Are you sure you know what your call center is doing

Your Call Center by the Numbers, or How I Lost $2099.60 in the Stock Market

My wife says I should blog about the time I lost $2099.60 in the stock market. It was this week, so it’s timely. She’s one of my favourite people, so I’ll indulge her. So, I logged into the website for my discount brokerage, and found that in the weeks since I last looked, one of my new favourite investments was down a whopping $2099.60.

I was a bit surprised. None of my “research” had indicated any issues with the company. Far from it. It’s been doing well for years and had great prospects for the future. I looked around at a few financial sites to see what the issue was, and could only see positive reviews and great numbers. Maybe I had missed a raid on the head office? Maybe I had bought at a high (I did) and it had dropped down to more reasonable territory. I resolved not to panic until I figured out whether I had missed something big, or if I was just being subjected to the whims of the market.

This is the part of the post where I should get on with my actual subject, leaving you with a cliffhanger until you get to the last paragraph. I can’t do that to you. Mainly because the resolution leads right into it. Within a few minutes I realized that the stock had undergone a 3-for-1 stock split. My broker can seem to get those right when it’s Apple doing the splitting, but otherwise odd-numbered splits, or anything beyond 2-for-1, seem to wind up being wrong at least as often as they’re done right. There’s no real issue there other than a cosmetic (terror-inducing) error. They corrected my pre-split purchase price by a factor that was somewhere between  2  and e, rather than the expected 3 (or more likely 2). When I compared my actual purchase vs. my current holdings, I was actually up about $700.

When you’re looking at the reports and wallboards provided by your call center software, you aren’t likely to find the sort of discrepancy I found in my broker’s reported numbers. However, sometimes you will find that there’s a report that doesn’t make sense in terms of the numbers. Let me use abandon rate as an example. It does come up from time to time.

Most call centers we encounter define time to abandon as the amount of time that has passed from when the call first hit the call center ACD system until the time that the client hangs up, assuming that they have hung up before their call is handled (usually by an agent). That seems simple enough. However, every so often, we find different definitions of abandons:

  • The amount of time that has passed since the call entered the queue until the caller hung up. I’ve seen a couple of clients use this measure, usually when their contract requires them to play lengthy greetings or pass the call through an IVR first.
  • The amount of time that has passed since the call hit the call center ACD until the caller hangs up, assuming it has reached a certain threshold. Your call center software may accommodate this as a minimum time to abandon. If somebody hangs up in the first 10 seconds, it’s more likely that it was a wrong number than an actual interested party.
  • The amount of time that has passed since the call hit the call center ACD until the caller hangs up, assuming it has been in queue longer than 5 minutes. This is an extreme example, but some call centers take advantage of unclear definitions to use the above minimum abandon time to limit the number of abandons reported.
  • The amount of time that has passed since the call hit the call center ACD until the caller hangs up, unless it was transferred from another agent in which case it should only be counted from when it hit the queue. Ok…
  • The amount of time that has passed since the call hit the call center ACD until the caller hangs up, unless it timed out of one queue and then dropped into another queue. Well, ok, then I guess that makes sense. But what do we use for the abandon time for the second queue?
  • The amount of time that has passed since the call hit the call center ACD until the caller hangs up, unless it timed out of one queue and then dropped into another queue. Unless it came out of one of these related queues, in which case it is counted from the start of the call center arrival time. Seriously? So we’ll need a way to specify queues that are related…
  • … unless it passed through an unrelated queue first
  • … or was transferred by an agent in this group
  • … but not in this group


It can get confusing. Fortunately this can usually all be worked out while configuring the system. What does sometimes happen, however, is an admin will find a report that they hope returns the numbers they want, but that wasn’t specifically designed for their own use case. This can usually be resolved pretty quickly in training, but sometimes does cause stress, unease and a little bit of panic if you take a few weeks to look at the numbers you need. Make sure of what you are looking at, and things will look a lot better.

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