Disposition codes are dead, long live outcomes

Disposition codes are ways of tagging calls to say what happened. The conclusion of a call should drive work to happen and automate that work.

An email to the customer at the end of a call might take 3 minutes to personalise with an offer and contract.  As a business how do you keep errors to a minimum and still deliver a professional design with customisation?  Over the delivery of 1000 contacts that investment in time and effort is significant for any business.

Wrap up time and Not Ready time still feature heavily for some businesses in their management reports when actually they could disappear completely.


The concept of a workflow outcome enables this.  Furthermore this article examines some of the primary concepts and capabilities that an outcome as opposed to a disposition code should provide.

  • The basics of an interaction
  • Features
  • Considerations
  • Reporting

If you are familiar with the basics of disposition codes and workflows please skip onto Features


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The basics of an interaction

Inbound and Outbound contact

Contact medium

Inbound contact is where a customer attempts to make contact with the business either by phone, email or other touch point whereas Outbound contact is where the business tries to get in touch with the customer.

Contact can be:

  • Phone
  • Email
  • White mail ( traditional post )
  • SMS or MMS text message
  • Social media including website messages
  • Real time chat

An agent is the person who can deal with the contact.  An agent is different from a manager or other administrative staff.

When the customer contacts the company Inbound contact happens.  A list of people to contact is always required for outbound contact.


Workflow vs. Contact

A contact is a single interaction with a customer whereas a workflow is sequence of contacts.  A solution that can be done in one contact is called First Call Resolution. (FCR)


Metrics and disposition codes

“How many contacts” is the simplest metrics regardless of the type of contact.  Basic management reporting examines which agent did the contacts and how long they took.

In this reporting however there is no way to tell what happened on the contact.  Modern phone systems provide the ability to have attached data or disposition codes to the contact to add metadata (data about data).  These codes can then be reported on to make the reporting more detailed for managers.

They are added in one of two ways with the first being that disposition codes can be typed into the phone systems keypad (like dialling numbers whilst on the call).

Secondly in more modern systems where a soft phone (the phone is done through a computer) or Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) is available (a special program opens when the call starts) the agent can choose from options on the computer screen.

Example disposition codes might include

  • Number Busy
  • No Answer
  • Answer Machine
  • No Such Number
  • Hung Up
  • Wrong Number
  • Do Not Call
  • Re-Schedule Call
  • Completed

The more detailed the codes the more detailed the reporting yet the more overhead placed on agents to ensure accurate reporting.

A workflow cannot continue without a disposition code / outcome which is really good news for validation and tracking reasons therefore a great reasons to use workflows.



For every contact different perspectives are possible.

The customer should have a history and their contact history develop to reflect all their interactions with the business and the various people they have interacted with.

An agent needs to be able to see the customer history to effectively deal with the customer and also have access to their statistics in order to hit management assigned targets.

The manager needs to be able to review how their team is performing on the contacts.

Data analysts for different departments will need data gathered to help them better understand how well or not a campaign is working.

Process optimisers need as much detail as possible to refine processes and procedures to maximise operation efficiency.


Jargon of a contact

The example

Using a very simple analogy we can see how there are a number of terms when describing a contact

A computer store sells a computer to a customer.  The computer doesn’t respond as the customer would want it to so the customer rings Technical Support.  An agent answers the call and needs to review what exactly the customer has bought.  The customer is placed on hold while the agent reads the customer’s contact history.  The agent develops an idea on how to fix the issue and gets chatting to the customer.  “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” 

The customer turns it off and back on again and the issue goes away.  The call ends with the customer saying thanks and the agents tells the phone system to not give them any more calls as the make some notes to wrap up this contact.  The agent flags the call with the disposition code complete and subsequently also adds some comments to the system describing what was done to solve the problem.  A quick bathroom break is required so the agent tells the phone system they are not ready to take another call yet.   Upon their return the agent tells the phone system they are ready and waits for the next call.


The metrics

This is an example of First Call Resolution however it has a lot of waste time in it yet the issue is solved on the first contact.  This is a simple fix.  Different perspectives again will regard the really important metrics surrounding this contact:

  • How long was the contact in total? The Handling Time.
  • The on hold time was how long?
  • Has the customer called in before with this issue or similar issues?
  • When the agent was adding notes, how long did it take after the call ended? Wrap up time.
  • The bathroom break is important but how long did it take?  Not ready time.
  • Agents ready to work yet there are no customers calling in is called Ready time.



Workflow in bxp software

Now lets extend our technical support example with a few departments helping the customer.

The same customer rings in with a question about their bill at 8pm in the evening and gets a different agent.  Looking at the history the agent realises that they cannot answer the query and therefore must pass it to another department.    The billing department is only open from 9am till 5pm.  The agent apologises to the customer and promises to call them back tomorrow when they have an answer.  The agent generates an email and sends it to the billing department.  The next morning the billing department get around to the email at 10am.  They reply to the technical support agent by email.  The technical support agent reads their email after lunch and rings the customer who isn’t home.  The agent tries again that evening at 5pm and delivers the answer.


Workflow metrics

This example shows very quickly how complicated some processes can become.  What if people are sick?  How does a manager ensure the team miss no emails?  The above is part of the technical support workflow.

Computer systems can help to improve workflows, reduce mistakes and provide far greater reporting.

  • Total time to solve the customers issue
  • Time it took Billing to respond to Technical Support
  • How long it took Technical Support to get back to the customer
  • At any point how many call backs to customers are there?




Disposition Codes

Whatever system it is your contact needs a disposition code.  Most phone systems can do this in their sleep but not all.  Check with your phone system support company.


Workflows. Getting your head around it all

So as you can see it can get pretty complicated pretty quickly.  Luckily there are some easy ways of viewing whats going on.  KissFlow is an example of a workflow system

Workflow solutions like bxp software can work stand alone or can be integrated with phone and omni channel processes.




Agents always fill out fields of data improperly and people can make mistakes.  Validation rules force agents to ensure that data is filled in correctly at all stages of the workflow.

Agent timely reminders can save hundreds of data validation hours later on.  Processes such as this vastly help in reducing issues with bad data going to warehouse reporting.



Callbacks and reminders

The outcome should facilitate personal reminders and in a timely fashion present them back to the agent so they can handle them.

What is more important is that callbacks should be actionable by other agents with manager’s oversight.  Sick agent’s callbacks need to be done by someone.  Workflow management systems should help manage this process.


Emails and text messages

Avaya Collaboration Designer
Image from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaDYl-JbU1o

The system should support the generation of emails using details from the record being worked on.

These emails will go internally to other departments or to managers to review something.

They could go externally to the customer who you were talking to including a variety of data.

If you have a partner company such as a supplier an email to them can instantly kick of a process or series of processes outside your own business.




Document generation

Modern systems can generate PDFs for customers to keep or to sign and return.  This can result in instant invoices or contracts with the options the customer chose on the call.



Linking to other systems can save on data re-entry mistakes or even having to do that extra data entry in the first place.


Non-computer programmer configuration

The whole process including changes and keeping the process topped up or tweaked needs to be doable by people who are not computer programmers.  Modern systems provide easy to use interfaces to allow simple configuration changes.

The process optimiser for the business may spot instant ways of reducing wrap up time by automating a process.



Contacts and Activity Time

bxp Case Activity Reporting
Image from https://www.bxpsoftware.com/wixi/index.php/Case_Activity_Reporting
Avaya Aura Communications Manager Reports
Image from https://downloads.avaya.com/css/P8/documents/100156935

Disposition codes give a clear picture of how much time was spent on what types of calls.

If you need to perform further analysis such as breaking down by geographic area how long calls take there needs to be a lot more data than just a disposition code.

Modern phone systems such as Avaya systems and bxp software can provide attached data not just disposition codes to allow much more specific analysis of contacts.

Dashboards and Wallboards display specific focus metrics on televisions or managers monitors providing an easy way to keep an eye on the most vital statistics of the operation.





Wrap up time

As an outcome can do work there should be no need for wrap up times.  The outcome should do all the heavy lifting and save you your wrap up time.

Where attached data and contact histories are in one place along with workflow data this should minimise agents saying “please give me time to read your history”.


This costs a fortune

Modern systems make this approach far more affordable.  Ensuring you chat to a team who have experience and can demonstrate solutions working will be able to give you realistic price guides and help you avoid investing in technologies which won’t be as effective.

Companies such as Eleven Consulting and FCS are specialists in helping you find solutions for your contact needs in this area.

FCS Global
FCS Global logo from http://www.fcs-global.com
Eleven Consulting
From https://makeiteleven.com










Throwing the baby out with the bath water

If your phone system doesn’t have an integrated workflow solution there is no need to bin it to get one which does.

Phone systems that do not have integrated workflows can be integrated through different means.  Sometimes it just needs a bit of investigation into your particular setup to find a solution.  Solutions like bxp software have the ability to integrate with a wide variety of phone systems.  https://www.bxpsoftware.com/wixi/index.php/Scenario_-_bxp_Integration_with_a_Phone_System#Client_Software 




If you would like to chat about any aspect of this article please get in touch with me here or on social media.


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