Inbound call distribution: 5 basic setup options for cloud or on-premise PBX

Processing incoming calls is one of the main tasks of a call center. Therefore, it is important to properly distribute the load on the operators so that customers do not have to wait long for a response. In our article, we have collected the most popular processing strategies, studied them, and identified the most effective ones.

First, let's tell you what call distribution strategies are.

In total, there are two large groups:

- Parallel

- Successive

With the parallel method, the call goes to all operators at once. In theory, this method should help to reduce the client's waiting time for an answer since, in the absence of one or several operators in the field, the call will be answered by the one who’s free first.


The successive strategy is that the call goes according to a certain pattern, from one operator to another, until someone accepts it.


This strategy has several schemes:

1. Start with the agent who was least recently called by this queue.

2. Start with the agent with the fewest completed calls from this queue.

3. Ring random agent.

4. Round robin.

5. Round robin with memory.

6. Rings agents in the order specified.

Why you shouldn't call everyone at once

Above, we mentioned the advantages of this method, and now we want to talk about the disadvantages. Knowing that the call came in parallel to everyone, the operator can ignore the call, working under the impression that a colleague will pick it up instead. Thus, the wait can be delayed.

Therefore, in our opinion, this method is suitable only for small groups of operators of up to three people. In larger departments, this method may not work.

«Round robin», «By the number of calls», «By the number of answered calls», «Ring random agent», «Rings agents in the order specified».

In all large call centers, sequential distribution strategy schemes are most often used. They provide the best average response time and help balance the workload across all agents.

1. «Round robin» and «Round robin with memory»

One of the standard call processing plans. They work by forwarding an incoming call to the first person on the line instead of dialing all operators simultaneously. If the operator does not answer after the specified number of rings, the call is transferred to the next one. This process continues in a circle until the next available operator picks up.

The main advantage of this strategy is that it allows you to customize the dialing order. However, this can create a latency issue if the first few agents are unable to receive the call.

«Round robin with memory» differs only in that the call may not necessarily go to the first operator in the queue. The system remembers the last received incoming worker and starts with the next one in the queue. Thus, you can see which particular operator received the call.

2. «By the number of calls»

This method allows you to set up the call queue so that first the call goes to the operator who is the least likely to be dialed by customers. Thus, calls will be distributed evenly among all employees, and the client's waiting time for a response will be reduced.

3. «By the number of answered calls»

The queue begins with the operator who received the least number of calls. In this case, the load is distributed evenly and each operator can receive the required volume of calls.

4. «Ring random agent»

When using this scheme, the call queue starts with a random operator selected by the system. That is, it is impossible to predict who exactly will receive the call.

5. «Rings agents in the order specified»

This method allows you to independently set the order in which calls will be received by operators.

How to shorten the mean response time (ASA) using sequential strategies.

There are several ways:

1. Reduce the time to call the operator. On average, if the operator is at the computer, they need 2-3 seconds to answer a call. Therefore, 5-7 seconds for dialing will be enough.

2. Teach operators to answer any call as quickly as possible. If there is a call - answer. It is necessary to explain that calls are distributed sequentially; the system will not connect other operators until it waits for an answer within the allotted 5-7 second timeframe for dialing a free employee. Therefore, there should not be any gaps. If the operator is not ready to answer, they must "inform" the PBX about it. It is very easy to do this; just select the appropriate status ("Lunch", "Break", etc.). Knowing that the employee is not ready to answer, the PBX will not distribute incoming calls to them.

To control the quality of answers and the number of missed calls, use the report "Quality of Inbound Processing" and "Calls by Operator".

3. Use the ACW mode in the softphone. In many cloud and office PBXs, you can set a timeframe for this action (for example, during ACW in Asterisk, the wrapup parameter in the queue.conf configuration file responds), and the system will send calls only to those operators who have the Online status on. This will allow employees to process calls with high quality, and customers do not have to wait for dialing through all channels.

However, we recommend enabling the ACW mode in the softphone, and not in the PBX. The main reason is that PBX ACW is always a fixed time interval. Each operator, depending on the call, needs a different time to process it. Therefore, the averaged "minute" for ACW, set in the PBX, will only slightly improve the average response time, and in many cases will not affect this important indicator at all.

The ACW mode in the softphone, on the contrary, works as flexibly as possible. After the end of the call, the operator will see the ACW window, which acts as a signal to the system that the employee is busy and will be unable to receive the call. When they completely finish working with the incoming call, they simply click the "End" button.

During ACW, the softphone can either reject incoming calls, or temporarily disconnect from the PBX altogether. The last option is the most preferable, because in this case, any system will automatically exclude a busy operator from the call list without spending a single extra second on dialing.

4. Use additional statuses like "Lunch", "Break", and "Technical break". Then, as in the previous paragraph, the system will understand that the operator will not be able to answer the call and will immediately redirect it to free colleagues.

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