Omnichannel for Customer Service – Overflow (v2)

I have previously blogged about the overflow capabilities in Microsoft’s Omnichannel for Customer Service. But the recent 2022 Wave 2 release has given us some additional capabilities. So, in this blog post I will approach this subject again!

You can read my previous blog post here. But that post is now largely replaced by the information I will provide here!!

I am sure every contact centre manager will tell you that at times they may suffer from “excessive” workloads. Meaning at some point we will want “overflow” logic to kick in to govern how to handle the growing number of queued conversations / work items.

We may also need to define what will happen out of hours. As, we don’t want to frustrate customers by them waiting in a queue expecting an agent to respond outside our operating times or on holidays.

For this post I am going to assume that you have already installed Omnichannel for Customer Service and that you have configured at least one workstream / queue.

Note: As I will explain below. We may commonly want to define overflow logic in voice calling scenarios. But we can also leverage overflow capabilities for chat and record routing scenarios.

There are two steps to configuring overflow / out of hours logic.

  • Define when the overflow conditions and actions
  • Define what automated messages might be triggered

Tip: Previously we used to define the overview actions within our workstream. And the condition was applied in the queue. Microsoft have improved this, meaning all the conditions and actions are just on the queue. (Much more logical, thanks Microsoft.)

Step One – Define conditions and actions

With voice queues we can trigger an overflow state in multiple scenarios (conditions). Including.

  • Out of hours
  • Estimated wait time exceeded
  • Work item limit exceeded

When these conditions happen, we have different actions that can be triggered. Including.

  • Assign to queue anyway (the default behaviour!)
  • End call
  • Transfer to a different queue
  • Transfer to an external number

Plus, with voice queues we have the potential for two other actions. These are currently in preview. (Oct 2022)

  • Voicemail
  • Direct callback

Below you can see that on my queue I have an overflow conditions section. Initially no overflow logic will be defined but I can use the blue button to set my overflow conditions.

Out of hours

Below you can see that on my workstream I have defined some operating hours. I have opted for Monday to Friday 9am until 5pm.

As soon I defined my operating hours a condition / action pair was added to my overflow management.

Clicking on edit will show me the overflow condition-action pairs and allow me to maintain them.

Notice that initially the action is “assign to queue anyway”. Effectively meaning no overflow action would occur. (As the default behaviour is to assign the conversation to the queue.)

The possible actions are show below. These include ending the call, transferring to another queue or transferring to an external number.

In my example, for the condition of “out of operation hours”, I opted to simply end the call.

Estimated wait time exceeds

Having defined the out of operating hours logic, I used the “+Add condition-action pair” option to add a second condition.

This time I have selected “Estimated wait time exceeds”. You can see below that I can then enter the time.

In my example I have opted to trigger this condition is customers are expected to wait more than 10 minutes.

As I wanted to demonstrate a variety of actions! In this example I have opted to “transfer to a different queue”. And completed the selection of a queue.

To give you a real-world scenarios ….. imagine you have two queues of agents. “First line support” might be your primary queue and all the agents who initially handle most customer queries are in that queue. You might then have a second queue including all your “Second line support” agents. In normal circumstances your first line support agents would take all the calls. But if when things get busy you could use this logic to begin to route to your second line support agents.

Work item limit exceeds

Next, we can have a condition based on the number of work items in the queue. (Previously this was our only overflow option!)

In this scenario we trigger the overflow condition whenever more than “n” calls are waiting.

You can also see that I have opted to transfer to an external number. (Maybe you have an agreement with a 3rd party company to take your calls out of hours or at peak times!)

I hope you can see that in this example I have shown three possible conditions and actions pairs. Using all of them is obviously optional. And you could define any combination you like.

Important Note: The overflow logic does not apply to just voice queues! You can use it on chat and even record routing queues!

The only difference I can see is that the overflow conditions are limited to “Work items” and “Out of hours” for chat queues. And the chat queue actions are limited to “End conversation” and “Transfer to a different queue”.

On record routing queues the only condition is “out of hours operation” and the only action is transfer to a difference queue.

Step Two – Automated Messages
If we are going to end the call out of hours or in an overflow situation maybe it would be “nice” to alert the customer.

We do that in the “workstream”.

Below you can see that I have returned to the main workstream page and then I select the edit option.

Within the workstream settings I now swap to the “behaviours” tab.

Towards the bottom of the behaviours tab you will find an option to add custom automated messages. These will be automatically “read” out to the customer when certain events happen.

I have therefore customized my messages for two events;

  • End conversation due to overflow – with this event I created a simple message that apologised and asks the customer to try later.
  • Out of operating hour message to customer – with this event I added a message that explains we are closed and suggested when the customer could call back.

At this point my overflow logic has been completed as I required! But you might want to also review the other events that can trigger automated messages. For each of these there will be an out of the box message or behaviour but for some you might want to consider amending the wording. (For example, the wording of the “holiday” message might benefit from a personalised message.)

I hope this post will have explain the basic setup you’ll need to consider for overflow and out of hours situations. As Microsoft enhances these features I continue to be impressed Omnichannel …. Enjoy.

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