When the number of incoming calls exceeds the number of available agents (customer service representatives) in a department, the incoming calls can be lined up in a call queue. This typical call center feature is available to your PBX customers.

Consider the following example:

A broker company receives a lot of calls from its clients. To retain all incoming calls and give full attention to all their clients, the company’s administrator creates the call queue “Sales” and assigns it to the Sales department.

So, when clients reach the company and are transferred to the “Sales” department, they are placed on hold and wait for an agent to become available and accept the call.

The whole Call queue configuration is performed at the customer level (on the Cloud PBX tab of the customer self-care interface):

Call Queues settings

Every call queue contains several configuration parameters:

  • Hunt group name – when creating a new call queue, a customer must select a hunt group. A call that arrives at the call queue is transferred to the corresponding hunt group.

  • Hunt group number – the number that end users dial to access the hunt group. This is a read-only value that appears automatically after you have selected a hunt group.

  • Dispatch calls to busy extensions – when this checkbox is selected, the calls from the call queue are directed to agents even when they are already on the phone.

    This option is enabled by default for all call queues configured prior to MR103 (for backward compatibility).
  • Maximum incoming calls set on hold – this shows the maximum number of calls that can be placed on hold within this queue. When this number is reached, the next call is disconnected.

  • Announce the number of callers ahead of them in the queue – when this check box is selected, callers hear an announcement stating the number of callers ahead of them in the queue.

  • Announce estimated wait time – when this check box is selected, callers hear an announcement stating the estimated wait time.

  • Average handle time, minutes – this is the expected average processing time for each call in minutes. This value is used for calculating the estimated wait time that is then announced to the callers.

  • Interval between announcements, minutes – this defines how often callers hear announcements about the number of callers ahead of them in the queue and the estimated wait time until someone attends to them. The default value is 5 minutes.

  • Play music on hold – record or upload an audio file to be played.

  • Music on hold file – this is recorded music (or announcement) that is played for users while they wait to be connected. By default, the maximum file size is 3 MB.

    You can change the maximum file size globally within the SelfCare.MaxUploadSize option on the Configuration server. The maximum value you can set for this option is 10 MB.

Call flow

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When calls arrive at a call queue, PortaSIP checks the number of available agents. An agent here is an extension (account) registered to the PortaSIP server within a specific hunt group.

If there are 5 agents in the hunt group, PortaSIP tries to connect the first 5 calls to those agents immediately and then queues the 6th call.

PortaSIP plays an announcement to the 6th caller regarding their position in the queue and the estimated wait time. Estimated wait time is calculated as: (Average handle time)*(Number of callers ahead)/(Number of agents). The number of calls that can be placed in the queue is limited by the number specified in the Maximum number of callers allowed in the queue. Once PortaSIP detects that one of the agents has become available, it attempts to connect that queued call.

The callers waiting in the queue hear the announcement with their updated position in the queue and the estimated wait time every 5 minutes. The number of minutes can be changed via the Interval between announcements, minutes option on the customer self-care interface.

If an agent doesn’t answer a call, the call is not placed back in the queue, nor is it forwarded to a voicemail/follow-me number defined for agents. PortaSIP continues to try and connect that first call in the queue until it is either answered by an available agent or dropped by the caller.

Control how call-queue calls are dispatched to busy agents

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By default, PortaSIP sends calls from the call queue only to agents who are available at the moment. The Dispatch calls to busy agents option is disabled, so the agent that is already engaged isn’t considered available (even if the Call waiting feature is activated), and new calls from the call queue aren’t sent to the agent’s phone.

However, small businesses with only a few agents may want to direct incoming calls to agents even when they are on the phone, so that, for example, they do not miss a call from a prospect. If the PBX administrator needs the agents to handle new calls from the queue before ending the current call, they can enable the Dispatch calls to busy agents option. In this case, the next call from the call queue is sent to the agent’s phone even if they are already on the phone. The agent can put the current call on hold and switch to the new call to ask for details. Afterward, the agent can return to the initial call to continue the conversation.

The Dispatch calls to busy agents option doesn’t affect direct calls to the agent, e.g., a call from a colleague.

Immediate redirect to call queues

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Some businesses want their customers to directly reach a specific person/department instead of listening to a long list of prompts. With this feature, calls that arrive to a specific number can be immediately connected to a call queue.

Let’s say that David Green, a LalaPizza owner, wants his customers to order pizza delivery by calling 16045551447. Moreover, he wants to save his customers time, so requests that his customers be directly connected to the delivery department without any timeouts.

To satisfy David’s desires, your administrator creates an account with ID 16045551447 and enables the auto attendant service for it. David then configures the call queue “Delivery department” and adjusts the auto attendant configuration on his self-care interface as follows:

On the Auto Attendant page of the Cloud PBX tab he adjusts the ROOT menu: specifies active periods, uploads the prompts, and adds a new action using the following settings:

  • User Input – No input
  • Timeout – 0
  • Action – Queue “Delivery department” and saves the settings.

No input action

Then, when Linda Roe calls 16045551447 to order a pizza, she hears “Welcome to ‘LalaPizza.’ You are the second person in the queue. Please wait until you are connected.” While waiting she listens to music on hold.

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