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6 min read

Call Accounting 2.0: Hybrid Call Accounting

Sep 24, 2021

The transition of legacy PBX systems and other communication platforms from on-prem to cloud is happening at an unprecedented pace. This migration creates new challenges for enterprises trying to monitor usage and spend. Traditional tools can’t keep up with the need for better visibility into where telecom budgets are going and how to optimize the value of investments. 

It’s time to look at expense management tools capable of blending UCaaS and legacy communications data as part of a holistic approach to the next generation of call accounting. 

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Figure 1 - Example of Hybrid UCaaS (Hybrid Call Accounting)

Large enterprises must decide which services they can use based on location, cost, regulatory, SLA and other constraints. Multi-national enterprises are the primary adopters of hybrid UCaaS, in that they are adopting UCaaS native cloud PBX services (Microsoft Calling Plan) and using Direct Routing with hosted UC providers as their BYOC of choice.

Hybrid Call Accounting Requires a Completely New and Different Approach 

Organizations have historically leveraged call accounting for a handful of use cases. Trunk utilization and related expense management around right-sizing the trunk pool was a common application of traditional call accounting platforms. Rate validation was another typical use. Companies wanted to confirm their carrier was charging calls at the negotiated rates, rather than at a higher off-contract tier. Fraud detection and call center utilization are two other prominent use cases. Much of the call accounting technology development was built around these use cases and early systems did a good job helping enterprises manage costs. 

Today, businesses need different insights as they work to maintain control over an increasingly diverse blend of cloud and on-prem services. 

What existing call accounting platforms cannot do is bring data together across on-prem and cloud services. Wondering how employees’ use of cloud solutions like Teams compare to their PBX traffic? Are your calling plans and subscriber tiers optimized for usage patterns as traffic moves from on-prem to cloud? A traditional call accounting solution probably can’t uncover that information. And more complex use cases emerge every day as organizations grapple with the shift from on-prem to cloud, and the line between traditional phone calls and online collaboration continues to blur. 

Data Beyond Per-Call Costs and Rate Validation 

A growing reliance on cloud telephony services is changing the type of information businesses need. For example, as more call centers add new communication channels to their portfolios—mobile and online chat platforms, discussions via SMS, etc.—it’s increasingly important to understand how employees’ workloads are changing. 

In research conducted by our team, we found that the average inbound call is around 90 seconds. Call volume and length can potentially be reduced through real-time chat. 

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Legacy call accounting technology often can’t provide metrics on each call center rep’s customer interactions across every channel. Even when baseline numbers are available, deeper data such as average durations may not be available, but that information is vital in optimizing call center operations. 

  • Is a worker underperforming? Frontline supervisors need to know when to act so they can provide training or coaching to improve productivity and results. 
  • Which reps are overperforming? Managers can prevent burnout by offering extra breaks, or potentially transitioning high performers into training roles to further elevate the group’s capabilities. 

Without call accounting data to track what’s happening in the call center and other lines of business, the enterprise is likely to miss key opportunities to improve performance. 

Implementing a More Holistic Strategy 

Unfortunately, cloud telephony service providers rarely deliver data at the right level of detail directly and are very limited in retaining call detail records beyond 6 months. This makes it difficult to forecast and budget, while understanding tradeoffs in different strategies (call plan and BYOC optimization). An expense management system with enhanced call accounting capabilities is necessary to gather and ingest the various data streams and present them for analysis. 

  • Based on your organization’s use of Teams, is there an opportunity to right-size your deployment by disabling add-on features such as direct routing? 
  • Can underutilized services be reclaimed and either canceled or reassigned elsewhere for better cost efficiency? 

The right solution can finally show you the full picture by providing more context and more visibility, while streamlining data export/import functions and eliminating the potential for error.

A survey of Calero-MDSL customers found that approximately 30% of company meetings are ad-hoc one-on-ones and they average 20 minutes or less.  

Timing Isn’t Everything, but It’s a Lot 

The ballooning number of communication and collaboration tools in use today also means that it’s difficult for enterprises to receive call accounting data quickly. In use cases such as fraud detection and plan limit monitoring, having access to information in near-real time is critical. Manual processes for exporting data from PBX or UCaaS platforms, then manipulating and mapping fields for import into a traditional call accounting tool are cumbersome and time consuming. Large businesses could have hundreds of thousands of call records to handle over the course of just a few days, making the prospect of quickly ferreting out fraud or identifying how close you are to your plan limit difficult. 

A Modern Call Accounting Strategy for Modern Needs 

Enterprises should be looking for ways to enhance their call accounting capabilities, and the right technology solution is key to leveraging necessary APIs and integrations across multiple cloud and on-prem PBX systems, and even SBCs. A modern call accounting system enables you to marry all of that with cloud-based collaboration services—Zoom, Teams, Webex and others—to not just replicate traditional call accounting functionality but to expand what can be done with more robust access to important data. Targeted automation and analytics can be applied to review additional factors such as collaboration utilization across meetings, conference rooms, webinars, and similar as-a-service events. By expanding the definition of call accounting, enterprises can finally understand and truly optimize their omnichannel communication services. 

Written by Matt Maloney

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