Call accounting

Call accounting

A Call Accounting System is a telecommunications software or hardware application that captures, records, and costs telephone usage events. Internationally call accounting systems may be referred to as call logging systems. Call accounting systems detect outbound and inbound calls, call ring outs, call routings, abandoned calls, and other activities.

Common Applications of Call Accounting

;Service Billing and ProvisioningCall accounting systems may provide packaging, pricing, provisioning, billing, and posting or presentment of telephone services for purposes of revenue generation. Professional services firms utilize call accounting software for account code or client based billing of their phone usage. The hospitality industry uses call accounting to resell phone services to visiting guests and groups. These call accounting systems often provide accessible application-specific rating and provisioning capabilities found generally on carrier-level operational support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS).

;Departmental and Employee ChargebackThe original purpose of call accounting systems was within corporate entities for purposes of cost allocations within the enterprise. Enterprises use call accounting to allocate costs back to divisions, departments, and even individual employees. Such systems may also provide data directly to corporate accounting and human resource systems.

;Cost and Revenue OptimizationTelecommunications professionals use call accounting to support enterprise voice quality of service analysis, to manage costs downward, to manage revenue and profit yield upward, for carrier invoice reconciliation and teleco negotiation, and for monitoring phone misuse and abuse.

;Staff ProductivityCall accounting systems are also used within inbound and outbound call centers to provide data from which to manage staff on-phone productivity and effectivenes.

Forms of Call Accounting

Call accounting capabilities can be acquired in several forms.

;Stand Alone Hardware deviceCall accounting can be provided from a hardware device. Such solutions have generally static and limited features and are intended to support a single telephone switch.

;Stand Alone Server SoftwareCall accounting can be provided from a stand alone server software product. Such solutions have more robust features and are intended to support a single or small number of phone switches and users. However these solutions also have a higher total cost of ownership by requiring management of one or several self standing systems.

;Centralized Enterprise SoftwareCall accounting can be provided from a hosted multi-property enterprise server solution. Such solutions provide more robust features, can support large numbers of distributed phone switches and users, all without the complexity of many distributing systems scattered across the enterprise. Enterprise call accounting systems centralize management and monitoring of call accounting across an enterprise. Such systems over an enterprise WAN, VPN, or over the public internet, and eliminate distributed standalone distributed call accounting systems and as a result provide a lower cost of ownership and a consistent distribution of features and functions across an enterprise. Care should be taken to insure that such enterprise solutions operate from a single real time truly multi-property data bases versus multiple duplicated/replicated copies of the software itself which mitigates the value of centralization. Hosted enterprise solutions are appropriate for anybody supporting more than one telephone PBX/PABX or anyone who seeks one central call accounting solution regardless of multiple possible PBX/PABX vendors. Given rapid changes in voice and more generally VOIP, centrally hosted solutions also make it easier to continuously adapt to changing requirements by providing one place for managing system change. Centralized call accounting solutions are easily justified if you compare it the total lifecycle cost of ownership for the distributed technology.

;Software as a Service (SaaS)Call accounting software functionality can be accessed as an online software service. Software services are typically hosted by the software vendor themselves. SaaS providers often include optional levels of systems monitoring, management, and analysis services atop the call accounting software itself. SaaS solutions (also sometimes called managed service solutions or application service provider (ASP) solutions) generally provide greater operational simplicity while actually providing more software capability and greater return on investment. Like the hosted enterprise call accounting solutions, managed service providers "eliminate" distributed call accounting systems and with them the related management and attention required to keep multiple distributed systems operating, refreshed, and current. Like enterprise call accounting software above, SaaS is easily justified if you compare it to the total lifecycle cost of ownership for the distributed technology.

;Web ServicesThe more recent approach to call accounting when using VOIP enabled phone portals and devices is to embed call accounting information into your telephony devices as part of a service oriented architecture (SOA). This is not to be confused with embedding an entire call accounting software package into your voice solution but instead as embedding integration to a centrally hosted call accounting web service with your overall telephone solution. Web services is generally a very inexpensive way to get customized access to sophisticated call accounting features and eliminate the need to manage technology to get that capability.

Trends In Call Accounting

;Integrated Call Accounting and Management ServicesCall accounting systems are increasingly augmented with telemanagement/telemanager services. Call accounting data often requires expert analysis from which to leverage its value. Meanwhile, the telecommunications world continues to evolve rapidly making retention of up-to-date core competency more difficult. Call accounting system owners therefore often engage telecommunications management (often called telemanager or telemanagement) services to operate and optimize their call accounting technology. Such subscription services can transcend any one specific call accounting technology and can actually unify reporting and management across many technologies. When engaging telecommunications assistance take care to assess the telemanager's tool set as this is a primary driver of the cost effective value they can create for you.

;Integrating voice and broadband internet accounting into one accounting platformWith the convergence of voice and data the leading call accounting systems are also providing billing, provisioning, and accounting for broadband internet services. Solutions for such systems may be called "communications accounting systems". Like call accounting systems they may be distributed or centralized systems.

;Centrally Hosted Call AccountingVoice is increasingly managed at an enterprise level - above any one PBX or communications server. Also many PBX technologies can manage multiple points of presence across an enterprise. As a result centrally hosted enterprise call accounting systems are displacing distributed standalone premise-based call accounting systems. Application service providers (ASP's) can also provide call accounting as an internet based service, usually bundled with related telecommunications services. See also #Software as a Service (SaaS) above.

How Call Accounting Systems Work

Generally, call accounting systems collect data from a key system, a PBX, iPBX, or Voice over IP (VOIP) gateway generated by service activity on all or selected phone extensions or devices. The system attaches costs and possibly revenues to that activity. More sophisticated call accounting systems will actually provision services on the PBX's and communications servers. Traditional PBX's and send calling activity information out of a serial port or via a proprietary TCP/IP network service. The call accounting system has a capturing module or a capturing hardware device that is then able to store the data and feed data to and from the rating engine. More recent iPBX's provide access to information by retaining it in online data bases for extraction by external systems. The voice related data collected usually includes calling party, date, time, duration, destination party and authorization or account code. This data is sometimes called Call Detail Recording (CDR) or Station Message Detail Recording (SMDR).

Call Accounting In Hospitality

Hotels make more sophisticated use of call accounting systems than many corporate entities. First, hotels require realtime processing from their call accounting systems. Also, while corporate call accounting systems largely provide departmental chargeback, call accounting systems in hospitality provide more sophisticated chargeback and markup algorithms for revenue based resale of phone services to targeted visitors, staff, partners, and guests. Also, the hospitality industry frequently leverages centralized enterprise call accounting and fully managed call accounting services as hoteliers often lack on-property staff that can operate on-premise systems and seek simplicity and bottom line cost savings. TSPS was an early method of providing such service.

See also

* Automatic Message Accounting
* Communication management system (CMS)
* Business Support Systems (BSS)
* Operations Support System (OSS or B/OSS)
* Telecommunications billing

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