ACD call distribution and skills based routing for Asterisk PBX

Managing and keeping up with the “state of the art” in technology is always a challenge. In late 2002, the design architects at Indosoft were looking to move away from maintaining and enhancing our PBX software based on legacy CTI boards. Indosoft wanted to keep its focus on call center software development. The emerging confluence of VoIP and TDM, made possible by PBX software like Asterisk, created significant product development opportunities in contact center industry. After considerable due diligence, we began porting and migrating the outbound and the inbound call center suite to the Asterisk PBX platform.  Our Legacy to Asterisk migration was well timed.

In the emerging union of data and voice where the border between IT software and telephony blurred, the Asterisk PBX has proven to be a life saver. The vision and foresight of Mark Spencer and his team has enabled Asterisk to be a dominant force in the PBX realm. For Indosoft, there were a few surprises along the way. One of the more significant limitations was in the design architecture of the built-in ACD in Asterisk.  Automatic Call distribution is an important component of any inbound call center. Skills based routing is an essential ingredient for achieving efficiency and quality of service that inbound call centers need. Call center managers look for a lot of flexibility in skills based routing.  Indosoft invested considerable effort in research and development to design and build an ACD that is truly skills based and which can work with Asterisk. This ACD architecture takes full advantage of all the features available in Asterisk without sacrificing the flexibility of skills based routing and prioritization.

Skills are unique to the functions of a call center. Examples of skills could be English language skills, Spanish language skills, Sales skills, Customer Service skills, etc. Skills can be defined and agent competence rated so each skill can be assigned to create a matrix.

Agent Skill Matrix
Agent Skill Matrix

The queues in an inbound call center require a set of skills so that competent agents can answer calls. Call center managers are usually very adept at identifying the queues required. In large out sourced call centers this can be generated using tools to identify all the combinations. “Spanish, Customer Service” is an example of a queue. The skills in Spanish and skills in Customer Service are together required for answering calls in this inbound queue.

It is a lot easier to assign competence levels for agents at queue level than skill level. Also, it is essential to keep the gradation to the required minimum to make it faster for the ACD to decide on the available agent competent to handle the call.