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DSC Tech Library

Contact Center Equipment

telecommunications software solution 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.

Using Simulation In Call Centers
Page 2

Vivek Bapat Eddie B. Pruitte, Jr., Systems Modeling Corporation

Eddie B. Pruitte, Jr., Navy Federal Credit Union


Over the last decade, advances in technology have brought about many changes in the call-center industry. Undoubtedly, the greatest change has been the Private Business Exchange (PBX). The once electromechanical, step-by-step monsters have evolved into computerized digital machines with virtually limitless capabilities. Calls are prioritized, transferred and redirected without human intervention.

New technology provides call-center managers with seemingly unending options for call handling. Which is best for the call center, vector-based routing or skillsbased routing? Should calls be overflowed to other work groups, or should the caller be given the option of leaving a message to be called back?

Automatic Call Distributors (ACD) are standard in most new PBX’s. This technology forces managers to decide how the call should be processed. Should the call be routed to the agent who has been available the longest? Should agents be allowed to have after-call work. The computer-driven PBX also affords programming capabilities. Vectors can be written and programmed to redirect calls to alternative work groups. The instructions can be time sensitive and are not bounded by location.

The Voice Response Unit (VRU) has replaced the agent in many instances. Transactions that once required live agents are now performed through the VRU. The question begs, “How will these changes affect my call center? Which technology is right for my call center and the customers we serve?” These technologies are powerful and dynamic, and the effect on business can be tremendous. With all of these changes, the evaluation of call centers is more complex than ever before. No longer can managers, programmers or administrators make decisions by the seat of their pants—business is far too critical. What tool is available that allows decision-makers an opportunity to experiment with technology without fear of impacting their business negatively? Simulation.



The most commonly used techniques for call-center analysis are those for staffing and trunking capacity calculations. A surprisingly large majority of these techniques are based upon Erlang calculations (Bodin and Dawson 1996). Erlang formulas were designed in 1917 to solve the question of how many agents would be needed to handle the same number of calls within a single group. The assumptions made in the Erlang-based analysis are extremely limiting when viewed in the context of today's call centers (Bapat, Mehrotra, and Profozich 1997).

  • Every incoming call is of the same type.
  • Once a call enters a queue, it never abandons.
  • Agents handle calls based on a first in, first out (FIFO) basis.
  • Each agent handles every call in exactly the same way.
These assumptions are rarely valid in today's callcenter environment. Depending upon their individual tolerance for being placed on hold for an agent, callers do abandon, even if they are queued up. Agents differ in their skill levels and the times needed to handle the various calls. And the reality in today's call centers is that call requests are varied in nature and may require prioritization and sophisticated call handling to provide better service. Yet many companies base complex staffing decisions on Erlang calculations. Why? It is because they are relatively fast and easy to perform. A well-known criticism of Erlang calculations is that they have consistently over-estimated staffing needs.

Studies have also shown that 60% - 70% of the costs in call centers today are associated with staffing and human resources. This fact, combined with the inadequacies of Erlang-based calculations, can be enormously costly to a call center. Furthermore, it is clear that the application of poor analysis techniques could cause staggering losses when applied to a call center that is growing in size or complexity.

Many spreadsheet-based calculators have improvised on certain aspects of Erlang calculations to provide more realism in the usage of such calculations for staffing. Some of them provide an element of randomness, while others account for some forms of abandonment. However, these patches still do not provide the robustness of a complete solution that is provided through simulation. In particular, many industry experts believe that staffing issues associated with advances in skill-based routing and network ACD's can be studied effectively and accurately only through simulation techniques.

Erlang-based calculations are also restrictive and sometimes incapable of analyzing business questions faced by call center analysts and managers. For example, reengineering within call centers predominantly involves an in-depth understanding and analysis of call flow and process management. Quite simply, such problems are beyond the scope of Erlang based calculations.

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Vivek Bapat
Systems Modeling Corporation
504 Beaver Street
Sewickley, Pennsylvania 15143, U.S.A.

Eddie B. Pruitte, Jr.
Navy Federal Credit Union
820 Follin Lane
Vienna, Virginia 22180, U.S.A.