Eliminating Ghost Calls in Your Contact Center

Nothing is more frustrating to a call center operation than a “ghost” call. This is a call that comes in, but nobody is on the other end. Did the caller get tired of waiting on hold and just put the phone down? Does my service provider have a telecommunications problem? Or is my contact center platform at fault?

Contact centers are some of the most complex environments. It’s common for an interaction between caller and agent to go through 10 different systems, which in turn interact with another 20-plus systems on the back end. In my experience of running large contact centers, I’ve learned three things you can do to minimize ghost calls.

1. End-to-End Reporting -- This may sound obvious, but is hard to do in reality. It starts with having call detail reports from the toll-free service provider. Then it requires gathering the logs from every system the call goes through. Finally, it means stitching all this together. Many contact centers use a session border controller to create a unique call ID for each call. This enables them to track a call as it goes through various systems. The greatest chance for audio problems to occur is in the transfer process. AT&T offers end-to-end Visual Network Analytics as a service, and the image below shows all the data it gathers to determine where problems may be occurring.

2. Regular Test Calls -- Synthetic transactions are a common way to test Web applications and this methodology can be used in contact centers. On a commonly used toll-free number, every five minutes send a test call that goes through the IVR, into a queue, and is routed to a test agent’s desktop. Be sure to use a unique caller ID or DNIS to be able to identify the test calls, so they won’t impact production reporting. Empirix and Integrated Research are two companies that provide this service. I’ve seen SIP trunking providers that had call completion rates of less than 99%, speech recognition engines slow down under load, and call quality getting poor at certain times of the days. These test calls identify problems prior to system alarms.  

3. Agent Reporting -- The first step to solving a problem is admitting that there is one.  Most agent desktop applications have a caller reason code. Adding a ghost call reason code to this list allows call-center operations to track them. In my experience, 0.2% of calls with no caller on the other end is normal, especially if average hold times are above a minute -- callers give up and walk away from their phones without hanging up. But if ghost calls start increasing at a regular time of day or under heavy call volume, the cause is more than likely an underlying problem.

As more calls use WebRTC in IVR applications such as Amazon Connect or agent desktops where multi-channel communications is built into the CRM applications, calling data in WebRTC will become more important. Callstats.io is one company that is focused on monitoring and improving WebRTC call completion and quality. You can use its service to analyze problem calls by ID and test the infrastructure using simulated WebRTC calls. 

One recent ghost call problem I worked on was when calls where transferred out to a third-party contact center that did staff augmentation.  Everyday around 10:00 a.m. EST, ghost calls would spike to 20% to 50% of inbound traffic for three to five minutes. Using the above process and data, we were able isolate the problem to a tier-two SIP trunking provider that was delaying sending the media information after call set-up. It was doing this because one of its devices was getting overloaded at the top of the hour with new call requests supporting an audioconferencing bridge. Making matters even worse, the third-party contact center’s SIP trunking contract didn’t have a call-completion requirement.

So while bugs may reside in software, ghosts lurk in contact centers. Who you gonna call? 

Get more insight from Sorell at Enterprise Connect 2019, where he'll be presenting the session, "Best Practices in Securing Unified Communications." Register by this Friday, Jan. 18, to take advantage of our Advance Rate, and use the code NJPOSTS to save an extra $200.