US 20060067309 A1
A system is provided for providing communication event routing and transfer capability in a multi-site communication-center environment. The system utilizes a presence protocol application and a routing application for determining availability of an agent or system and for setting up the transfer from a point of transfer on a network to a destination of transfer on the same or connected network. In a preferred use the presence protocol application is shared by communication-center sites cooperating in the transfer and routing of events and the presence protocol enables at least one event-handling process normally performed by the routing application.
1. A system for providing communication event routing and transfer capability in a multi-site communication-center environment comprising:
a presence protocol application;
a routing application;
a point of transfer on a network; and
a destination of transfer on the same or connected network;
characterized in that the presence protocol application is shared by communication-center sites cooperating in the transfer and routing of events and wherein the presence protocol performs at least one event-handling process normally performed by the routing application.
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19. A method for transferring a telephony communication event from one communication-center site switch to another comprising steps of:
(a) receiving an event at a first telephony switch at a first site;
(b) determining that the event requires transfer to a second identified telephony switch at the location of a second site;
(c) sending a request in the form of a presence protocol message to a processor controlling the switch at the second site;
(d) receiving at a processor controlling the switch at the first site a response in the form of a presence protocol message giving permission for the transfer; and
(e) executing the call transfer.
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The present invention claims priority to a Provisional Patent application, No. 60/389,703, filed Jun. 17, 2002. The present invention is also a Continuation-In-Part (CIP) to a U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/927,301 entitled “Integrating SIP Control Messaging Into Existing Communication Center Routing Infrastructure” filed on Aug. 10, 2001, which is a CIP to a U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/160,558, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Providing Integrated Routing for PSTN and IPNT Calls in a Call Center”, filed on Sep. 24, 1998, disclosures of which are incorporated herein in their entirety by reference. A document disclosure in the DD program, number 496199 dated Jun. 19, 2001, was filed in case Ser. No. 09/927,301.
The present invention is in the field of telephony communication and pertains more particularly to methods and apparatus for using session initiation protocol (SIP) in site-to-site communication event transfers.
In the field of telephony communication, there have been many improvements in technology over the years that have contributed to more efficient use of telephone communication within hosted call-center environments. Most of these improvements involve integrating the telephones and switching systems in such call centers with computer hardware and software adapted for, among other things, better routing of telephone calls, faster delivery of telephone calls and associated information, and improved service with regards to client satisfaction. Such computer-enhanced telephony is known in the art as computer-telephony integration (CTI).
Generally speaking, CTI implementations of various design and purpose are accomplished both within individual call-centers and, in some cases, at the network level. For example, processors running CTI software applications may be linked to telephone switches, service control points (SCP), and network entry points within a public or private telephone network. At the call-center level, CTI-enhanced processors, data servers, transaction servers, and the like, are linked to telephone switches and, in some cases, to similar CTI hardware at the network level, often by a dedicated digital link. CTI and other hardware within a call-center are commonly referred to as customer premises equipment (CPE). It is the CTI processor and application software at such centers that provides computer enhancement to a call center.
In a CTI-enhanced call center, telephones at agent stations are connected to a central telephony switching apparatus, such as an automatic call distributor (ACD) switch or a private branch exchange (PBX). The agent stations may also be equipped with computer terminals such as personal computer/video display unit's (PC/VDU's) so that agents manning such stations may have access to stored data as well as being linked to incoming callers by telephone equipment. Such stations may be interconnected through the PC/VDUs by a local area network (LAN). One or more data or transaction servers may also be connected to the LAN that interconnects agent stations. The LAN is, in turn, connected to the CTI processor, which is connected to the call switching apparatus of the call center.
When a call arrives at a call center, whether or not the call has been pre-processed at an SCP, typically at least the telephone number of the calling line is made available to the receiving switch at the call center by the network provider. This service is available by most networks as caller-ID information in one of several formats such as Automatic Number Identification Service (ANIS). If the call center is computer-enhanced (CTI) the phone number of the calling party may be used to access additional information from a customer information system (CIS) database at a server on the network that connects the agent workstations. In this manner information pertinent to a call may be provided to an agent, often as a screen pop.
In recent years, advances in computer technology, telephony equipment, and infrastructure have provided many opportunities for improving telephone service in publicly-switched and private telephone intelligent networks. Similarly, development of a separate information and data network known as the Internet, together with advances in computer hardware and software have led to a new multi-media telephone system known in the art by several names. In this new systemology, telephone calls are simulated by multi-media computer equipment, and data, such as audio data, is transmitted over data networks as data packets. In this application the broad term used to describe such computer-simulated telephony is Data Network Telephony (DNT).
For purposes of nomenclature and definition, the inventors wish to distinguish clearly between what might be called conventional telephony, which is the telephone service enjoyed by nearly all citizens through local telephone companies and several long-distance telephone network providers, and what has been described herein as computer-simulated telephony or DNT. The conventional system is familiar to nearly all, and is often referred to in the art as connection-oriented-switched-telephony (COST). The COST designation will be used extensively herein. The computer-simulated, or DNT systems are familiar to those who use and understand computer systems. Perhaps the best example of DNT is telephone service provided over the Internet, which will be referred to herein as Internet-Protocol-Network-Telephony (IPNT), by far the most extensive, but still a subset of DNT.
Both systems use signals transmitted over network links. In fact, connection to data networks for DNT such as IPNT is typically accomplished over local telephone lines, used to reach such as an Internet Service Provider (ISP). The definitive difference is that COST telephony may be considered to be connection-oriented telephony. In the COST system, calls are placed and connected by a specific dedicated path, and the connection path is maintained over the time of the call. Bandwidth is thus assured. Other calls and data do not share a connected channel path in a COST system. In a DNT system, on the other hand, the system is not dedicated or connection oriented. That is, data, including audio data, is prepared, sent, and received as data packets. The data packets share network links, and may travel by variable paths, being reassembled into serial order after receipt. Therefore, bandwidth is not guaranteed.
Under ideal operating circumstances a DNT network, such as the Internet, has all of the audio quality of conventional public and private intelligent telephone-networks, and many advantages accruing from the aspect of direct computer-to-computer linking. However, DNT applications must share the bandwidth available on the network in which they are traveling. As a result, real-time voice communication may at times suffer dropout and delay. This is at least partially due to packet loss experienced during periods of less-than-needed bandwidth which may prevail under certain conditions such as congestion during peak periods of use, and so on.
Recent improvements to available technologies associated with the transmission and reception of data packets during real-time DNT communication have enabled companies to successfully add DNT, principally IPNT capabilities, to existing CTI-enhanced call centers. Such improvements, as described herein and known to the inventor, include methods for guaranteeing available bandwidth or quality of service (QoS) for a transaction, improved mechanisms for organizing, coding, compressing, and carrying data more efficiently using less bandwidth, and methods and apparatus for intelligently replacing lost data by using voice supplementation methods and enhanced buffering capabilities.
In typical call centers, DNT is accomplished by Internet connection and IPNT calls. For this reason, IPNT and the Internet will be used almost exclusively in examples to follow. It should be understood, however, that this usage is exemplary, and not limiting.
In systems known to the inventors, incoming IPNT calls are processed and routed within an IPNT-capable call center in much the same way as COST calls are routed in a CTI-enhanced center, using similar or identical routing rules, waiting queues, and so on, aside from the fact that there are two separate networks involved. Call centers having both CTI and IPNT capability utilize LAN-connected agent-stations with each station having a telephony-switch-connected headset or phone, and a PC connected, in most cases via LAN, to the LAN over which IPNT calls may be routed. Therefore, in most cases, IPNT calls are routed to the agent's PC while conventional telephony calls are routed to the agent's conventional telephone or headset. However, a method known to the inventor allows one headset to be used at an agent's station for handling both IPNT and COST calls. This is accomplished via connecting the agent's telephone to the sound card on the agent's PC/VDU with an I/O cable. In most prior art and current art systems, separate lines and equipment must be implemented for each type of call weather COST or IPNT.
Due in part to added costs associated with additional equipment, lines, and data ports that are needed to add IPNT capability to a CTI-enhanced call-center, companies are currently experimenting with various forms of integration between the older COST system and the newer IPNT system. For example, by enhancing data servers, interactive voice response units (IVRs), agent-connecting networks, and so on, with the capability of understanding Internet protocol, data arriving from either network may be integrated requiring less equipment and lines to facilitate processing, storage, and transfer of data. However, telephony trunks and IPNT network lines representing the separate networks involved still provide for significant costs and maintenance.
In some current art implementations, incoming data from the COST network and the Internet is caused to run side by side from the network level to a call center over a telephone connection (T1/E1) acting as a telephone-data bridge, wherein a certain channels are reserved for COST connection, and this portion is dedicated as is necessary in COST protocol (connection oriented), and the remainder is used for DNT such as IPNT calls, and for perhaps other data transmission. Such a service is generally offered by a local phone company. This service eliminates the requirement for leasing numerous telephony trunks and data-network connections. Routing and other equipment, however, must be implemented at both the call-center level and network level significantly reducing any realized cost savings.
A significant disadvantage of such a bridge, having dedicated equipment on each end, is the dedicated nature of individual channels over the bridging link. Efficient use of bandwidth cannot be assured during variable traffic conditions that may prevail at certain times. For example, dedicated channels assigned to IPNT traffic would not be utilized if there were not enough traffic to facilitate their use. Similarly, if there was more COST traffic than the allotted number of COST channels could carry, no additional channels could be made available.
In a yet more advanced system, known in some call centers, a central switch within the call center is enhanced with IP conversion capability and can communicate via LAN to connected IP phone-sets and PC's eliminating the need for regular telephone wiring within a call center. However, the service is still delivered via a telephone-data bridge as described above. Therefore, additional requirements for equipment and inefficiency regarding use of bandwidth are still factors.
In still other systems known to the inventor, IPNT to COST conversion or COST to IPNT conversion is performed within the call center instead of via a network bridge. This is accomplished via a gateway connected to both an IPNT router and a central telephony-switching apparatus. In the first case, all calls are converted to and routed as COST calls over internal telephone wiring to switch-connected headsets. In the second case, all COST calls are converted to and routed as IPNT calls over a LAN to individual PC/VDU's.
In all of the described prior art systems, the concerted goal has been to integrate COST and IPNT data via converging at the network level or within the call center. The addition of dedicated hardware both at the network level and within the call center adds to the expense of providing such integrated data.
In a system known to the inventor and described with reference to Ser. No. 09/160,558 listed in the cross-reference section of this specification, an integrated router is provided within a call center. The integrated router monitors and controls both a telephony switch receiving and forwarding connection-oriented, switched telephony (COST) calls and a Data Network Telephony (DNT) processor receiving and forwarding DNT calls. The integrated router is enabled by software to consult a common data repository storing status of agents answering both types of calls within the center and routes all calls according to a single set of routing rules, which can take a variety of forms. In one aspect, telephone devices at agent stations are adapted to handle both COST and DNT calls.
It has occurred to the inventor that in addition to being able to unify all routed events within a communication center under a common set of rules, it would be desirable to adapt established IP network protocols for use as routing tools within a communication center for the purpose of saving time and costs of developing proprietary protocols and expensive client applications using them.
One standard Internet-based protocol that may be adapted for communication center use is the well-known session initiation protocol (SIP). Very basically, SIP is an application-layer control (signaling) protocol for creating, modifying and terminating communication sessions with one or more participants. These sessions include Internet multimedia conferences, Internet telephone calls and multimedia distribution. Members in a session can communicate via multicast or via a mesh of unicast relations, or a combination of these.
A SIP session can include both persons and automated systems such as a media storage service. A SIP session can include both unicast and multicast sessions. A session initiator does not necessarily have to be a member of an initiated session to which SIP is used to initiate. SIP transparently supports name mapping and redirection services, allowing the implementation of ISDN and Intelligent Network telephony subscriber services. These facilities also enable personal mobility.
In the parlance of telecommunications intelligent network services, personal mobility is defined as the ability of end users to originate and receive calls and access subscribed telecommunication services on any terminal in any location, and the ability of the network to identify end users as they move. Personal mobility is based on unique identification numbering and compliments terminal mobility, which enables an end terminal to be moved from one sub-net to another.
SIP is designed as part of the well-known IETF multimedia data and control architecture, which is currently incorporating protocols such as RSVP for reserving network resources; the real-time transport protocol (RTP) for transporting real-time data and providing QoS feedback; the real-time streaming protocol (RTSP) for controlling delivery of streaming media; the session announcement protocol (SAP) for advertising multimedia sessions via multicast; and the session description protocol (SDP) for describing multimedia sessions.
It is known to the inventors that SIP can be used in conjunction with other call setup and signaling protocols. In this mode, an end system uses SIP exchanges to determine the appropriate end system address and protocol from a given address that is protocol-independent. For example, SIP could be used to determine that the party can be reached via H.323, obtain the H.245 gateway and user address and then use H.225.0 to establish a call, for example. In another example, SIP might be used to determine that a call recipient is reachable via the PSTN and indicate the phone number to be called, possibly suggesting an Internet-to-PSTN gateway to be used.
A software suite is known to the inventor for routing communication events over a data-packet-network using an IP session initiation and signaling protocol. The software suite is described with reference to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/927,301 listed in the cross-reference section above.
The software suite comprises a server application for computing and serving routing determinations per request, a session management application for initiating and managing routed and established session events, a parsing application for parsing request data received under session initiation protocol and a conversion application for converting data received under session initiation protocol into a routing request. All received communication requests for routing are in the form of the session initiation protocol wherein they are parsed and converted into routing requests processed by the server application and routed to determined destinations. In practice, events are established as session events conducted under the session initiation and management protocol.
The system above is used chiefly within a communication center and uses a proxy server to manage conversion between SIP protocol and T-server routing protocol. It has occurred to the inventor that many organizations that host communication centers host multiple center sites both based in telephony and data networks. It would be desirable to enable seamless communication event transfers including final destination routing between two or more sites that are network connected using unmodified standard protocols including SIP and instant message (IM)-based protocols.
What is therefore clearly needed is a routing system that can transfer communication events seamlessly among multiple communication sites including final agent-level routing of those events using standard SIP and IM-based protocols and preserving complex routing protocols for final agent-level routing within the center site that is the destination for the transfer.
In a preferred embodiment of the invention a system for providing communication event routing and transfer capability in a multi-site communication-center environment is provided, comprising a presence protocol application, a routing application, a point of transfer on a network, and a destination of transfer on the same or connected network. The system is characterized in that the presence protocol application is shared by communication-center sites cooperating in the transfer and routing of events and wherein the presence protocol performs at least one event-handling process normally performed by the routing application.
In a preferred embodiment of the invention the presence protocol is Session Initiation Protocol. In another embodiment the presence protocol is Instant Messaging and Presence Protocol. In some cases the presence protocol includes Session Advertisement Protocol and Session Description Protocol. Also in some cases the routing protocol is T-server protocol.
In some embodiments the point of transfer is a telephony switch. Also in some embodiments the destination of transfer is also a telephony switch. In some other embodiments the destination of transfer is an IP-capable device in an agent workstation.
In some embodiments there is a communication server shared by at least two of the multiple communication-center sites, and the communication server may be hosted on one of the Internet, an Ethernet, or on a Virtual Private Network. In some of these embodiments the presence protocol is Session Initiation Protocol.
In another aspect of the invention a method for transferring a telephony communication event from one communication-center site switch to another is provided, comprising steps of (a) receiving an event at a first telephony switch at a first site; (b) determining that the event requires transfer to a second identified telephony switch at the location of a second site; (c) sending a request in the form of a presence protocol message to a processor controlling the switch at the second site; (d) receiving at a processor controlling the switch at the first site a response in the form of a presence protocol message giving permission for the transfer; and (e) executing the call transfer.
In some embodiments, in step (a), the event is a COST telephone call and the switch is a CTI-enabled telephony switch. Also in some embodiments, in step (b), determination of transfer requirement is established through IVR interaction with the caller. Still further, in step (c), the presence protocol may be Session Initiation Protocol. In other cases, in step (c), the presence protocol may be Instant Messaging and Presence Protocol.
In some embodiments, in steps (c) and (d), a request and response interaction also occurs using a routing protocol for exchanging information not handled in the presence protocol request/response interaction. In some cases at least one event-handling process is event notification of the event for transfer, and in some cases at least one event-handling process is the process of reporting availability of an agent representing the final destination for the transferred event.
In this basic prior art example, call center 17 is equipped to handle both COST calls and IPNT calls. Both COST calls and IPNT calls are delivered to call-center 17 by separate network connections. For example, a telephony switch 19 in the PSTN may receive incoming telephone calls and rout them over a COST network trunk 23 to a central switching apparatus 27 located within call center 17. IPNT calls from Internet 15 are routed via a data router 21 over a data-network connection 25 to an IPNT router 29 within call center 17. In this example, network switch 19 is meant to represent a wide variety of processing and switching equipment in a PSTN, and router 21 is exemplary of many routers and IP switches in the Internet, as known in the art.
Call center 17 further comprises four agent stations 31, 33, 35, and 37. Each of these agent stations, such as agent station 31, for example, comprises an agent's telephone 47 adapted for COST telephone communication and an agent's PC/VDU 39 adapted for IPNT communication and additional data processing and viewing. Agent's telephones 47, 49, 51, and 53 along with agent's PC/VDU 39, 41, 43, and 45 are in similar arrangement in agent stations 31, 33, 35, and 37 respectively. Agent's telephones, such as agent's telephone 49, are connected to COST switching apparatus 27 via telephone wiring 56.
A LAN 55 connects agent's PC/VDU's to one another and to a CPE IPNT router 29. A client-information-system (CIS) server 57 is connected to LAN 55 and provides additional stored information about callers to each LAN-connected agent. Router 29 routes incoming IPNT calls to agent's PC/VDU's that are also LAN connected as previously described. A data network connection 25 connects data router 29 to data router 21 located in Internet 15. Specific Internet access and connectivity is not shown, as such is well known in the art, and may be accomplished in any one of several ways. The salient feature to be emphasized in this prior art example is that separate connections and equipment are necessary and implemented to be able to handle both COST and IPNT calls at the call center.
Each agent's PC/VDU, such as PC/VDU 45 has a connection via LAN 55 and data network connection 25 to Internet 15 while the assigned agent is logged on to the system, however, this is not specifically required but rather preferred, so that incoming IPNT calls may be routed efficiently. Dial-up connecting rather than a continuous connection to Internet 15 may sometimes be employed.
An agent operating at an agent station such as agent station 33 may have COST calls arriving on agent's telephone 49 while IPNT calls are arriving on agent's PC/VDU 41. In examples prior to this example, router 29 would not have a connection to central switching apparatus 27. Having no such connection creates a cumbersome situation, requiring agents to distribute their time as best they can between the two types of calls. Thus, agent time is not utilized to maximum efficiency with respect to the total incoming calls possible from both networks.
In this embodiment however, router 29 is connected to an IPNT-to-COST gateway 59 via data connection 61. Gateway 59 is connected to central switch 27 via CTI connection 63. Gateway 59 is adapted to convert all incoming and outgoing IPNT calls to COST calls where they may be routed over wiring 56 to agents (incoming), or over trunk 23 to switch 19 in cloud 13 (outgoing). In this way, agents may use switch-connected telephones, such as telephone 47 to answer both IPNT-to-COST converts and regular incoming COST calls. The agent's time is better utilized and additional network equipment comprising a network bridge and associated network connections are not required.
This prior art example, however, presents some problems and limitations. One problem is that traditional COST equipment such as routers, switches, and wiring may have to be significantly expanded to handle more traffic regarding the added call-load received from cloud 15. Further, the ability to predict possible call overload situations is significantly complicated because of the convergence of IPNT calls into the COST routing system. As IPNT calls are now received by agents as COST calls, certain features inherent to IPNT applications will be lost such as multimedia enhancements, and the like.
One advantage with this example is that calls originating as IPNT calls within call center 17 may be sent as IPNT calls over data connection 25, or as converted COST calls over trunk 23. Another advantage is that LAN 55 is free to carry data other than IPNT audio packets.
Call center 17 receives COST calls from cloud 13 over trunk 23, and IPNT calls from cloud 15 over data connection 25 as described with the prior art example of
After converting incoming COST calls to IPNT calls, these are routed via data connection 73 to an IPNT switch 75. IPNT switch 75 is adapted to distribute the resulting IPNT calls to selected agents over LAN 55. Regular IPNT calls are routed to LAN-connected agents via router 29.
Agent's telephones 47-53 are, in this example, adapted as IP phones and are each connected to LAN 55. Internal wiring and other COST related architecture is not required, which is one distinct advantage of this prior art system.
A disadvantage of this system is that there is no provision to make outbound calls to the PSTN 13. Only further enhancement to gateway 71 to convert IPNT calls to COST calls enables out-bound dialing to PSTN 13 from within call center 17. Under heavy call-load situations, a dual gateway such as would be the case with gateway 71 may become congested and cause delay. Additional apparatus may be required to alleviate this problem. In some cases wherein there are concerted outbound campaigns taking place on a frequent basis, it may be more prudent to maintain a COST switch and internal wiring within call center 17 connected to either agent telephones (maintaining dual capability) or, to add a second set of telephones dedicated for outbound campaigns. Moreover, agents are reintroduced with a problem solved in the example of
According to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, call center 17 receives COST and IPNT calls from their respective separate networks comprising telecommunication system 11. Call center 17 is, in this example, enhanced with an integrated router (IR) 83 capable of routing both COST calls and IPNT calls. Central switch 27 is connected via CTI link to a processor running instances of a CTI application known to the inventors as T-server and Stat-server (TS/STAT). An intelligent peripheral in the form of an IVR 84 is connected to processor 82 via data link 81. Processors 82 and IVR 84 provide CTI enhancement to switch 27, as well as an application programming interface (API) to IR 83 via installed software.
It will be apparent to the skilled artisan that processor 82, IVR 84 and IR 83 may be implemented in a single computing machine executing all of the necessary software, but the functions have separated here for clarity in description.
A multimedia data server (MIS) 87 is connected to LAN 55, and is adapted to store and serve certain multimedia content as known in the art. Switch 27 and Router 29 are maintained as call-arrival points for calls arriving from either PSTN 13 or Internet 15 adhering to the separate network-architecture previously described.
IR 83 performs in an innovative manner in that it not only controls central switch 27 through interaction with processor 82, and therefore routing of COST calls, but also controls processor 29 and the routing of IPNT calls. IR 83 controls routing of both COST and IPNT calls whether such calls are incoming or outgoing.
An agent status-table 86 is a real-time database containing agent availability information, which is continually updated as operation of the call center proceeds. Table 86 may reside in IR 83 as shown, or may reside on processor 82 as part of the T-Server software. Table 86 keeps track of when agents log on or off to the system, and which agents are busy on calls (either COST or IPNT). It will be appreciated that any combination of rules set by the company hosting center 17 may be in place such as priority routing, routing based on skill, statistical routing, and so on, in various combinations known to the inventors.
Integrated routing as provided by IR 83 allows calls of both types (COST/IPNT) to be distributed evenly among available agents without adding expensive call conversion equipment, or effecting outbound dialing capabilities.
Yet another improvement in this example over prior art systems is known to the inventor and implemented at some or all agent stations such as stations 31-37. As briefly described with reference to the background section, agent stations 31-37 have PC-connected telephones. An I/O cable completes this interface via connection from a telephone receiver/transceiver apparatus such as on telephone 53 to a sound card installed on an associated PC such as PC/VDU 45. Individual one's of headsets such as headsets a-d are connected either to each telephone or each PC/VDU and are adapted to allow an agent to engage both COST and IPNT calls using the same headset.
It will be apparent to one with skill in the art that the integrated routing system of the present invention may be utilized in any call center capable of receiving both COST and IPNT (or other DNT) communication. It will also be apparent to one with skill in the art that the present invention may implemented as part of a CTI software package, or held separately and integrated with such a CTI implementation.
SIP-Based Call Control Management
In another aspect of the present invention, the inventor provides a mechanism for incorporating SIP protocol as a call management tool within a communication center. The methods and apparatus of the invention are described in enabling detail below.
PSTN 414 can be another type of COST telephone network as may be known in the art such as a private telephone network. A local telephony switch (LSW) 415 is provided within PSTN 414 and adapted as a switch that is local to communication center 402. Switch 415 may be an ACD type or PBX type telephony switch as well as other known types. It will be appreciated by the skilled artisan that there will be many other switches, service control points, and other telephony equipment connected within PSTN 414. In this simple example, only switch 415 is illustrated and deemed sufficient for the purpose of describing the present invention.
CTI equipment (not shown) such as a CTI processor including IVR capability and a Stat-Server may be assumed to be present within PSTN 414 and connected to LSW 415 in cases of network-level routing. In such a case, a separate network would exist from the described equipment in the PSTN to similar equipment implemented within center 402.
Internet network 417 comprises an Internet backbone 416 extending there through and a backbone-connected Internet server 418 that is adapted, in this case, as an Internet access point for IPNT callers attempting to reach communication center 402. Server 418 is adapted to serve HTML electronic documents or electronic documents presented in other mark-up languages, some of which depend on protocols used by connecting end devices. WML, HDML, and other well-known protocols are exemplary of several that may be employed at server 418. Backbone 416 represents all of the lines, equipment and connection points making up the Internet network as a whole. Therefore, there are no geographic limitations to the practice of the present invention.
Backbone 416 is illustrated, in this example, as extending toward PSTN 414. In some embodiments, calls may travel back and forth between PSTN 414 and Internet 417 through a bridge or gateway (not illustrated in this example). Internet server 418 is adapted as a customer access point to communication center 402 as previously described. A user represented herein by a PC icon labeled 419 is illustrated in this example as connected to Internet backbone 416 by an Internet access path 422. Therefore user 419 has accessibility when connected to Internet server 418 for the purpose of establishing communication with communication center 402 over backbone 416.
User 419 may establish Internet access with Internet server 418 using a variety of well-known Internet access methods. Typically, user 419 would access server 418 using a dial-up modem technology through an Internet service provider (ISP) as is most common in the art. In other embodiments, user 419 may access via a cable modem connection, a wireless satellite connection, an integrated service digital network (ISDN), and so on. Although an ISP is not explicitly illustrated in this example, one such may be assumed to be present and operable between user 419 and network 417 as is well known in the art. Actual access would take place through network 414 in the case of dial-up services.
Communication center 402 represents a state-of-art center capable of integrating COST events with DNT events under a common set of routing rules. A central telephony switch (SW) 413 is provided within communication center 402 and adapted as a central office switch for routing COST communication events within the communication center, and in some cases to remote agents. SW 413 is connected to LSW 415 within PSTN 414 by at least one telephony trunk 423. Switch 413 may be an ACD or PBX type switch as well as other known types as was described further above with reference to switch 415. Switch 413 represents an incoming routing point for all incoming COST events into center 402.
Communication center 402 has a LAN 403 provided therein and adapted for TCP/IP and other applicable Internet protocols. LAN 403 is chiefly used in this example to provided network capability for connected agents, automated systems, and other equipment that is further described below.
In this example, there are two illustrated workstations a (404) and N (405) within center 402 that are connected to LAN 403 for network communication. It will be appreciated that there will typically be many more than 2 workstations connected to LAN 403 as noted by the A-N designation, in a communication center. Each workstation A-N is at least adapted with a PC and a telephone in this embodiment. In workstation 404 there is illustrated a PC 406 connected to LAN 403 and a PC-connected IP phone 407. In workstation 405 there is illustrated a LAN-connected PC 408 and a connected IP phone 409. There may be more equipment types provided in and operational in a workstation that are not illustrated in this embodiment including facsimile stations and so on. The inventor deems illustration of two main communication appliances, namely a PC and a telephone, as sufficient for the purpose of explaining the present invention.
It is noted herein that there are no COST wiring facilities implemented from switch 413 to phones 407 and 409. In this example both phones 409 and 407 are IP-capable telephones that are connected to their respective PCs 409 and 407. The connection is through the PC sound card enabling the IP phones to take calls through the PC. In this case, all COST communication events at switch 413 are converted to IPNT events and routed to LAN-connected PCs.
A transaction server (T-Server) 412 is provided within communication center 402 and connected to switch 413 by a CTI link. T-Server 412 is also illustrated herein as LAN connected. T-Server 412 embodies and serves upon request all of the routing functions employed at center 402. A data server 423 is provided within center 402 and connected to LAN 403. Server 423 serves any pertinent data regarding client and agent information as may be required to enhance routing function. A data repository 424 is provided and accessible to server 423. Repository 424 is adapted to hold any pertinent data that may be accessed and served by server 423 upon request. Updates to such data may be made periodically through LAN 403.
Types of data stored in repository 424 and served by server 423 may include, but is not limited to, agent information such as log-in status, availability data, skill data, language data, identification data, address data, and so on. Client information contained in repository 424 and servable by server 423 may include client history data, client identification data, contact information, payment history data, order status data, and so on. Server 423 functions, in this example, as a centralized information source for agents as well as for automated systems at work in the center. Information contained in repository 424 may be continually updated as events arrive and are internally routed within center 402.
A proxy server 410 is provided within center 402 and illustrated as connected to LAN 403. Proxy server 410 is adapted with a modified version of session initiation protocol (SIP) as is illustrated in this example by a software instance (SW) 411. SW 411 is installed on and executable on server 410 in accordance with events for internal routing within the center. Server 410 has an Internet connection to Internet backbone 416 by an Internet access pipeline 425. Server 410 functions also as an Internet router (IR) as described further above with reference to IR 83 of
As an IR, server 410 performs all of the internal routing of events arriving thereto from Internet 417 and from PSTN 414 through switch 413. To this effect, server 410 is directly connected by a CTI link to switch 413. In one embodiment, switch 413 is adapted to convert COST events to IPNT ring events. In another embodiment, server 410 simply routes events from switch 413 but connection for such events is physically made on conventional telephones and internal telephony wiring. In still another embodiment, switch 413, if adapted as an IP conversion switch, may be directly connected to LAN 403. There are many possibilities.
User 419 has an instance of software compatible with SIP protocol (SW) 420 executable thereon that is adapted as a simple client application to SW 411 in server 410. SW 420 may be a browser plug-in in one embodiment, for example. In another embodiment, SW 420 may be a stand-alone application. Another instance of software, labeled SW 421, is illustrated on PC (user) 419 and adapted as a form-filler (FF) application. FF 421 may be assumed to be part of SW 420 as one application in many embodiments, or be connected to it in a direct or indirect manner. The inventor logically separates FF 421 from SW 420 for illustration of function only. In another embodiment, the functions of SW 420 and FF 421 may be provided in and accessible from server 418 within Internet 417.
The purpose of FF 421 is to enable a user, in this case user 419, to communicate a text reason for a desired connection event to an agent or system of communication center 402. FF 421 provides functionality that would otherwise be covered by an interactive voice response (IVR) system that may be assumed to be implemented either in PSTN 414 and connected to switch 415, or within center 402 connected to switch 413.
User 419 may access server 418 and then be provided with applicable client software or he or she may already have the appropriate software installed as a resident program. Filling out an electronic form using FF 421 and submitting the form while connected online with server 418 causes a telephony event request to be initiated having an SIP header and the completed form as the body of the SIP message. The SIP event arrives at server 410 where SW 411 parses the message for content and separates the header information and content (form data) from the SIP message.
The parsed data is then re-formatted into language that is understood by T-server 412 and sent as a routing request to the server. Record of the event remains at server 410 until a response is received from T-server 412 concerning routing determination. T-server 412 executes any applicable routing routines using the re-formatted SIP data and sends a routing result or recommendation back to server 410. In some embodiments T-server 412 consults with server 423 for any information required for optimizing a best determination for routing the particular event.
Server 410 receives a routing determination from sever 412, and then routes the target event to an available agent or system based on the response. All SIP functionality built into SW 411 can be leveraged to provide information that is useful for establishing a successful connection.
For events arriving at switch 413 wherein there is no agent-level routing performed at PSTN 414 network level, IVR interaction can provide the equivalent of FF 421 of PC 419. SW 411 is capable of parsing a textualized or digitized version of an IVR message and of generating an SIP message containing the information. As described above, T-server 412 receives a routing request from server 410 in the form of a SIP message. Server 412 computes routing results according to included information and sends the results to server 410. Server 410 then routes the event to an appropriate agent or system connected to LAN 403.
If events arriving at switch 413 are to be passed directly to LAN 403 through a dedicated LAN connection (not shown), then server 410 simply routes notifications of pending ringing events. Alternatively, server 410 may receive the actual events digitized and may directly route them to appropriate agents or systems over LAN 403. Again, all of the functionality of SIP messaging may be tapped wherein it may be useful as a routing variable. Such functions include bandwidth reservation, handshake protocols, media designations, callback information, presence information and so on.
The method and apparatus of the present invention allows integration of strict routing conventions and SIP functionality without requiring significant modification of or provision of special application program interfaces (APIs) to be distributed to key components of the system, namely T-server 412, server 423, and perhaps at switch 413.
One with skill in the art will recognize that there may be a variety of routing infrastructures having differing hardware components and connectivity that can be enhanced with SIP-Routing capability according to embodiments of the present invention. Likewise, the preferred method may be employed to directly route and forward actual events and for routing notification of pending events wherein subsequent call connection is a COST connection made between a terminal and a central switch of the center.
In the meantime, at step 504 the proxy server waits for the result/response from the request sent at step 502. In step 504 the requesting party or originator of the event remains in queue. At step 503 the T-server uses additional information provided by form filling to help granulate a routing determination to more narrowly define an appropriate routing destination for the event. This may involve access and consultation with a server/database analogous to server 423 connected to repository 424 described with reference to
At step 507, the T-server responds to the request of 502, after processing and retrieving any additional data at step 506, by sending the best possible routing information or result to the proxy server. The result may well be a final routing determination or command necessitating no further determination by the proxy. In another embodiment, routing information may simply consist of a data record indicating all of the parameters of the route computation wherein some further computation to determine final destination is left for the proxy server.
At step 508, the proxy sever of step 507 routes any additional hard data to the intended recipient of the call in the form of a screen pop-up or other well-known convention. Simultaneously at step 505, the processed event is routed by the proxy server to the same recipient. The recipient is most likely a live agent but may also be an automated robotic system.
In one embodiment, the live connection is established and the session maintained within the proxy. In another embodiment only notification of an event is routed and actual physical connection made by another IP router (dumb switch) other than the proxy server. In the event of telephony events arriving through the COST network (PSTN), the SIP request sent to the proxy is generated at an enhanced central switch wherein the IVR interaction, if any, is translated into the form content of the SIP message. Therefore, the client in 501 in the case of COST events would be the central switch analogous to switch 413 described with reference to
Using SIP data to manage internal routing enables all IP communication forms such as IP telephony, Chat, multiparty conferencing and so on to be routed and maintained as traditional telephony call events following strict intelligent routing regimens. In the case of multiparty conferencing, many steps otherwise required for conferencing in various parties are eliminated. Each selected party would receive an identical routed event, which when taken or picked-up automatically initiates the party into the conference. Similarly, other traditional steps associated with center telephony such as call holding, call waiting, call transfer, etc. can be simplified using SIP parameters. Many individual characteristics of SIP capability can be leveraged for media identification, reserving bandwidth, end user identification, protocol switching to improve transmission quality, and so on.
Event Transfer Capability
The inventor provides a communication event transfer system and method that uses a standard network protocol for coordinating communication event transfers from one to another or more communication center sites. The method and apparatus of the invention is described below.
PSTN 608 can be another type of COST telephone network as may be known in the art such as a private telephone network. Telephony equipment analogous to telephony carriers, switches, service control points, and the like may be assumed present within PSTN 608 as would be known in the art. Similarly, CTI equipment (not shown) such as a CTI processor including IVR capability and a Stat-Server may be assumed to be present within PSTN 608 and appropriately connected to local telephony apparatus.
Internet network 607 may be another type of data-packet network as known in the art such as perhaps a corporate WAN, Ethernet network, or other similar networks. Network equipment such as gateways, access points, data routers, backbone carriers, and like equipment is assumed present as is generally known in the art.
A user station 614, also termed user 614 is illustrated in this example by an enclosed PC and telephone icon representing methods of communication. User 614 accesses Internet 607 with aid of a PC or other. Internet-capable device and accesses PSTN 608 in a COST sense through typical telephone equipment. As is generally known in the art connection capability from user 614 to Internet 607 is typically accomplished through dial-up methods using a modem-based service such as an Internet service provider through PSTN 608. User 614 uses state-of-art technology for communication including cross network communication through bridging of the two described networks as is known to be available in the art.
Communication center 600 represents a center, as known to the inventor, capable of converting incoming COST events to DNT events under a common set of routing rules. In this sense, communication center 600 only routes IPNT events and is devoid of typical internal telephony wiring. This is not required to practice the present invention but serves as a convenience to agents and systems within the center.
A central telephony switch 604 is provided within communication center 600 and is adapted as a central switch for accepting COST communication events arriving through PSTN 608. Switch 604 is a PBX type switch in this example, but may also be an ACD type switch or some other known type of telephony switch. Switch 604 connects to PSTN 608 using at least one telephony tnk represented herein by double arrow. Switch 604 represents an incoming routing point for all incoming COST events into center 600, and also handles outgoing events.
An Internet router (IR) 609 is illustrated within center 600 and is adapted to communicate events to and from Internet 607. IR 609 is connected to Internet 607 by at least one Internet access line represented herein by double arrow. IR 609 also accepts communication events in DNT form that are converted to that form by a CTI-processor 605 connected to switch 604 by a CTI link 612. A data link 613 is illustrated and adapted for connecting IR 609 directly to processor 605. In this example CTI-processor 605 has an instance of T-server software (TS) executable thereon. TS software enables all of the routing protocol used to route communication events within center 600. In this example, CTI-processor 605 is further enhanced for converting COST events to DNT events and DNT events to COST events. Therefore CTI-processor 605 performs as a network bridge internal to center 600. In terms of total incoming events, IR 609 routs all events to final destinations within center 600.
Communication center 600 has a local area network (LAN) 601 adapted for TCP/IP and other applicable Internet protocols. LAN 601 is chiefly used in this example to provided network capability for connected agents, automated systems, and other equipment that is further described below. LAN 601 has direct access to IR 609 by way of a data line 611.
In this example, there is a plurality of illustrated agent stations 610 a-n within center 600 that are connected to LAN 601 for purpose of network communication. It will be appreciated that there will typically be, in actual practice, many more than the number of agent stations illustrated in this example. It may be assumed that each agent station 610 a-n is at least adapted with a PC connected to LAN 601. In this embodiment an IP-capable telephone is available as well within each agent station 610 a-n, the phones connected through, for example, a sound card interface to each PC.
A customer information system (CIS) server 606 is provided within center 600 and connected to LAN 601. Server 606 serves any pertinent data regarding client and agent information as may be required to enhance routing function. Server 606 is typically connected to an internal or external data repository (not shown) adapted for holding system and client related data. Types of data accessible to server 606 may include, but are not limited to, agent information such as log-in status, availability data, skill data, language data, identification data, address data, and so on. Accessible client information may include client history data, client identification data, contact information, payment history data, order status data, and so on. Server 606 functions as a centralized information source for agents as well as for automated systems at work within center 600.
An application server 602 is provided within center 600 and is adapted to serve appropriate functional software applications upon request of other systems and/or agents within center 600. Application server 602 is connected to LAN 601 by LAN connection and to CTI-processor 605 by way of a data link 603. Application server 602 is adapted with a software instance of session initiation protocol (SIP) software (SW) 615.
SIP software 615 may be a modified version of SIP as was described above with reference to SW 411 of
Processor 605 is connected by a data network 615 to similar CTI equipment maintained within PSTN 608 and connected to one or more PSTN telephony switches. In this way instances of TS can communicate with other instances of TS operating at network level. For example, if a call destined for center 600 is processed at a local telephony switch within PSTN 608, information about the caller including notification of the pending event can be passed ahead of the actual event to an agent or system within center 600. Likewise, TS routing rules may be extended to network level switches and service points within PSTN 608, in effect, providing agent level routing capability into the network.
In practice, communication events may arrive within center 600 at telephony switch 604 (COST) and at IR 609 (DNT). When an incoming event registers at the last switch within PSTN 608, TS software in processor 605 provides routing commands to the switch hosting the event before final routing. Processor 605 accesses SIP control SW 615 upon receiving notification over data network 615 of the presence of the pending event. The COST event is routed according to prevailing routing rules to central switch 604 within center 600. Data about the event arrives at processor 605 over network 615 and is passed on to the intended destination over link 613, through IR 609, over LAN 601 to the target one of agent stations 610 a-n.
The event registered at switch 604 is initiated and established as a session-controlled event by SIP protocol from processor 605 over data line 613 through IR 609, over LAN connection 611 and LAN 601 to the engaged agent or system. The incoming event at switch 604 is a COST transaction, however, the event is initiated and controlled from the point of processor 605 to the point of the engaged agent or system according to SIP protocol. In this case, TS/SIP parsing and conversion described with reference to
Incoming events arriving at IR 609 for internal routing are routed according to TS protocols and are conducted according to standard SIP protocol. Communication events are tracked within application server 602 including generation of statistical data, log history, event handling disposition, and so on. In another embodiment another server may be provided to log activity.
In this example of internal SIP-based routing, TS routine controls switch 604 in terms of routing protocol and destination. However event initiation, maintenance, and event termination from the point of processor 605 to any of the routing destinations is conducted according to SIP protocol. For example, assume that internal telephony wiring exists within center 600 and connects agent stations 610 a-n (telephones) to switch 604. In this case TS routine would provide routing rules and commands while SIP protocol would be used to set up and notify one of a target agent's PC terminals that an incoming telephone call is being routed to the agent. The agent subscribes to TS to receive data about the caller or event and receives notification of the call and, perhaps a clickable link to the required data tlrough SIP messaging and response interaction. In a preferred embodiment TS, SIP, and other protocols like IM type protocols can be extended between participating center sites.
A major difference in this example is a fact that both communication centers 600 and 700 share a same application server 702 running, among other center applications, an instance of SIP (SW) 713. In this example, network cloud 716 represents both the Internet and the PSTN network. One with skill in the art will appreciate that the physical boundaries between the two networks are blurred in actual practice.
Application server 702 may be hosted at the network level (PSTN or Internet), or may be hosted on a separate data network such as may be set up between cooperating instances of TS. In this case, server 702 is connected to processor 705 within center 700 by a data link 717, and to processor 605 within center 600 by a data link 718. In this embodiment, application server 702 may be accessed from a point on either LAN 601 or LAN 701 following the appropriate paths established for each center. For example, an agent operating one of stations 710 a-n may access server 702 through link 711, IR 709, processor 705, and link 717. An agent operating one of stations 610 a-n may access server 702 through link 611, IR 609, processor 605 and link 718.
In addition to a shared application server, processors 605 (center 600) and 705 (center 700) are directly connected by a network link 719. Network link 719 may be adapted to share a proprietary protocol (TS) or it may be adapted to communicate using a presence protocol such as instant message protocol. In some cases more than one protocol is simultaneously supported such as SIP, IMPP, and TS. Connections from respective center components to network 716 remain identical to those described with reference to
In the case of an incoming event arriving at switch 604 in center 600, it may be determined that the best suited destination for the call is in fact an agent operating one of stations 710 a-n in center 700. Caller ID can be established for the purpose of coordinating between TS request/response and SIP request/response. ANI services can be leveraged as well as many other identification and matching techniques to ensure that SIP and TS function for one event are appropriately associated with the event.
Processor 605 makes a determination to transfer the event to center 700, in some cases, to a predetermined final destination such as a target agent (remote agent-level-routing). Processor 605 sends notification of the event and requests routing availability information from processor 705 concerning an available agent or system. This is accomplished in preferred embodiments of the invention using SIP protocol. Processor 705 returns routing information to processor 605 after confirming availability of the requested target destination. IMPP can be used to exchange this information instead of proprietary TS routine or SIP. At the same time routing determination is occurring the pending session is initiated through SIP exchange between processors 705 and 605 over the network of links 717, 718 and application server 702. Server 702 coordinates and manages the information for the eventual session initiation and control during the active session using Application 713. The method and apparatus of the invention is not limited to use between two communication center sites. Many communication center sites may practice the invention.
For example, assume a communication event (telephone connection) is routed to center 600, switch 604. It may be determined that the calling party will be best assisted by joining an active SIP session maintained by communication server 801. In this case processor 605 sends an SIP request to server 801 and waits for a response. When routing is confirmed, SIP initiation to connect commences between the calling party and server 801. The calling party may be routed through a telephony-to-Internet gateway at network level in order to make connection with server 801. Text-to-voice and voice-to-text rendering can be practiced in this case so that the calling party using a COST telephone may still participate. Voice-to-voice translation can also be provided. DNT-sourced parties may communicate normally using a PC or other Internet-capable devices having text and/or voice input capability and a suitable display apparatus. Devices may be text-based, or visual-audio based. SIP negotiates the parameters for connection. It is noted herein that direct SIP functionality or that of another presence protocol such as IMPP can be leveraged on all of the network paths where there is shared bandwidth which covers all paths from server 801 to network gateways.
Communication server 801 can handle all SIP request and response interactions between processors 605 and 705. Also, TS or other proprietary routing requests and commands can be, in some cases, attached to SIP messaging as enhanced documents and redirected to intended destinations for implementation. Any hard data and/or reference links to data sources connected with an event can be propagated through the network comprising processors 605, 705, and application server 702 over links 718 and 717.
In the examples of
At step 900 a communication event arrives at a communication center representing a first site or site 1 of more than one possible site. The event, for purpose of discussion, is assumed in this example to be a COST telephone call arriving at a communication center switch analogous to switch 604 of
At step 902 a, the processor responsible for handling the event sends an SIP request to site 2, more particularly, the CTI processor (TS enhanced) enabling the communication center switch located within site 2. SIP generation within the processor of site 1 is enabled by an SIP control application running on a server accessible to both the processors of site 1 and cooperating site 2. The shared server is analogous to application server 702 of
At step 902 b the processor handling the event at site 1 sends a proprietary TS routing request to confirm routing protocol for the event and to enable passing of any additional pertinent data gleaned from the caller to the event handling processor at site 2. The process of step 902 b occurs simultaneously with the process of step 902 a. The routing request can be trimmed of requirements for requesting agent availability information because that can be handled through SIP or other presence protocols. If additional complex protocols exist for routing such as skill level identification, statistical routing information, historical or predictive routing information, then a TS request must be sent along with the SIP request.
Both the SIP request and the TS request are tagged with matching identification associated with the event pending transfer so that the event handling processor of site 2 can match the requests to the same event. Standard call identification procedures can be applied. In one embodiment random identification codes are generated at the time of request generation. Any additional data about the caller sent in the TS request at step 902 b is also tagged with the appropriate identification.
It is noted herein that the network over which the SIP request is sent includes the shared application server in its path. The applications sever coordinates and tracks the request/response interaction as well as session states for any session resulting from the event. By contrast, the TS request and data is sent over a separate network set up between the two active processors. This network may be a proprietary private network such as a virtual private network (VPN), or any other secure data network.
At step 903, the event handling processor at site 2 receives the requests sent in steps 902 a and 902 b. The requests are processed for appropriate responses. This may include consulting routing rules, and transferring hard data from TS to agent desktop on the TS side. Each response is generated in a cooperative manner so that there are no conflicts. For example, if the SIP response fails to permit transfer, the TS response must also indicate that transfer is not possible. In this way no conflicting determinations exist saving bandwidth. The event handling processor within site 2 sends the generated responses back to the event handling processor of site 1 giving a green light for the transfer.
At step 904, the event is successfully transferred from the central switch of the first site to the central switch of the second site and in some embodiments (agent level routing) to the telephone of the final internal destination at the second site. Some of the elements normally contained in a typical TS routing request are obfuscated by SIP enhancement as was described above. For example, event transfer request, and agent presence availability information can be handles chiefly in the SIP request/response format described above.
The process of this example describes an event transfer of a COST event from one telephony switch to another telephony switch. Therefore SIP monitoring of state of session is not directly possible assuming a pure COST telephony hookup. However, in a scenario wherein a gateway is used to bridge a cost connection to a data connection such as an IP phone, SIP can directly monitor and control state of session between the agent device and the gateway through which the caller is bridged. Along the network portion of the connected session wherein there is shared bandwidth, all of SIP functionality comes into play.
The method and apparatus of the present invention can be practiced internally within a communication center and externally between communications centers connected to a common network. The invention may also be practiced on virtual IPNT communication networks utilizing remote agents. All that is required in the case of a virtual center is a centralized routing point (proxy server) and the transaction server capabilities and routines required to provide intelligent routing among remotely connected agents.
The method and apparatus of the present invention should, in light of the many applicable embodiments, be afforded the broadest scope under examination. The method and apparatus of the present invention should be limited only by the claims that follow.