ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center Call Routing based on Schedules!

If you have been following our tech tips, you know that route points in the ShoreTel IPBX have a matching IRN in the Contact Center. If you want to route a call to a different destination based on the date and time that a call hits the Contact Center, how and where would you apply the schedule? Technicians familiar with the ease of creating schedules in the ShoreTel IPBX, might immediately apply a schedule to a route point. After all, each call to the Contact Center hits a route point first, why not apply the OnHours/OffHours call handling directly to the route point?

At the end of the day, Contact Centers are designed to provide management, detailed information to facilitate staffing, allocate resources, decrease call holding time and increase customer satisfaction. Candidly, it is all about REPORTS! My personal prejudice is that contact centers should be designed by starting with Reports! What is it that Management wants to see? If we want to know how many callers are hitting the Contact Center during Off-Hours, for example, we can not apply the schedules to the Route Points. If the Schedule applied to the Route Point deflects the caller to a Voice Mail box, that call will not appear in the total Calls presented to the Contact Center.

If you want the call to be counted, it must actually enter the Contact Center! For this reason, most Contact Center deployments are deployed with the Automated Attendant functionality being defined within the Contact Center. In this way we can accumulate accounting information on all calls that hit the Contact Center, regardless of how they are ultimately routed. The ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center has a very powerful configuration capability as it relates to defining Schedules. Schedules are defined as “types of days” and “shifts”. At first this concept is a bit difficult to digest, but once you play with it you will realize just how powerful and impact this configuration strategy can have on your overall Contact Center call flow.

The Working Times facility enables you to define a type of day and then associate shifts to that day type. The normal ShoreTel Schedule works on a binary On-Hours Off-Hours call handling model. What happens if you want to build a call flow that needs to have calls routed differently between specific hours of the day. For example, between 12AM and 8PM, we want incoming calls to be routed to the Guard Station. Between 8AM and 12 Noon we want a live answer point at the Reception Desk. Between Noon and 1PM calls need to be routed to an outside answering service; and between 1PM and 5 PM they need to be routed back to the Reception desk. Now any technician that has been working with the ShoreTel IPBX for any period of time has developed several strategies for handling this often required call flow. The strategy usually involves cascading Hunt Groups in combination with Workgroups to achieved the desired result.

The Working Times facility within the Contact Center would handle this complexity with ease. You would define a Day Type (i.e. WeekDay) and the define the various Shifts that comprise that day. In the example above, the ticking of the clock would transition through the various “shifts” resulting in a different destination based on the time of day. This is advantageous in a call center environment and significantly less demanding to administer than the cascading Hunt group strategy. Contact Center call flow is often managed on a time of day, day of week and holiday basis at a level of sophistication that goes way beyond the On-Hours Off-Hours approach to call handling. The ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center Working Times facility is a power strategy for achieving maximum call routing control.

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!


ToolBar Options for ShoreTel Call Managers

The Personal or Professional Call Manager has long been a key element in the success of the ShoreTel solution. This desktop call control application enables you to easily manage your phone calls. “Point and Click” to take action, or “right click” on an active call to immediately list all of your options. (You will find that there is always more than one way to do things in the ShoreTel Call Manager). The Call Manager can be customized by the system administrator. Each user can have up to 6 toolbars each supporting up to 24 buttons! You can dock or move these toolbars around and they can be hidden from the View menu in the Call Manager user interface. The System Administrator can create “Global Toolbars” and push them out to users as part of a class of service options.

Global and Personal Toolbar

You can create buttons that monitor other members of your team, launch applications, transfer live calls to remote cell phones! If you are using the Integrated toolbar (see previous post) as part of the ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center, the list of options for your toolbar can include call center specific functions. These functions might include Release with Code and Wrap Up with Code, both generally used in a contact center environment. ShoreTel Toolbars are easy to create, push out to users and offer a wide range of customization options that enable you to create a true “air traffic control system” for manipulating your phone system!   The graphic shows three rows of buttons that are a combination of user-specific, and “Global” that were pushed out to Call Center agents via a COS option.   If the PCM looks strange to you,  it is because you are on a version before 8+ which changed to this new look and feel.

ShoreTel Enteprise Contact Center Tool Bar Setup Options

As noted in a previous post, there are reasons that you might want to consider using the standard Agent tool bar. The Standard Agent tool bar enables the manipulation of an call center contacts (voice, email and chat) with an unobtrusive GUI. The toolbar can be standardized for each agent or a supervisor can allow agents to create there own tool bars. There is a setup icon that enables the ability to add or remove icons associated with different contact center functions. Again, the system administrator can “lock” this function and push out a standard Agent tool bar to assure system uniformity. In a “shift” based contact center in which different people sit at the same desk and extension at different times (e.g. Day, Night, Weekend) you can create an Agent tool bar icon that will prompt the Agent to enter their Agent ID and Extension number. In this way, the ShoreTel PBX can be setup with non-specific users, as the ShoreTel Contact Center can track usage by Agent ID.

Signing into the Agent tool bar prompts you to enter three items of information: Agent ID, Agent Extension and Email Address. The Agent Email address is only used when your ShoreTel Enteprise Contact Center is setup to route incoming email messages to the next available Agent, in a manner similar voice calls. Once logged in, there is an icon for Agent tool bar setup. There are four basic areas of tool bar setup: Telephony, ACD, Window and Other. The Telephony setup enables you to add icons for common phone features like transfer, hang-up, conference and Divert incoming call! The ACD setup enables wrap up, release and other common functions including the ability to request Supervisor Intervention. There is a Call Window, Queue monitor, Telephone manager and Desktop Wall Board in the Window setup section and currently the “other” option enable you to create an icon for launching an external application. There are also tabs for setting Preferences, Contact Information, Ring and Queue Alerts.

At the bottom of the tool bar there is a “status” line that displays information. Idle, Ringing, Connected and Held are common staus indicators, but you can also “write” to the status line. This is another advantage of this tool bar over the integrated tool bar. Similarly you can change the information that is displayed on the Queue Monitor or Agent Wall Board which are pushed out or available to the Agents. Some of this information is contained in the system defined Call Profiles, while other information is contained in the user defined Call Profiles. (Call profiles are described in detail on the instant online video training library). These options work together to create a very powerful desktop call management center, in a compact GUI. The silent video demonstrates the various configuration options and shows the easy with a customized tool bar can be created. The actual tool bar in this example, is a Supervisor tool bar in ECC 5.0 but it looks the same as an Agent tool bar!

ShoreTel Contact Center – Integrated Agent Tool Bar

ShoreTel Contact Center Agent Tool Bar
The ShoreTel Contact Center provides two strategies for call management at the desktop.   We have found that the basic ‘agent tool bar’ is an excellent solution for call center desktops in which different shifts sit at the same desk, use the same computer and phone.  It is easy enough to program the tool bar to prompt the agent for there log-in information.   In this way, you can set up your phones with extension numbers that multiple agents can use.  When an agent reports to work, they go to their assigned desk and log-in, using an extension that might have been used by a different Agent on the previous shift.  The ShoreTel Contact Center keeps track of what agent used what extension during what time slot.   On desks that are dedicated to an individual agent, the agent tool bar can be integrated into the ShoreTel Personal Call Manager.   The Personal Call Manager looks like a Workgroup Agent call manager, but the tool bar indicates “contact center” and the drop down list contains information that is appropriate to the ShoreTel Contact Center or Enterprise Contact Center.    There is one additional advantage of the stand alone Agent Tool bar.   You can push custom parameters, named “call profiles” in ShoreTel documentation, to the Agent Tool bar.  We find that you do not have the same flexibility with the Integrated Tool Bar inside the ShoreTel Personal Call Manager.

ShoreTel Personal Call Manager with Integrated Contact Center

ShoreTel Contact Center C2G Interaction Reports

Prior to release of ShoreTel Contact Center Version 5.0, reporting was essentially statistical analysis. The Contact Center had very useful report generation capabilities that included the ability to add and delete columns to existing pre-defined reports. The reports, however, were generated largely as summary reports based on accumulated totals of events. For example, you could generate an Agent Performance report that could report the total number of calls presented; total call answered; average call holding time; average talk time over a specified interval. Though very useful for tracking aggregate call volume, the reports could not track individual agents events. The Shoretel Contact Center had no equivalent of the Call Detail Reporting that you might find in the ShoreTel IPBX database. What information was available, was derived by arithmetic manipulation of totals or the equivalent of “peg counters”. Each agent had a bucket for total calls, but the details of each call were not archived in the database. This led to reports that indicated total calls for the period were 19.2 as calls were averaged over an interval.

ShoreTel Contact Center 5.0 takes a major step forward in the area of reporting. A new feature named variously “interaction reporting” or “cradle to grave” reporting has made a major positive contribution to the contact centers already strong feature set. The database has also migrated from Sybase to MySQL, which completes the database migration strategy that ShoreTel began with version 7 of the IPBX. In the ECC database contains a table structure that can be generally summarized as a configuration database. A second database, named C2G has been created and does not appear in contact centers before version 5. This database contains about 22 tables of which four are effectively the equivalent of “CDR” records. A table named events, tracks all the incoming event detail and includes a GUID that can be used to link back to the CDR record in the IPBX. This database makes it possible to create very detailed reports. For example, assume you needed a report that listed each call handled by a specific agent over an specified interval. Additionally, you want the agent detail to include a call disposition status or wrap code. Prior to the C2G database, this type of report would have been impossible. With the new C2G database, you can generate the report very easily using any MySQL administration tool, like SQLyog. Interaction reporting is a major step forward for ShoreTel Contact Center and one that the market will be very excited to receive. Look for a video update in our online library for a “hands on” look at how to setup configure and make use of Interaction reporting!

ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center Interation Reporting