Stochastic modeling and optimization for call center management

Funding Details
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
  • Grant type: Collaborative Research and Development Grants
  • Years: 2011/12 to 2013/14
  • Total Funding: $300,000
Principle Investigator(s)

Project Summary

Call centers employ over four million people in Canada and the USA alone. They are very expensive to run. These centers operate in highly uncertain (stochastic) environments. Their management is complex and has become an important (and growing) area of application for operations research.The purpose of this project is to develop mathematical models, optimization algorithms, and simulation and optimization software for better management of telephone call centers. The focus is on multiskill call centers, where different types of agents with various combinations of abilities handle different types of calls. Our aim is to develop and implement simulation models and tools, and optimization algorithms for agents staffing, scheduling, and rostering, and for call routing. A first aspect concerns the stochastic modeling of uncertainty in call centers, most importantly the arrival processes of calls, but also the abandonments, the agent-dependent call length distributions, and the unavailability of agents, for example. A second aspect concerns simulation-based algorithms for constructing agents working schedules and dynamic call routing rules. We will also study and compare various ways of formulating the relevant optimization problem in this context (choice of objectives and constraints). A third aspect concerns the development of effective methods that can update routing rules, staffing requirements, and sometimes work schedules in real time during the day, when new information becomes available that change the forecasts significantly. A fourth aspect is our continued development of simulation and optimization software tools for call centers, with extensions to support our new models and algorithms.