Silent calls are one of the most frustrating problems, for callers and for call center managers. For a caller, what can be more frustrating than queuing for an agent and then ending up in a dead end with no service? For a manager, what’s worse than losing a call which could have led to business?

Silent calls come in various types.

The classic silent call type is when a caller is routed to “dead air” – no ringing tone, no on-hold music, in fact nothing to indicate that the call is still in progress. Another scenario with the same effect but different symptoms is when a call is routed to a number which is never answered: the music plays, or the phone rings, but the caller is never connected to an agent.

A third type worth mentioning is where the audio from the call is lost – either the caller can’t hear the agent, or the agent can’t hear the caller, or both. It may even be that the call proceeds without problems, but the audio is lost somewhere in the call-recording process, so the recording is silent although the call itself was unaffected.

All these types of silent calls cause problems for callers and contact centre staff, and can have a big impact on business, especially in these days of hefty fines for failed call recordings, and of social media spreading customer service horror-stories.

Diagnosing

Silent calls can be very hard to diagnose, partly because there is very little evidence to go on due to their essential nature. No details of the call are logged by an agent, there is no opportunity for the caller to explain that this was a silent call and in the case of call recordings the problem usually only surfaces long after the call was made.

Is it worth investing time and money to track down the causes of these silent calls? The short answer is yes. Silent calls often go unreported, so you can be fairly sure that if any are reported the scale of the problem is bigger than it appears. Additionally, the penalties for this type of problem can be huge, both in terms of fines from industry regulators and in the damage that can be done by a few dissatisfied customers on Facebook.

Two Recent Examples

I know of two recent examples – one a single business call center with around 60 agents, the other a much larger multi-branded outsourced contact center – where a small number of reported silent calls was taken extremely seriously, and an enormous amount of effort and management time was spent trying to understand and resolve the issue.

In one case, calls were being routed to queues or extensions where no agents were logged in. This was an error in the end-to-end routing plan, perhaps because of recent changes in IVR functionality or a move from the old TDM numbering scheme to a new range of SIP numbers. The calls fell through the cracks between components which were individually tested. The problem only came to light through gaps in the monthly call handling statistics.

In the other case, short-term network issues were causing transfers to be delayed, and a clash of timeout settings meant that the connections were not properly established in some cases. The eventual solution required improvements to the network configuration, as well as a more consistent approach to timeouts across the whole infrastructure.

The main problem for both these businesses was that they did not have end-to-end monitoring or real-time reporting in place which allowed them to identify problem and silent calls and pinpoint the root causes. A great deal of additional logging and tracing had to be implemented, impacting live calls, before the causes could be identified. There is a strong argument here for proactive monitoring, active testing, and better integration between low-level system monitoring and business-level goals or SLAs.

How PSS Can Help

PSS can offer monitoring and testing tools which give a high-level view of contact center performance against business goals and SLAs, as well as providing drill-down to root causes of problems such as silent calls.

As an independent expert, PSS is ideally placed to examine the end-to-end customer experience in a complex solution from multiple vendors, and to take ownership of issues which span several technologies. Our customers trust us to understand their business pain, to give them good advice, and to solve their problems without passing the buck.

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