Drinking From The Fire Hose – The Challenge Of ‘Big Data’ In The Contact Center

July, 2012

Data produced by virtual/ cloud-based contact centers has the potential to grow massively in a short time, and is virtually unlimited. Managers must carefully consider how to cope with, and extract value from, this big data load.

As more contact centers escape the confines of physical location and become virtual/ cloud-based, the customer interaction data produced can start to increase. This has the potential to grow massively, even exponentially, in a short time, and is virtually unlimited. This phenomenon has been dubbed ‘big data’ and if it hasn’t reached you yet, it may be closer than you think.

Managers must carefully consider how to cope with, and extract value from, this big data load; high performance tools are needed that, as some have put it, can drink from the fire hose.

Infinite Scalability

In the good old days, call center systems were largely finite; ‘X’ number of agents over ‘Y’ period will produce ‘Z’ Specific Data Items creating ‘V’ volume of data. X and Y could be predicted and Z was static, so V could be calculated fairly accurately, and storage and retrieval systems for that data could be built accordingly.

In the new world of cloud/ hosted contact centers, systems have become almost infinitely elastic and therefore inherently unpredictable. As the variables increase within these systems, data becomes ‘big data’. For example:

  • Number of agents
    Hosted/cloud systems provide ease of scalability and agent numbers will increase/ decrease as demand dictates. 100 today might be many times that tomorrow.
  • Specific data items
    Systems once only collected known KPIs – talk time, wrap time, per call, etc. The new world calls for infinite extensibility, even the definition of new metrics, and certainly the ability to customise and extend.

The period a report could cover has not changed and must still be configurable, spanning anything from minutes to years.

Tools that can cope

The speed of storage and retrieval of high data volumes is a major issue. Traditional SQL databases do not lend themselves to ultra-fast read/ write, so users are looking elsewhere.

The breed of tools known as ‘noSQL’ (e.g. mongoDB) is built to deliver in this environment. These maintain many of the familiar SQL features, and facilitate speed by adding some unique functionality, e.g. the ability to process many transactions simultaneously via contention-free, non-locking updates; fast handling of unstructured data in a file system rather than a database.

But capture of big data is only one side of the coin. The other is that the data is practically useless unless it can be ordered, analysed and processed. Only then can comparisons be made, patterns emerge and big data become business data.

In order to start making sense of the data explosion, the right tools are needed and are coming on stream. In order to aid the speed at which meaningful results can be produced, many of these employ several methods of data aggregation.

  1. Real-time aggregation
    With this method, real-time data is used to update counts of events – e.g. live connects, abandoned calls, etc – and other calculated metrics – e.g. average talk time. Running totals can then be used in reports without any need for further processing, database interaction, etc., producing results much faster than otherwise possible. This method also reduces the need for the more time-consuming periodic aggregations below.
  2. Periodic aggregation (MapReduce)
    Periodic aggregation (a.k.a. MapReduce) is commonly available off the shelf within noSQL systems. Using this method, the work of aggregation is carried out simultaneously by many processors, maybe within the same server, maybe in a widely distributed cluster. The results are then fed back to a master process which presents the results as output to a reporting system or writes to a database. As this method is more processor intensive, it cannot be done in real-time with big data.

Using a combination of real-time and periodic processes, various levels of aggregation are possible, depending on the view of the data required, e.g. an hourly report, weekly, monthly, or even yearly. As resolution zooms out, the level of detail required reduces and a higher level of aggregation is possible. As the metrics are already available, fast load time is maintained. Of course, no two users have the same requirements, so the levels of aggregation must be customisable.

But care must be taken in order to maintain accuracy when the user needs it. Aggregation must occur alongside the capture of individual interaction events, so that data is not lost and then has to be approximated.

Maybe you have not had to make any decisions about a ‘big data’ strategy yet; the fire hose may be safely trickling right now. But we suspect that any call center of 100+ agent seats will have to deal with this pretty soon. When the time comes, make sure you choose technology that is flexible enough to cope with future demand, so you will be waving, not drowning, when the fire hose is opened up.

What We Offer

Sytel Limited develops and supplies Softdial Contact Center® (SCC), offering multimedia, multichannel, fully blended cloud contact center solutions, for quick and easy deployment by partners offering CCaaS or enterprise users. All Sytel cloud components are secure, resilient and scale seamlessly from 10 agents to 10,000+, whether local, mobile or remote.

  • Flexible Contact Center Platform

    Softdial Contact Center™ – tightly integrated modules, designed to deliver at scale

  • Blended Media Desktop

    Fully customisable, multi-channel, multi-session workspace

  • Work Anywhere

    Browser-based tools, no software installation required

  • Cloud Or On-Premise, Multi-Tenant

    Scalable, resilient, secure, proven

  • Customise, Localise, White Label

    Design all user interfaces to individual requirements

  • Integration Via APIs

    ‘Swap out’ components and integrate with 3rd party apps

  • World Class Development

    Continuous evolution pushing technical boundaries


Softdial Contact Center™ (SCC) is designed to be flexible, extensible and scalable, integrating with any legacy equipment, and meeting the most complex of requirements.

  • All Media Types

    Voice, chat, email, social, etc – fully integrated and blended

  • Agent Multi-Tasking

    Work with multiple live contact sessions of any media type

  • Dynamic Media Blending

    Automated, ‘best available’ decisions to blend and balance work load across all media types

  • Predictive Dialing

    Best-of-breed performance under compliance

  • Intelligent Routing

    Smart rules and ‘best-available’ decisions to drive great customer service

  • Agent Scripts

    Help agents achieve and maintain excellence

  • Voice and Screen Recording

    See and hear exactly how agents are interacting

  • Analytics and Data Feeds

    Measure and evaluate performance at every level

  • IVR, Bots & Conversational AI

    Design effective automated flows or integrate with 3rd party providers

  • Customer Journey Tracking

    Stored customer contact history, to aid routing and add context to conversations


A complete suite of tools, with unique flexibility to extend and swap out modules to deliver a tailored contact center solution for any environment

  • Softdial One™

    Highly flexible unified web UI for agents, supervisors and administrators

  • Softdial Scripter™

    Create complex process flow scripts for agents, IVR, chatbots and other applications

  • Sytel AI Dialer™

    Best-of-breed predictive dialing under any compliance rules

  • Softdial Pathfinder™

    Precise routing rules for ‘best available’ connection

  • Softdial Media Server™

    Core telephony functions to manage all inbound/ outbound SIP calls

  • Softdial Reporter™ 5

    Fully customisable performance stats, charts and reports, across all channels

  • Softdial Publisher™

    Comprehensive data output to build your own reports

  • Softdial Recording Monitor™

    Audio and screen recording of agent activity to ensure the highest standards

  • Softdial Campaign Manager™

    Comprehensive configuration and control for outbound campaigns

  • Softdial Repository™

    Central storage and configuration of common resources

  • Sytel Global Compliance™

    Flexible ‘no contact’ rules to protect contact center and consumer


Performance and efficiency for a wide range of business applications

  • Customer Service

    Connect quickly to well equipped agents

  • Sales & Telemarketing

    Maximise agent productivity with best-of-breed predictive dialing

  • Healthcare

    Secure, highly-configurable multichannel communications for excellence in patient care

  • Market Research

    Best-of-breed predictive dialing with CATI integration

  • Collections

    Automated inbound/ outbound blending integrated with any debt management app