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Call Center Terminology

May 12, 2006

I need to find the meanings of the following terms: CTI, CLI, IVR, CMS, call forecasting and scheduling system and, last, Predictive Dialer. -- David, Schneider Electric



  • Rajas Daithankar, Avaya Certified Expert Posted at 12:00AM on Jun 2, 2006

    Dear David: I have culled from the Web the more generally accepted definitions for CTI, CLI, IVR and Predictive Dialer, and I use them as reference material. However, topics like CMS and call forecasting & scheduling generally have different connotations, and/or are not mere terms requiring definition, but a systematic 'in context' understanding. As such I have given my own treatment to these other topics. Here goes: CTI: Computer Telephony Integration. Typically means the software that integrates the telephone system - typically the Automatic Call Distributor, with the computer systems, to do screen pop-ups synchronized with the delivery of incoming calls, and/or controlling the ACD call routing by the external computer for given situation e.g: Platinum customers given priority etc. Generally CTI refers to systems that enable a computer to act as a call center, accepting incoming calls and routing them to the appropriate device or person. CLI: There are two contexts for this term. Both outlined below: a) Calling Line Identification - An alternative for the North American term ANI, the number of the calling party b) Call Level Interface - A set of programming "calls" for programmers in which the calling syntax remains the same over different computing platforms. This allows programmers to write code that works on different platforms without needing to change the code for the interface IVR: Interactive Voice Response - Automated solution that directs callers with voice prompts to select from a defined set of choices. Customers normally make choices using the number pad on the telephone, though it is becoming increasingly popular to allow customers to state their choices and allow speech recognition software to determine what they've chosen. Implementation is everything in IVRs. If the prompts are not set up properly they will cause a great deal of ill will with customers using them. The public perception of IVR systems in general has suffered quite a bit because so many IVR systems have been poorly implemented. If there is one area that extra care, money, and time is justified it is in producing interactive scripts for your IVR. Predictive Dialer: A predictive dialer is used in outbound call centers to automatically dial the phone for a group of agents. A predictive dialer's decision of when to make the next call is based on the statistical probability of an agent becoming available to answer the call at the instant the recipient picks up. Other things considered by the dialer include the statistical probability that the called party will be available to answer the phone. Because a predictive dialer relies so heavily on statistical probability, it will sometimes call a number that no agent is available to take. Technically, this is an abandoned call, but it is also referred to as a nuisance call because the called party gets hung up on the instant he or she answers the phone. CMS: There are several connotations to this term. The more prominent ones are: a) Call Management System - A reporting platform / software specific to Avaya, a leading technology provider to the Contact Center industry. As such, this is an Operational Effectiveness solution that (without going in too much details) allows Contact Center Managers to measure their call center performance through various KPIs viz. Service Level, Average Handling Time, Abandoned Calls, Occupancy, ASA, etc. across individual agents, group of agents or for the call center as a whole. b) Contact Management System/Software - There are varying interpretations of CMS even within this specific context, bringing a range of complex systems like Siebel, to something as basic as Microsoft Outlook under the Contact Management Systems purview. Hence I personally prefer to use the "intuitive" description of the Contact Management System as: "a system that allows efficient management of contacts". This way it gets tied down to what is it that *you* want to get done from the system. If all you want is to store your various contacts as in name/address/phone etc. then that is what Outlook does for you. In the "so called" CRM systems like Siebel, SAP, Salesforce etc. ("so called" because CRM actually encompasses much more than the popular understanding of CRM = Siebel, SAP et al.) too, contacts denote 'Customers'. This type of CRM/CMS manages the "transactions" that you do for those contacts - viz. opening another account, making a fund transfer, registering a complaint, etc. Whereas another view for the CRM is the 'Collaborative CRM' (according to Metagroup) or the Interaction CRM - ICRM (according to Frost & Sullivan), that manages interactions for you. This type of ICRM/CMS then manages the "interactions" that the customer has with you viz. calling you, sending you an email or a fax. [Notice that the customer itself is a 'contact' in the 'Operational CRM' (according to Metagroup) like Siebel, whereas the customer interaction is a 'contact' in the 'Collaborative CRM' like Avaya, Genesys etc.] Call Forecasting & Scheduling System: This is more popularly known as Work Force Management system or WFM. You provide the last several months/years of incoming call metrics to the WFM, down to the half hourly window; provide the key inputs like target Service Level, AHT etc. and the WFM does the following: * forecasting volume - of expected call volumes by half hour intervals for the coming week(s)/month(s) * forecasting resources - required by half-hour to handle the forecasted volume. This is generally done by more sophisticated variants of Erlang C formula. The resources mean the "bodies in chairs" required to handle the forecasted call load. They are as yet 'unnamed' or 'unscheduled' * scheduling - the required "bodies in chairs" in appropriate schedules as in exactly who needs to be in the seat at what time, with appropriate breaks pre-defined. Scheduling becomes complex because of there are business rules of the organization that need to be adhered to. These rules include but are not limited to the operating hours, staggered shifts allowed/disallowed, agent preferences to be taken into account viz. specific start timings for students, specific break times for medical/religious reasons, rotating graveyard shifts, not more than 2 weekend shifts in a row assigned to same individual, shift swapping allowed/disallowed, shift bidding allowed/disallowed etc. etc. There can be a plethora of such business specific scenarios. So in essence the WFM schedules 'just enough' resources that will meet the target Service Level (this saves money for the business), but ensures that agent preferences are also kept into consideration. Hence the WFM (read forecasting & scheduling) system finds favor with Operations and Business leaders because of its positive impact on business as well as agent morale in general. I hope I was able to do justice to your queries with my perspective of those terms. --

  • Ted Hopton Posted at 12:00AM on Jun 28, 2006

    For a comprehensive glossary of call center terms, go to the ICMI Call Center Glossary. If you'd like a thorough explanation and definition of call center terminology and concepts, the best resource available is ICMI's Call Center Dictionary.

    -- Ted Hopton, Director, Membership Services, ICMI, Tel. 610-918-4757, Fax: 610-918-4758, tedh@icmi.com

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