Blast from the Past: Remember caller controlled disconnect?

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Note from the editor: I’m always enthralled by the pace of technology. This blog entry is a gem from 2009, and it addresses issues that were frequently encountered with land lines. In 2013, Pew Research reported that over 90% of adults now use cell phones, which makes the problems addressed in this blog completely moot. It’s worth a read to see how far we’ve come.

Have you ever received a call at home, perhaps from a neighbor, and immediately after that call you needed to call someone else. So upon concluding your conversation, you hang up YOUR phone and then immediately lift the receiver button to make a new call, only to find you don’t get a dial tone. Instead you can hear faint noises of people in the background talking and you realize you are still connected to your neighbor, who for some reason, failed to properly hang up his/her phone. You then find your phone essentially stuck or nailed up to your neighbor for a minute or two or until he finally does hang up his phone. If so, you have been introduced to the concept of Caller Controlled Disconnect.

Caller Controlled Disconnect is a common behavior with home or residential phones. It means that the person who PLACES the call controls the ending of the call or the disconnection of the phone line. I once made use of this ‘feature’ to tie up the phone line of a hacker who had a modem that was programmed to hack in to our travel card network. I was able to place a call to the modem, in between its dialing attempts and then I left my phone off hook. I kept his phone line tied up for nearly a day. It may manifest itself as either a delay of several seconds before the line successfully hangs up, or it may stay off hook for hours, until the caller hangs up the call. I apologize that I cannot tell you why much of the PSTN phone network functions in this fashion but it does. What I want to discuss is how this can affect home based agents.

As an agent with an agent station, you will have configured that station with a STATION TIMER. This timer determines how long inContact will hold on to the agents’ station after a contact is over. This features’ purpose is to improve or reduce the time it takes to deliver a contact to an agent. After the agent finishes a contact, if there is another contact sitting in queue, waiting, it will be connected immediately to that agent. The agent therefore does not have to hang up their phone in between each contact. In fact, once a contact finishes, even if there is not another caller in queue, the agent can remain off hook, and if a new call comes in before the agents’ station time expires, the new call will be linked to the agent.

Caller Controlled Disconnect becomes a problem when the agent tries to hang up their phone. Because inContact is the one who called the agent, when the agent does hang up their phone, the PSTN network DOES NOT send a signal to inContact that the phone was hung up. InContact still thinks the agent is there, connected and if a new call comes in for that agent, before the station timer expires, inContact will connect that new call to that agents ‘phone’, except there is no one to connect to because the agent has placed their phone ON-HOOK . The caller or customer hears dead air. Mean while, the agent sees their myPhone pop up and the system says they have a call, but their phone never rang. Had the agent picked up their phone at that moment, they would have found a caller sitting there, waiting for them. This of course creates a great deal of confusion for the agent, and angst for the callers.

So if your home users are saying that their myPhone pops up but their phone does not ring, perform the following test. From any agent station, call the phone number of the agent that is having problems and then have them hang up their phone. Wait and note how many seconds it takes for your myPhone to indicate that it recieved a hang up signal. If you can see the hang up immediately, then you will need to work with IC tech support to figure out what other issue is happening, If, however, the agent hangs up their phone but your myPhone does not indicate or show a hang up, perhaps for a few seconds or even minutes (a few seconds is long enough to be a problem) then you will have problems such as I have described.

You cannot change the way the PSTN works, but you can modity inContact or agent behavior to reduce how this impacts calls or contacts.

  • Try reducing their station timer to 1 second. You will have to call IC Tech Support so that they can create a short station timer profile. Once that is done, change the affected stations so that their station timer is as short as possible. This will force inContact to essentially hang up the call between contacts, unless there is another contact just waiting and ready to go. If inContact hangs up the phone, the agents home phone line will release immediately.
  • Agent or call flow behavior modification. Place the agent in auto-wrap between calls or have the agent make themselves UNAVAILABLE each time they want to hang up their phone, Then instead of physically hanging up their phone, they use their myAgent to terminate the call, effectively telling inContact that the line should be hung up. This process is probably the more difficult of the two.

As a note, business lines are often designed differently than home or residential services and usually do not have this problem.

InContact is a great tool to enable you to develop a Home Agent Program, but introducing the PSTN and residential lines into your call flow can create some new and unexpected calling conditions. Caller Controlled Disconnect is one of those conditions that you should understand and be prepared for. It can usually be resolved with a few configuration changes and some changes to agent phone behavior.