|Publication number||USRE43205 E1|
|Application number||US 11/484,829|
|Publication date||Feb 21, 2012|
|Filing date||Jul 11, 2006|
|Priority date||Aug 27, 2003|
|Also published as||US7058169, US20050047583|
|Publication number||11484829, 484829, US RE43205 E1, US RE43205E1, US-E1-RE43205, USRE43205 E1, USRE43205E1|
|Inventors||Roger Sumner, Anthony Dezonno|
|Original Assignee||Aspect Software, Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (38), Referenced by (2), Classifications (12), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The field of the invention relates to communication systems and, in particular, to systems with automatic call distributors.
Automatic call distribution systems are known. Such systems are typically used, for example, within private branch telephone exchanges as a means of distributing telephone calls among a group of agents. While the automatic call distributor may be a separate part of a private branch telephone exchange, often the automatic call distributor is integrated into and is an indistinguishable part of the private branch telephone exchange.
Often an organization disseminates a single telephone number to its customers and to the pubic in general as a means of contacting the organization. As calls are directed to the organization from the public switch telephone network, the automatic call distribution system directs the calls to its agents based upon some type of criteria. For example, where all agents are considered equal, the automatic call distributor may distribute the calls based upon which agent has been idle the longest. The agents that are operatively connected to the automatic call distributor may be live agents, and/or virtual agents. Typically, virtual agents are software routines and algorithms that are operatively connected and/or part of the automatic call distributor.
Automatic call distributors are utilized in communications handling centers, such as telephone call centers, that forward incoming communications, such as telephone calls, for processing by one of several associated call-handling agents. Other communications centers may be used to forward voice-over-internet protocol communications; electronic mail messages; facsimiles or the like, to associated handling agents.
Telephone call centers, for example, are often used to dispatch emergency services, as telemarketing sales centers, as customer service centers, etc. to automatically distribute received calls. Each incoming call may have a number of handling requirements, depending on, for example, the nature of the call, the originating call area, and the language of the call. Agents, on the other hand, each have abilities to process calls having certain handling requirements. Typically, agents are able to process one or more call types. For example, agents are typically trained to process certain call subject matters and certain call languages.
In known telephone call centers, computerized automatic call distributors place incoming telephone calls, of a particular type, requiring defined skills, in queues of like calls. Appropriate agents have skills necessary to process calls in the queues, and are assigned to such queues. Agents are often assigned to multiple queues, reflective of their particular handling skills. Typically, this is done to increase the handling capacity of the center by making improved use of available communications handling resources.
Quite often, agents may handle calls related to one or more subject areas, and possess varied attributes that are relevant to all subject areas they are capable of handling. For example, a telephone call center agent may speak multiple languages, and may therefore be able to process telephone calls relating to a particular subject matter in all these languages. One simple approach used to deal with multiple agent attributes is to create and administer individual queues, each of which takes into account the subject matter and the attributes of the agent. This, however, is administratively very cumbersome.
Other known telephone call centers use agent-skill indicators, associated with agents in order to connect calls. In such centers, a call is connected to an agent having an agent-skill indicator matching that of the call, within a group of agents. Agents, however, are typically only assignable to only one, and typically only a single agent-skill indicator is used to connect the call. Disadvantageously, such call centers do not use agent attributes across different groups. This may lead to an inefficient utilization of call center resources. Moreover, these communications handling centers do not allow for easy administration and re-assignment of agents to queues, while maintaining agent skill-sets.
One concern in designing an automatic call distributor system is ensuring that calls are efficiently routed to an agent, so as to minimize the amount of time that any particular call is placed on hold. One basic technique of minimizing on-hold time is to employ a first-in/first-out call handling technique. The first-in/first-out technique requires that calls be routed to the next available agent in the order in which the calls are received. However, in some automatic call distributor systems the agents are specialized in handling particular types of calls, so the first-in/first-out technique is not appropriate. For example in a product support department of a software facility, agents might be grouped according to specialized expertise, so that a first group is knowledgeable in word processing, a second group is knowledgeable in a database program, and a third group is knowledgeable in a spreadsheet program. Utilizing a first-in/first-out technique in such a situation is inappropriate, because a caller with a question regarding the word processing program may be routed to an agent having specialized knowledge regarding the database program or the spreadsheet program, rather than being routed to an agent with specialized knowledge in the word processing program.
The focus in the management of calls has been upon maximizing availability to customers, so as to achieve an acceptable profit margin in a competitive environment of customer service. Call management approaches that increase revenue may lead to savings for customers.
Most present-day call-distribution algorithms focus on being “fair” to callers and to agents. This fairness is reflected by the standard first-in, first-out call to most-idle-agent assignment algorithm. Skills-based routing improves upon this basic algorithm in that it allows each agent to be slotted into a number of categories based on the agent's skill types and levels.
The primary objective of call-distribution algorithms is to ultimately maximize call center performance. That may involve minimizing cost, maximizing call throughput, and/or maximizing revenue, among others. For example, when a new call arrives, the call should be handled by an agent who either has the ability to produce the most revenue or can handle the call in the shortest amount of time. Also, when an agent becomes available to handle a new call, the agent should handle either the call that has the possibility of generating the most revenue or the call that the agent is most efficient in handling.
Although known automatic call distribution systems provide many features. there is still a need in the prior art for a system that provides the ability for an agent or an inbound caller to solicit assistance from a group of similarly or higher skilled agents, especially in remote environments where, in the case of an agent, the agent does not have direct contact with other agents. These known systems do not have the functionality to allow agents and inbound callers to “chat” in a single environment. This results in a loss of efficiency in the amount of time it takes to obtain a response to a question. Furthermore, in the computerized “rooms” that are dedicated to a subject area, as the number of participants becomes greater, it is difficult to follow the thread of a transaction. To handle large chat sessions, providers, such as AOL, place participants into rolls, isolated from other chat members, and thereby limit the availability to find the solution to an inquiry.
Thus, there is a need in the prior art for a method and system which overcomes the disadvantages and provides the ability to match skill sets of an inquiring agent or inbound chat members with similar skill sets of agents.
One embodiment of the present invention is a method of providing assistance to an agent in an automatic call distribution system. The method has the steps of determining skills of each agent of a plurality of agents, storing the determined skills for respective agents of the plurality of agents as skill records in a database, retrieving the skill record of a predetermined agent from the database, comparing the skill record of the predetermined agent to the skill records of the other agents in the database, selecting an agent from the plurality of agents based on the comparison of skill records, and establishing communication between the predetermined agent and the selected agent. The skill record of a predetermined agent is retrieved when the predetermined agent of the plurality of agents requests to communicate with another of the agents of the plurality of agents.
In another embodiment of the present invention, the present invention is an apparatus that comprises a skilled determination module that determines skills of each agent of the plurality of agents. It also includes a database in which is stored as skill records the determined skills for respective agents of the plurality of agents, the database being operatively connected to the skill determination module. Also included is a retrieving module that is operatively connected to the database. The retrieving module, when an predetermined agent of a plurality of agents requests to communicate with another of the agents of the plurality of agents, retrieves the skill record of a predetermined agent from the database. Also included is a comparator, which compares the skill records of a predetermined agent to the skill records of the other agents in the database. The comparator outputs comparisons of the skill records of the predetermined agent and the other agents. A selector receives the output of the comparator and in response thereto selects an agent from a plurality of agents based on the comparison of skill records. The communication module then establishes communication between the predetermined agent and the selected agent.
The features of the present invention, which are believed to be novel, are set forth with particularity in the appended claims. The invention, together with further objects and advantages, may best be understood by reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings and in the several figures of which like reference numerals identify like elements, and in which:
Where the present invention is implemented in connection with the Internet, the present invention may operate from within a server. Voice information may be carried between the agents 110, 112 and callers 101, 102, 103 using packets.
As shown in
Generally, the private branch exchange switch 108 and the automatic call distributor 109 form a switching system designed to receive calls destined for call center 100, and queue them when an appropriate agent is not available. In addition, the automatic call distributor 109 distributes calls to agents or specific groups of agents according to a prearranged scheme. The automatic call distributor 109 may be integrated with the private branch exchange 108, as in the illustrative embodiment shown in
The telephone network 105, as used herein, includes the combination of local and long distance wire or wireless facilities and switches known as the public switched telephone network, as well as cellular network systems and the telephony feature of the Internet. The telephone network 105 is utilized to complete calls between (i) a caller at a station set, such as callers 101, 102, 103, and the call center 100; (ii) a caller on hold and a third party; and (iii) a caller on hold and a shared-revenue telephone service, such as a 900 or 976 service, provided by content provider. As is well known, shared-revenue telephone services deliver a particular service over the telephone and subsequently bill the caller. The telephone number from which a call is made typically identifies the caller. A subsequent bill is then included as part of the caller's regular telephone bill.
The Internet network, as used herein, includes the World Wide Web (the “Web”) and other systems for storing and retrieving information using the Internet. To view a web site, the user communicates an electronic Web address, referred to as a Uniform Resource Locator (“URL”), associated with the web site. It is noted that if the caller accesses the call center 100 from a conventional telephone, the textual portions of a premium web site may be converted to speech for presentation to the caller.
Skill records that are stored in the database contain at least an agent identifier and at least one associated skill classification. A further embodiment of the present invention of the method may include determining a plurality of skill sets and then associating at least one skill set with the respective agent of the plurality of agents. At least one skill set is identified based on the determined skills of the respective agent. An identification of the respective agent, and the association of the respective agent and at least one skill set are then stored in the skill records in the database.
As to be appreciated that the agent that desires to communicate with other agents may also be an inbound caller that desires to communicate with other agents of a particular skill group. Furthermore, the predetermined agent, or inbound caller, may communicate with two or more of the agents 400 that match the criteria according to the comparator 410.
The method and apparatus of the present invention may be implemented in hardware, software, or combinations of hardware and software. In a software embodiment of the present invention is a computer program product embedded in a computer readable medium. The computer readable medium comprises a computer readable media containing code segments. As depicted in
The invention is not limited to the particular details of apparatus and method depicted, and other modifications and applications are contemplated. Certain other changes may be made in the above-described apparatus and method without departing from the true spirit and scope of the invention herein involved. For example, the present invention may be utilized in various types of communication systems, other than a system using an automatic call distributor. It is intended, therefore, that the subject matter in the above depiction shall be interpreted as lusterative and not illuminating sense.
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|U.S. Classification||379/265.02, 379/265.09, 379/265.12, 379/309, 379/265.14, 379/265.01, 379/266.1|
|International Classification||H04M5/00, H04M3/523, H04M3/00|
|Jun 9, 2010||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A., AS ADMINISTRATIVE AGENT
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNORS:ASPECT SOFTWARE, INC.;FIRSTPOINT CONTACT TECHNOLOGIES, LLC (F/K/A ROCKWELL ELECTRONIC COMMERCE TECHNOLOGIES, LLC);ASPECT SOFTWARE, INC. (AS SUCCESSOR TO ASPECT COMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION);REEL/FRAME:024505/0225
Effective date: 20100507
|Jun 29, 2010||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, AS COLLATERAL AGEN
Free format text: SECURITY INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:ASPECT SOFTWARE, INC.;FIRSTPOINT CONTACT TECHNOLOGIES, LLC;REEL/FRAME:024651/0637
Effective date: 20100507
|Sep 10, 2013||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8
|Nov 20, 2014||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: WILMINGTON TRUST, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, AS ADMINIS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A.;REEL/FRAME:034281/0548
Effective date: 20141107