DSC Tech Library
This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to Call Center technology and Best Practices plus software and products.
DSC is a leading provider of contact center technology and software solutions as well as predictive dialer phone systems for the modern call center. Customer contact center software includes CRM software and computer telephony integration solutions. These modern products help call center phone agents communicate effectively with your customers and prospects.
The following article presents product or service information relating to call centers and customer service help desks.
Call Center Simulation Modeling:
By Vijay Mehrotra, Department of Decision Sciences
Methods, Challenges, And Opportunities
College of Business - San Francisco State University
Jason Fama, Engineering Group, Blue Pumpkin Software Inc.
The remainder of this tutorial is organized as follows.
In Section 2, we motivate the need for and value of simulation
in the context of effective call center management. In
Section 3, we discuss how call centers make use of simulation
models, focusing on the key output statistics that are
used for system performance evaluation. In Section 4, we
provide a modeling framework for call center simulation,
and discuss the key inputs associated with simulation models,
introducing the concepts through the formulation of a
simulation model. In Section 5, we discuss business decisions
associated with this model and explore some of the
results of our analysis. Finally, in Section 6, we propose
likely future directions for call center simulation.
Note: Throughout this paper, we will use the term
“call center” and focus our discussion on centers that are
processing only phone calls (either inbound, outbound, or
both). Another common term in this industry is “contact
center,” which refers to centers handling not only phone
calls but other types of customer contacts such as email,
fax, paper, and/or chat sessions. We have chosen to focus
on call centers here for clarity of exposition. However,
leveraging the ideas presented here from phone-only call
centers to multi-channel contact centers is a straightforward
extension that we have also engaged in extensively.
2 CALL CENTER MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES AND THE NEED FOR MODELS
Those responsible for managing call centers face a very
difficult set of challenges. At a high level, they must strike
a balance between three powerful competing interests, as
shown in Figure 1 below.
On a day-to-day basis, while simultaneously keeping
costs, service quality, and employee satisfaction, these executives
and managers must (implicitly or explicitly) answer
a number of important questions for which decision
support models are valuable:
There are a variety of mathematical methods (see
Grossman et al. 2001 and Mandelbaum 2001 for more discussion
of this) and associated software to help call center
personnel as they try to address these types of questions,
most notably workload forecasting models based on time
series and agent scheduling optimization solutions.
- How many agents should we have on staff with
which particular skills? How should we schedule
these agents’ shifts, breaks, lunches, training,
meetings and other activities?
- How many calls of which type do we expect at
- How quickly do we want to respond to each type
of inbound call?
- How should we cross-train our agents? How
should we route our calls to make the best use of
- Given a forecast, a routing design, and an agent
schedule, how well will our system perform?
- What is our overall capacity? How will a spike in
call volumes impact our overall performance?
- How is our center doing right now? What has
changed since we did our last forecast and published
our schedules? If the changes are significant,
what can I do to respond to minimize the
impact on the rest of the day or week?
However, over the past several years, simulation has
emerged to play an important role in the call center design
and management arena.
3 HOW CALL CENTERS USE SIMULATION
There are three major ways that simulation is utilized
within the call center industry:
1. Traditional Simulation Analysis - A simulation
model is built to analyze a specific operation, with
inputs obtained from a variety of data sources, as
discussed in Section 4 below.
2. Embedded Application – ACD/CTI Routing:
Many of the leading ACD and CTI applications
include a routing simulation to provide insights to
routing design engineers about the impact of different
3. Embedded Application – Agent Scheduling: Already
a complex scheduling problem (see Andrews
and Parsons 1989 for a more detailed discussion),
optimal call center agent scheduling is even more
complex when both calls and agents are nonhomogeneous.
Many commercial scheduling software
applications, including the one developed by
the authors’ company, make use of simulation as
part of their overall optimization engine.