
  • Outbound email to SMS;
  • Email to SMS – enables a customer service representative to send a text from an email client.   The address can be a keyword group list or an individual cell phone number.

Each transaction has a unique “ticket” number, all transactions are searchable, logged and archived for HIPPA and PIC compliance.

We are finding that Insurance, medical, auto and tech support applications in particular are receptive to the concept of enabling clients to send a picture by text to a customer service representative.


Want A demo?

We can easily set you up with a demo account. A basic single number solution with 500 SMS credits is about $25 a month!  Send the word “DEMO”   (all ONE word, watch that auto correct) to 424-348-4000 and include your email address for an example of how this could work on a ShoreTel ECC or CISCO UCCX; or just create an account!

Note – Your do NOT need a formal call center to implement this technology.   An email distribution list to customerservice@yourcompany.com works just as well!

Why move the Auto Attendant into the Contact Center?

Many Call Center applications have an Automated Attendant front end call tree.  Typically, you  might have an Automated Attendant that plays the familiar On-Hours recoding: “Thank you for calling our company, press 1 for technical support and 2 for sales support”.  The question asked in today’s blog is: should the Automated Attendant be located in the PBX or in the Call Center? There are very interesting ramifications for each of these options.

Generally, with out thinking this question through, the easy answer is to have the PBX do the front end Automated Attendant.  In the ShoreTel world, the On-Hours/Off-Hours scheduling of the changes to the call tree and messages played is so “brilliantly simple” that everyone will select this implementation strategy.   In our simple example above, selecting either option will direct the caller via a route-point/IRN marriage into the Contact Center to be processed by the appropriate Service, Group and Agent.

If you implement that Automated Attendant in the PBX, however simple it is, you potentially rob management of very urgent call detail information. Typically, the Off-Hours location is a general delivery mailbox in the PBX anyway, so why not just keep it all in the PBX?   If the Automated Attendant shuttles calls to the Off-Hour location, that call may never become known to the Contact Center and therefore would  not be captured in the Contact Center Historical Reports.   Call Center Management might be very interested in knowing how many calls came into the Center before or after On-Hours!  To obtain the information the Call Center, not the PBX needs to host the Automated Attendant!

What is the result of implementing the Automated Attendant in the Call Center?  If you look at the above Automated Attendant script, you can see immediately that we need to add the famous “If you know the extension number of the person you want to speak with, dial it at any time during this recording”.   Given that you have already concluded that this is an option you want to offer clients, something a Call Center manager might not recommend, how do you implement this feature using the ShoreTel Contact Center?

There are several ways to do this on the ShoreTel ECC, but all options require the creation of a “Call Profile” value.   We have put together a quick video tutorial on how to implement a multi-digit transfer in the ShoreTel Contact Center using the Graphical Scripting Tools.   Minimally, after you create the Call Profile value you will need to have a “Get Digits” and the “Transfer” Icon.    In our example, we have created a Call Profile value named “ExtensionNumber”.  This value anticipates a three digit integer and does not require a termination character.   The GetDigits Icon is normally associated with a WAV file that prompts the caller for digits.  Once the digits are collected the are deposited into the Call Profile place holder named “ExtensionNumber”.   This value is then past to the Transfer Icon and the value is dialed by this function.   Enjoy!

ShoreTel Contact Center Overflow Concepts and Direct Calls to Agent!

I would like to kill call center challenges with one blog!   In many call center environments, it is possible that an agent has a Direct in Dial (e.g. DID) number that a client might call and bypass the entire call center process!   For a call center manager, this is very frustrating!  You create a Contact Center to organize the flow of calls to your Technical Assistance Center, and clients by pass the process by calling your Agents/technicians directly!

Clearly, you can eliminate this by not giving DID numbers to Agents, but we end up doing this to facilitate an orderly problem resolution strategy.  You might give a client a “homework” assignment and ask them to call you back.   They might object to being put at the back of the queue again, so you give them a DID number that gets them directly back to you.  The challenge is, that this call would not be accounted for in your contact center reporting!   So how then do you provide this feature and also create a mechanism for enabling your contact center to capture all calls for Agent Performance reporting?  One answer is to establish a “service” that has only one Agent in it!   Then build out a DNIS/DID route point to IRN relationship that brings that DID number into the call center and routes it to the Agent.

Actually, it is not a bad strategy!   The Contact Center can now account for all calls, even the ones that reach your Agent through a DID number and you can apply normal Contact Center routing tools like “overflow”, which brings me to my second point!   Is it possible to overflow calls to more than one other group?  Based on more than one overflow time in queue?

The Contact Center provides a wide variety of methods for handling callers in queue awaiting service.   One of the more interesting concepts is the ability to “overflow” a caller from one group to another group based on the amount of time they have been waiting in queue.   This contact center parameter is set within the “service” and can be found in within the tab labeled “Overflow”.

In figure One below, you can clearly see that we have a number of services defined, including a service named TAC1.   Let us assume that this is a technical service group and that TAC1 is comprised of Agents/technicians that include Agent Gandalf, Kipling, Regan and Jack.      You can also see that a service has been enabled by the name “Direct Kipling”.    This service was created to enable callers to Kipling’s DID number to be brought into the Contact Center, and routed to Kipling even though they did not enter through the TAC1 service.   Hopefully, we can now count the phone calls Agent Kipling is handling that otherwise would not be reportable!


In Figure One we can also see that we have set an “Overflow” counter that,  should anyone be in the Kipling Queue for 10 seconds they will overflow to the TAC1 queue.  What is interesting is that when you overflow in the ShoreTel Contact Center,  you don’t leave the queue you are in, you basically add another queue containing agents that have a cumulative effect on the call.    Should that “overflow” not result in an available agent and the caller continues to wait for service, you can actually set a second timer that would “overflow” (e.g. expand the number of agents ) to yet another queue.

In Figure two, you can see the original call in the Queue for Kipling.  After the pre-configured overflow interval is met, the call is distributed to the “overflow” queue but is also available to the original queue.  You can see this in Figure Three, by noting that the call is now in queue in both the Kipling and TAC1 queue.   In this way, if an agent becomes available, in either the original queue or the “overflow” queue, the call will be answered.   Had we set up a second interval timer in the Service, we could expand the number of Agents to include the additional group specified by that timer.  This is one of the more interesting, if not misunderstood capabilities of the ShoreTel “overflow” concept!