GB2477558A - A method of handling calls using text messaging to indicate that the callee is free to take the call - Google Patents

A method of handling calls using text messaging to indicate that the callee is free to take the call Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2477558A
GB2477558A GB201002034A GB201002034A GB2477558A GB 2477558 A GB2477558 A GB 2477558A GB 201002034 A GB201002034 A GB 201002034A GB 201002034 A GB201002034 A GB 201002034A GB 2477558 A GB2477558 A GB 2477558A
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United Kingdom
Prior art keywords
call
caller
text
back
queue
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GB201002034A
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GB201002034D0 (en
Inventor
Marlon Simon Bowser
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HTK Ltd
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HTK Ltd
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Priority to GB201002034A priority Critical patent/GB2477558A/en
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Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/42195Arrangements for calling back a calling subscriber
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/48Arrangements for recalling a calling subscriber when the wanted subscriber ceases to be busy
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/50Centralised arrangements for answering calls; Centralised arrangements for recording messages for absent or busy subscribers ; Centralised arrangements for recording messages
    • H04M3/51Centralised call answering arrangements requiring operator intervention, e.g. call or contact centers for telemarketing
    • H04M3/523Centralised call answering arrangements requiring operator intervention, e.g. call or contact centers for telemarketing with call distribution or queueing
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/50Centralised arrangements for answering calls; Centralised arrangements for recording messages for absent or busy subscribers ; Centralised arrangements for recording messages
    • H04M3/51Centralised call answering arrangements requiring operator intervention, e.g. call or contact centers for telemarketing
    • H04M3/523Centralised call answering arrangements requiring operator intervention, e.g. call or contact centers for telemarketing with call distribution or queueing
    • H04M3/5231Centralised call answering arrangements requiring operator intervention, e.g. call or contact centers for telemarketing with call distribution or queueing with call back arrangements
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/42382Text-based messaging services in telephone networks such as PSTN/ISDN, e.g. User-to-User Signalling or Short Message Service for fixed networks
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/50Centralised arrangements for answering calls; Centralised arrangements for recording messages for absent or busy subscribers ; Centralised arrangements for recording messages
    • H04M3/51Centralised call answering arrangements requiring operator intervention, e.g. call or contact centers for telemarketing
    • H04M3/523Centralised call answering arrangements requiring operator intervention, e.g. call or contact centers for telemarketing with call distribution or queueing
    • H04M3/5238Centralised call answering arrangements requiring operator intervention, e.g. call or contact centers for telemarketing with call distribution or queueing with waiting time or load prediction arrangements

Abstract

A method of call handling comprises receiving a call from a caller, identifying a telephone number associated with the caller, disconnecting the call, placing a call-marker for the received call in a queue, progressing the call-marker through the queue, determining that the call can be answered, transmitting a text message to the identified telephone number, and receiving a second call from the caller. A call handling system and method is provided that will improve the user's experience of the call centre system. The user will not have to wait indefinitely connected to the call centre at their own expense, while the call centre supplier will not have to pay for the ultimate connection to the user, as the user will call back once they have received a text message informing them that there is now an agent available to answer their call.

Description

DESCRIPTION

CALL HANDLING

This invention relates to a method of call handling and to a system for implementing the method.

It is common for large organisations which deal directly with the public, such as businesses and government departments, to operate call centres. A call centre is a centralised office used for the purpose of receiving a large volume of communications by telephone. The call centre can also be used for transmitting outgoing telephone communications and can also deal in communications by other means, such as email. Since, by definition, a call centre will receive a large number of incoming telephone calls, equipment for the handling and routing of the incoming calls is of primary importance for efficiency and quality of customer service reasons. A well-known problem with call centres occurs when a user telephones the call centre and is kept on hold until an agent is available to answer the user's call.

Improvements in the handling of incoming telephone communications are desired by the organisations providing the call centres, and can be provided in various different ways. For example, United States of America Patent 6704404 discloses a callback telecommunication system and method.

In this prior art document, a system and method for call-back handling are described. A call from a caller to a client is received and the number at which the caller can be called back is determined. The call-back handler then initiates a telephone call to the client through a public service telephone network standard line, either locally or on a public telephone network, and waits for the client to accept the call. Then, the caller is called and the calls from call-back handler to client and to the caller are connected.

While the call handling delivered by this system will, in many cases, improve the user's experience of the call centre management of incoming calls, there are a number of problems with this system. One such problem is that the call centre is carrying the cost of making the outgoing call to the users, which can add a significant expense to the running of the call centre, and this can be particularly acute if the call centre is located overseas or if the user phone is connected through a cellular or mobile network where calling costs can be significantly higher.

It is therefore an object of the invention to improve upon the known art.

According to a first aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of call handling comprising receiving a call from a caller, identifying a io telephone number associated with the caller, disconnecting the call, placing a call-marker for the received call in a queue, progressing the call-marker through the queue, determining that the call can be answered, transmitting a text message to the identified telephone number, and receiving a second call from the caller.

is According to a second aspect of the present invention, there is provided a system for call handling comprising an application server arranged to receive a call from a caller, identify a telephone number associated with the caller, disconnect the call, place a call-marker for the received call in a queue, progress the call-marker through the queue, determine that the call can be answered, transmit a text message to the identified telephone number, and receive a second call from the caller.

Owing to the invention, it is possible to provide a call handling system and method that will improve the user's experience of the call centre system.

The user will not have to wait indefinitely connected to the call centre at their own expense, while the call centre supplier will not have to pay for the ultimate connection to the user, as the user will call back once they have received a text message informing them that there is now an agent available to answer their call.

Advantageously, the method further comprises identifying the caller as a text-back candidate and only providing the text-back service if the caller is so identified. From the point of view of the supplier of the call centre, it is an advantage to only offer the text-back service to some of the callers, as there will be a small increased cost to providing such a service, and this service can therefore be reserved for certain priority customers.

Preferably, the method further comprises calculating a caller waiting time and only providing the text-back service if the caller waiting time exceeds a predetermined threshold. The text-back service can be provided in dependence upon the current waiting time that users of the call centre service are experiencing. For example, if there is a relatively low level of calls to the call centre, such that calls are put through to agents after only a short period of waiting time for the caller, then the text-back service can be suspended. The caller waiting time can be constantly monitored, and if the call time moves back above the predetermined threshold, then the text-back service can be reinstated.

Ideally, the method further comprises offering the text-back service to the caller and only providing the text-back service if the caller accepts the offer. The text-back service does not have to be mandatory, because even if the service is considered to be an improvement from the caller's point-of-view, not all callers will necessarily wish to disconnect their call. Callers who decline the text-back service will be kept on hold in the normal call centre procedure and will need to wait until an agent is available before their call is answered.

Advantageously the method further comprises, following disconnecting of the call, transmitting a confirmation message to the identified telephone number confirming the text-back service has been set up. Optionally, once the user's call is first disconnected they can be sent a confirmation text message which will inform the caller that the text-back service has been put into operation. This provides peace-of-mind to the caller that their call has actually been dealt with and not lost in any way. The confirmation message could also include estimated information about the likely time that the user will have to wait before they get the text message requesting that they call back in to the call centre.

Preferably, the method further comprises receiving the second call from the caller, prior to the transmission of the text message, and cancelling the text-back service. Should the user call back in to the call centre before they have actually received the text message asking them to do so, then the call handling system needs to be able to react to this eventuality. The simplest action is to cancel the text-back service and place the caller in the correct place in the queuing system. The caller could be offered the text-back service again, allowing them to disconnect, or could simply be held in the queue until an agent becomes available to speak to the user.

The call handling system provides a capability to queue callers and present options for interactivity, including self-service through speech-enabled IVR, call-back and text-back facilities and on-hold content that can be personalised to the caller. The properties are configurable per queue. The system can be configured to play music on-hold. If the music is interrupted, for instance to play a queue position indicator, the music will continue after the interruption at the place it was interrupted or n-seconds afterwards (where n is the duration of the interruption). An initial announcement can optionally be played. The music will not restart from the beginning, which can be highly annoying to callers.

This feature can be extended to provide personalised music on-hold. In this case, the audio source for music on-hold will be selected based on the identity of the caller, which will typically be ascertained through a lookup of their Calling Line Identity (CLI) but potentially specified according to other identification means. The optional initial announcement can also be personalised. For example, this feature can be used to play content that is relevant to the caller being of a certain classification, for example, high-value, or a specific promotion that may be of interest.

The call handler can provide interaction on-hold to the caller. Based on a configurable event trigger, such as a pre-determined number of seconds from the beginning of the call or an external stimulus, the caller will be entered into a dialogue where they can interact with the queue using DTMF and/or speech recognition, including full self-service. For example, this feature can be used to play information that may be of interest to the caller and offer a specific call-to-action, such as; "if you would like us to send you some information, press 1". While the interactive dialogue is in progress, the caller will not be connected through to an agent, i.e. their position at the head of the queue will be maintained until the dialogue is completed.

This feature can be extended to provide personalised interaction on-hold. The interaction will be selected based on the identity of the caller, which will typically be ascertained through a lookup of their Calling Line Identity (CLI) but potentially specified according to other identification means. For example, this feature can be used to offer a targeted proposition such as; "by switching from tariff X to tariff Y, you would save £15.75 per month. To make the switch, just press 1 now".

io The call handler can provide a call position indicator. Based on configurable event triggers, such as the number of seconds from the beginning of the call, the handler can interrupt the current music on-hold to play the callers position in the queue. Interactive dialogues will not be interrupted. A call connection indicator can also be provided. Based on configurable event triggers, such as the number of seconds from the beginning of the call, the handler can interrupt the current music on-hold to play the expected time before the caller is connected. The connection time will be calculated in real-time, based on dynamic flow-analysis algorithm. Interactive dialogues will not be interrupted.

A call-back facility can be delivered, based on a configurable event trigger, such as a pre-determined number of seconds from the beginning of the call or an external stimulus, the caller will be offered the option to receive a call-back when an agent becomes free. This can be configured as a personalised call-back, where the offer of a call-back will only be made to callers meeting certain criteria, typically ascertained through a lookup of their Calling Line Identity (CLI) but potentially specified according to other identification means. For example, a call-back may be offered to high-value customers only.

As mentioned above, the call handler will provide a text-back service, based on a configurable event trigger, such as a pre-determined number of seconds from the beginning of the call or an external stimulus, whereby the caller will be offered the option to hang-up and receive an SMS message when an agent becomes free to accept their call. The caller will be offered the choice of receiving the SMS message to the number they are calling from (if recognized as a mobile phone) or to a registered number (if one is available) or to enter a different mobile number which will be stored against their profile for later use. Between acceptance of the SMS-back (hang-up) and dial-back, the caller's position in the queue will be maintained. The SMS will be sent according to a configurable event trigger, for instance a pre-determined number of seconds from an agent becoming available. The SMS-back will stay valid for a configurable period of time, for example, 1 hour after the SMS.

Personalised text-back can be used, whereby the offer of a text-back will only be made to callers meeting certain criteria, typically ascertained through a lookup of their Calling Line Identity (CLI) but potentially specified according to other identification means. For example, the text-back may be offered to high-value customers only.

is The call handler can provide a queue jumping facility. A caller, typically ascertained through a lookup of their Calling Line Identity (CLI) but potentially specified according to other identification means, will jump straight to the front of the queue. For example, a queue-jump may be offered to a high-value customer or a customer that is identified as high risk of churn. The queue jump will stay in effect for a fixed duration, for instance three days, or for a fixed number of calls or until cancelled by an external trigger.

Personalised destination can be provided by the call handler. A caller, typically ascertained through a lookup of their Calling Line Identity (CLI) but potentially specified according to other identification means, will be forwarded to a specific destination. For example, if there is an ongoing investigation or an outstanding problem that will be best served through continuity of personal contact with the handling agent, the caller will automatically be forwarded to the same destination. This feature can be combined with a personalised text-back, call-back and/or interaction options.

A further feature that the call handler may include is last-call resume. In this function, if a caller hangs-up but calls back within a pre-determined time window, for example 60 seconds, they will be re-connected to the queue in the same position as when the hang-up occurred. If the caller was connected to an agent when the hang-up occurred, their call will be moved to the front of the queue and reconnected as soon as possible (an announcement should advise as such). For example, a caller on a train going through a tunnel may be cut off due to loss of signal. Their natural reaction will be to dial-back. The call handler will detect that a caller was disconnected previously and will place the call or corresponding call-marker in the queue in the same position as when the caller was disconnected.

io Embodiments of the present invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:-Figure 1 is a schematic diagram of a caller, client and call handling system, Figure 2 is a detailed schematic diagram of the call handling system, is Figure 3 is a schematic diagram of a queue of calls, Figure 4 is a flowchart of a method of performing a call-back operation, Figure 5 is a flowchart of a method of performing a text-back operation, Figure 6 is a schematic diagram of a queue with a call in a text-back operation.

Figure 1 illustrates the basic principle of a caller 10 communicating with a client 12 via a call handling system 8. Generally, the caller 10 will be a member of the public who is dialling the call centre of a business or government department, represented by the client 12. The organisation 12 is referred to as a client 12, in the sense that they are a client 12 of the service provider who is supplying the call handling system 8. The implementation of the call handling system 8 may be such that multiple different clients 12 are being handled by the call handling system 8, which will use different incoming telephone numbers to distinguish between the different clients 12.

A detailed overview of the call handling system 8 is shown in Figure 2.

A caller 10 dials a client 12, which may be on a standard telephone number (for example 0800) using the "Plain Old Telephone Service" (POTS) 14 or over the Internet 16 to an Internet Voice Over-IP (V0IP) address. If the call initiates over the POTS network 14 and is connected to the system using Time Division Multiplex (TDM) lines, the call will be converted into a VoIP protocol. The telephone network 14 connects to an IP load balancer 18 via a media gateway 20 and the Internet 16 connects to the IP load balancer 18 via an IP firewall 22.

The inbound call request will typically first be routed by the IP load balancer 18 to a call queue service 24 running in an application server 26 (of which there may be many). In an alternative configuration, the inbound call request may first be routed to a specific IVR application running on an IVR server 28, for example a touch-tone menu or speech recognition application to help with call-steering (for example, "for sales press 1, or for support press 2") which would subsequently transfer the call to the call queue service 24. The call queue service 24 will place the inbound call request into a queue. The system supports multiple queues.

The specific queue selected to process the inbound call will typically be configured by the client 12 using rules that classify callers 10 based on information stored in a database 30, such as their monthly spend. Callers 10 will typically be identified using their Calling Line Identity (CLI). Callers 10 will typically be forwarded through the queue in First-In-First-Out (FIFO) order.

More sophisticated algorithms may be used to adapt the process, for instance to prioritise some callers 10 over others and speed their progress through the queue. Algorithms may utilise information stored in the system database 30, perhaps on a per-caller basis and typically identified through their CLI, for example to advance certain calls directly to the head of the queue.

Queue behaviour can also be configured by the client 12. Examples of configurable behaviour include; whether to announce the call position or expected waiting time; the "music" to play to the caller 10 while they are waiting; an initial announcement to play, for example "calls may be recorded"; and whether to offer queue features such as a call-back or text-back, discussed in more detail below, If the configured queue behaviour is to play an initial announcement and/or on-hold music, the call will be forwarded via the IP load balancer to the IVR media server 28 (of which there may be many), which will answer the call and play the configured audio to the caller using a call queue generic IVR application 32.

Some generic IVR actions, such as playing music while the caller waits in the queue, may be configured (and perhaps configurable by the client 12) to be interrupted when the inbound call can be connected to the client 12. Other actions, such as playing a statutory or regulatory announcement, may be non-interruptible. While on-hold, the queue may be configured to invoke a specific Interactive Voice Response (IVR) application 34 at one or more defined intervals, for example to market a specific product or service. If so, the call will be redirected via the IP load balancer 18 to the IVR media server 28, which will answer the call using the interaction-specific application. At the end of the configured interaction, the call will be redirected back to the generic IVR 32.

The selection of interaction-specific IVR applications is unconstrained, meaning that "personalised" interactions can be offered to highly "targeted" groups of callers based on information and rules held in the database 30.

Figure 3 shows an example of a queue 36. The call queue service 24 will maintain the position of each call 38 in each queue 36. For calls 38 at the head of the queue 36, the call queue service 24 will attempt to dial a configured destination. The destination may be a POTS phone number or a VoIP-address, for example a SIP address, and the system will break-out the call onto the appropriate network to reach the destination. The number of calls for which a destination delivery attempt will be made, i.e. for the first N calls, will be configurable per queue 36. The destination may be defined as a group of agents, defined within the system database 30. If so, the system will employ a configured algorithm, for example "longest waiting agent", to select the specific destination address to which to connect each call 38. A specific destination may be associated in the database 30 with the caller 10, typically identified through their CLI, for example to route the call to a pre-determined agent.

If the destination 12 answers the call 38, an existing connection to the IVR media server 28 will be terminated, subject to the IVR application configuration regarding how it may be interrupted, and the call 38 will be forwarded from the call queue service 24 to the destination 12 and the duplex speech-path between the caller 10 and the client 12 will be connected. The call 38 between the caller 10 and the client agent 12 will stay connected until either side clears. The call queue service 24 will maintain a "back to back" presence for the duration of the call.

If the call 38 is cleared and re-established within a set period of time, which is configurable per queue 36, then the system will attempt to reconnect the caller 10 with the client 12 or with their previous position in the queue 36, as per the instance when the previous call 38 was cleared. For example, this "last call resume" facility may be useful to re-establish calls disconnected through a loss of mobile telephone signal, for example when going through a tunnel on a train. Two examples of an "interaction on-hold" that may be configured for a queue are, firstly a call-back facility, and secondly, a text-back facility. These features are described below.

The operation of the call-back facility is summarised in the flowchart of Figure 4. At step Si, an inbound call 38 is received. A queue 36 may be configured so as to offer callers 10 a call-back facility. Call-back may be offered to all callers, or as a value-added feature to some callers only (typically identified through their CLI). In a standard configuration, the call-back function will only be offered if the expected waiting time is more than a specified number of minutes. At step S2, the caller 10 will be offered the option of a call-back, and the call-back number (for example their CLI or an alternative phone number) will be collected and confirmed using DTMF and/or speech recognition techniques.

At step S3, once the call-back request has been confirmed, the caller 10 will be advised to hang-up. Their position in the queue 36 (the "call marker") will be maintained and will progress through the queue 36 as if the caller 10 were still connected and on-hold. At step S4, when the call-marker nears or reaches the front of the queue 36, the system will place an outbound call to the call-back number at step S5. If the call is not answered within a pre-defined number of seconds (which is configurable per queue) then the call-marker will be placed into a "holding pen" for the queue 36 and set for retry a pre-defined number of minutes later, up to a maximum number of total retries, again with the retry parameters configurable per queue. An "operating window" can be configured for each queue 36, to prevent against call-backs at unsociable hours, for example late in the evening. Connected inbound calls and call-back markers (whether in a queue 36 or the associated holding-pen) will be interleaved and selected according to an algorithm that considers a range of parameters. If connected, the system will attempt to detect whether the call has been answered by a machine or by a person. The system will be configurable, on a per queue basis, to leave a specific answer-phone message for missed call-backs. The CLI of the call-back, the telephone number presented by the system, will also be configurable per queue.

If answered by a person, the system will announce who the call-back is from (through a configurable recorded announcement) and ask the call recipient 10 to press a key in order to be connected to the client 12, or press an alternative specified key in order to cancel the call-back request (for instance if they no longer need to speak to the client 12, perhaps because they have since self-served their enquiry through the web). If the recipient 10 hangs up without interacting in the specified manner, the call-marker will be retained in the holding-pen or deleted if the maximum number of retries has been reached.

If the call recipient 10 accepts the call-back, they will be re-connected to their marker at or near the head of the queue, in step S6. It is expected that their call will be connected to the client 12 within a short period of time, and such expectation can be configured and managed using the call-position indicator and/or expected waiting-time features of the queue. At step S7, the caller 10 is connected to the client 12, and at step S8, the system waits until the specific call is cleared.

Should the caller 10, who requested the call-back, dial back into the queue 36 before the call-back has been initiated, perhaps because their call-marker has not yet reached the front of the queue 36, the caller 10 will re-join the queue 36 at their marker position and the call-back will be cancelled. If the caller 10 dials in between scheduled call-back attempts or within a configured number of minutes from an answer-phone message being left to announce a missed call-back, their call-marker will be removed from the "holding pen" and they will re-join at or near the front of the queue according to the system algorithm in place.

A second facility that can be offered by the call handling system is a text-back facility, which is summarised in Figure 5. At a first step Si, an inbound call is received. A queue 36 may be configured to offer callers a text-back facility. Text-back may be offered to all callers, or as a value-added feature to some callers only (typically identified through their CLI). In a standard configuration, the text-back function will only be offered if the expected waiting time is more than a specified number of minutes. At step S2, the caller 10 will be offered the option of a text-back, and the text-back number (for example their CLI or an alternative mobile phone number) will be collected and confirmed using DTMF and/or speech recognition techniques.

At step S3, once the text-back request has been confirmed, the caller will be advised to hang-up. The caller 10 will optionally (configurable on a per queue basis) be sent a text message to confirm that their text-back request has been acknowledged, this is step S4. The caller's position in the queue 36 (the "call marker") will be maintained and will progress through the queue 36 as if they were still connected and on-hold, at step S5.

A maximum number of "active" text-back requests can be configured per-queue. An active request is defined as one where the caller 10 has been sent a text message advising them to call back. At step S6, the caller's call- marker is queued, waiting for an active slot to become available. When a text-back call-marker nears or reaches the front of the queue 36, and if the maximum number of active requests has not been reached, the system will increment the "active" counter and, at step S7, send a text message to the caller advising that they should dial-in.

Active text-back requests reaching the front of the queue will be placed into a "holding pen", waiting for the caller to dial in. The main queue 36 will progress independently of markers in the holding-pen, i.e. active text-back requests will not "hold up" the queue. If the maximum number of active text-back requests has been reached, new text-back call-markers that reach the front of the queue will also enter the holding-pen, but the system will mark them as being in a "passive" state. Passive text-back call-markers will become active on a First-In-First-Out (FIFO) basis, as active text-back markers are removed (as calls are connected or markers expire).

The CLI of an inbound call will be used to identify an inbound caller and match them against a text-back call-marker in the queue 36. Text-back call-markers will be moved from the holding-pen to a position in the main queue, io according to an efficient algorithm, as shown at step S8. It is expected that a re-established text-back call will be connected to the client 12 within a short period of time, and such expectation can be configured and managed using the call-position indicator and/or expected waiting-time features of the queue 36.

If a caller who requested a text-back dials into the queue 36 before the text-back has been initiated, perhaps because their call-marker has not yet reached the front of the queue 36, they will re-join the queue 36 at their marker position and the text-back will be cancelled. When a text-back request is connected (i.e. the caller 10 is connected to the client 12), the system counter of active text-back requests will be appropriately decremented. A configurable "lifespan" (in minutes) will be assigned to each active text-back request, configurable on a per-queue basis. The lifespan will start when the text-back marker becomes active and count-down in real-time until the caller dials-in or it expires. If the lifespan expires before the caller dials-in, the call-marker will be removed from the queue 36 and the caller 10 will be sent a text message advising that their place in the queue 36 has not been preserved.

Figure 6 shows the handling of the text-back functionality, with respect to a call 38. Figure 6a shows the call 38 being received and placed on a queue 36. The call 38 is placed at the end of the queue 38 and, if the expected waiting time, ti, is sufficient, then the caller will be offered a text-back. Upon confirmation of the text-back number, the caller hangs-up and their call is replaced by a marker 40, seen in Figure 6b. Optionally, a confirmation message 42 is sent to acknowledge the text-back request. In Figure 6c, when the marker 40 nears (time t2 from being dealt with) the front of the queue 36, the marker 40 becomes "active" and a mobile text message 44 is sent to advise the caller 10 that they should call-back before a specific time hh:mm. If the marker 40 reaches the front of the queue 36 before the caller 10 has actually called back, then the marker 40 is placed into a holding pen 46, shown in Figure 6d. Other calls and call-markers in the queue 36 will not be held-up.

As shown in Figure 6e, if the caller 10 dials in, the Calling Line Identity (CLI) is used to match the call against their marker 40. Upon dial-in, the marker 40 will be moved from the holding-pen 46 back into the main queue 36, according to an efficient algorithm that considers a range of factors, as shown in Figure 6f. If the caller 10 does not dial-in before an interval t3 elapses, the text-back request is cancelled and the counter of active requests is decremented, shown in Figure 6g. A cancellation message 48 is sent to the caller 10. Should the text-back marker 40 reach the front of the queue 36 but the maximum number of text-back requests is active, the marker is held in a "passive" state in the holding pen 46 until an active-slot becomes free, as shown in Figure 6h.

Example dialogues of the call handling system, illustrating various different features described above are listed below.

1 Music on-hold Caller Dials.

System "Please hold".

System Plays music.

System Connects the caller.

2. Interaction on-hold Caller Dials.

System "Please hold".

System Plays music for 30 seconds.

System "While you're waiting, here is some information on our European cover. . System "If you'd like to receive information in the post, simply press 1 now".

Caller DTMF 1 System "OK, that information will be sent out later today".

System "Please continue to hold".

System Plays music.

System Connects the caller.

3. Call position indicator Caller Dials.

io System "Please hold".

System Plays music for 30 seconds.

System "You are currently at position 7 in the queue".

System Plays music for another 30 seconds.

System "You are currently at position 3 in the queue".

is System Plays music.

System Connects the caller.

4. Call connection indicator Caller Dials.

System "Please hold".

System Plays music for 30 seconds.

System "Your call should be connected in around five minutes from now".

System Plays music.

System Plays music for three minutes.

System "Your call should be connected in around two minutes from now".

System Plays music.

System Connects the caller.

5. Call-back Caller Dials.

System "Please hold".

System Plays music for 30 seconds.

System "If you would prefer not to hold, we can call you back when an agent becomes available to speak with you".

System "To request a call-back, simply press 1 now".

Caller DTMF 1 System "OK, we'll call you back in a while. You may now hang-up".

Caller Hangs-up.

System Waits until the caller reaches the front of the queue System Calls back.

io Caller "Hello?" System "This is your call-back from Acme Limited. Press 1 to be connected" Caller DTMF 1 System Connects the caller.

6. Text-back Caller Dials.

System "Please hold".

System Plays music for 30 seconds.

System "If you would prefer not to hold, we can text you back when an agent becomes available to speak with you".

System "To request a text-back, simply press 1 now'.

Caller DTMF 1 System "OK, we'll text you back in a while. You may now hang-up".

Caller Hangs-up.

System Sends SMS ("We'll send you another text when you reach the front of the queue") System Waits until the caller reaches the front of the queue System Sends SMS ("Thanks for waiting. Please call back on 08706002311") Caller Dials.

System Connects the caller.

7. Queue iump System Queue jump is configured for the caller CLI.

Caller Dials from CLI.

System Connects the caller.

8. Personalised destination System Destination is configured for the caller CLI.

Caller Dials from CLI.

System "Please hold".

System Plays music.

io System Connects the caller to the configured destination.

9. Self-service Caller Dials.

System "Please hold".

System Plays music for 30 seconds.

is System "If you would prefer not to hold, why not try our self-service option -simply press 1 now".

Caller DTMF 1 System IVR self-service Caller Hangs-up when served 10.Full ersonalised service queue Caller Dials.

System "The person you spoke to last time is on another call" System "but should be available in around 8 minutes. As an alternative to holding, we can call you when they're available or send you a text message, meaning that you don't have to wait in the queue." System "To request a call-back, press 1" "Or a text-back, press 2." "If you would prefer to hold the line, press 3" Caller DTMF 1 System "OK, we'll call you back. You may now hang-up".

Caller Hangs-up.

System Waits until the caller reaches the front of the queue System Dials.

Caller "Hello?" System "This is your call-back from Acme Limited. Press 1 to be connected" Caller DTMF 1 System Connects the caller.

Claims (12)

  1. CLAIMS1 A method of call handling comprising: o receiving a call from a caller, o identifying a telephone number associated with the caller, o disconnecting the call, o placing a call-marker for the received call in a queue, o progressing the call-marker through the queue, o determining that the call can be answered, o transmitting a text message to the identified telephone number, and o receiving a second call from the caller.
  2. 2. A method according to claim 1, and further comprising identifying the caller as a text-back candidate and only providing the text-back service if the caller is so identified.
  3. 3. A method according to claim 1 or 2, and further comprising calculating a caller waiting time and only providing the text-back service if the caller waiting time exceeds a predetermined threshold.
  4. 4. A method according to claim 1, 2 or 3, and further comprising offering the text-back service to the caller and only providing the text-back service if the caller accepts the offer.
  5. 5. A method according to any preceding claim, and further comprising, following disconnecting of the call, transmitting a confirmation message to the identified telephone number confirming the text-back service has been set up.
  6. 6. A method according to any preceding claim, and further comprising receiving the second call from the caller, prior to the transmission of the text message, and cancelling the text-back service.
  7. 7. A system for call handling comprising an application server arranged to: o receive a call from a caller, o identify a telephone number associated with the caller, o disconnect the call, o place a call-marker for the received call in a queue, o progress the call-marker through the queue, o determine that the call can be answered, o transmit a text message to the identified telephone number, and o receive a second call from the caller.
  8. 8. A system according to claim 7, wherein the application server is further arranged to identify the caller as a text-back candidate and only providing the text-back service if the caller is so identified.
  9. 9. A system according to claim 7 or 8, wherein the application server is further arranged to calculate a caller waiting time and only providing the text-back service if the caller waiting time exceeds a predetermined threshold.
  10. 10. A system according to claim 7, 8 or 9, wherein the application server is further arranged to offer the text-back service to the caller and only providing the text-back service if the caller accepts the offer.
  11. 11. A system according to any one of claims 7 to 10, wherein the application server is further arranged, following disconnecting of the call, to transmit a confirmation message to the identified telephone number confirming the text-back service has been set up.
  12. 12. A system according to any one of claims 7 to 11, wherein the application server is further arranged to receive the second call from the caller, prior to the transmission of the text message, and to cancel the text-back service.
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GB2553920A (en) * 2010-09-22 2018-03-21 Metaswitch Networks Ltd Processing telephone calls
GB2553920B (en) * 2010-09-22 2018-05-23 Metaswitch Networks Ltd Processing telephone calls
WO2013014426A1 (en) * 2011-07-22 2013-01-31 Orderly Mind Limited A callback notification system
GB2493018A (en) * 2011-07-22 2013-01-23 Orderly Mind Ltd Automated telephone queuing service
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DE102013006351A1 (en) * 2013-04-12 2014-10-30 Unify Gmbh & Co. Kg Method and device for managing a call to a call center
EP3107275A1 (en) * 2015-06-15 2016-12-21 virtualQ UG (haftungsbeschränkt) Virtual queuing system
WO2016202507A1 (en) * 2015-06-15 2016-12-22 Virtualq Ug (Haftungsbeschränkt) Virtual queuing system
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CN108712580A (en) * 2018-05-10 2018-10-26 我要家网络科技有限公司 A kind of orientation clawback on-line consulting no-charge call system

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