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Intelligent Customer Support queueing - upgrading to Self-Service excellence

Updated: May 6

Man standing in the metro waiting for customer support in a phone queue.

If we’re being honest, no-one likes to queue.

Ask any customer what’s the most frustrating part of the care experience and they’ll most likely tell you it’s waiting in the queue. Subtonomy research discovered that 1 in 3 customers (29%) are unwilling to wait any longer than 5 minutes for help and that only about 3% of customers even bother to contact customer support when they experience a serious service outage.

At first glance that might seem like a good thing – after all if customers don’t ring then it means less traffic to the call centre. But it isn’t. Customers who don’t call are still frustrated, but they’ve developed such a negative perception of the support experience, they don’t even bother to call when they need to. This increases the risk they’ll churn without the service provider ever discovering what the problem was. (See Why Silence Isn’t Golden In Customer Support.)  

Why customers hate support queuing

David Maister, a Harvard Business School professor, researched the psychology of queuing, and outlined factors that cause impatience and frustration. He noted “a halo-effect” created during the early stages of any service encounter.

If a customer begins an interaction in a good state of mind, then this will continue, which suggests that putting more effort into the initial part of the service paradigm is likely to deliver most payback. (In the case of the call centre experience, this is the queue itself.)  

However, Maister warns that while boredom and anxiety lengthen our perception of time (and thus our frustration), it’s important to fill up that time with constructive activity. “The familiar ‘Muzak’ played by some organizations when their telephone-answering agents are busy is, to many people, an added annoyance rather than a benefit,” he says. “In large part, this is because the activity (listening to music) is totally unrelated to the service activity to come…

This suggests that the activity provided to ‘fill time’ should (a) offer benefit in and of itself, and (b) be related, in some way, to the following service encounter.”

Telecom call center queue experience should include smarter customer id verification, tech pre-diagnostics and handset and routers check

Reinventing the telecom call centre experience with active, smarter customer support queueing

Increasing the overall efficiency of the call centre helps reduce call centre wait times; but what if we could transform the queue experience itself?

According to Maister’s research this requires us to do more than provide better Muzak. It requires the customer to be engaged in an activity that offers them a benefit and is related to the service encounter. In other words, to move from passive queuing (listening to Muzak) to active queuing (performing some activity that is useful and engaging).

To transform the support queue from a passive and frustrating experience into a smarter, active experience, telcos should use queue time to capture information that shortens agent handling time (AHT) or even helps resolve the problem before the customer is connected.

This could be as simple as using queue time to verify the customer ID, capture the exact nature of the problem, or perform simple automated checks (such as restarting routers and checking the performance of handsets).

As a result, 75% of queries or problems can be resolved without human assistance in the queue itself. For those that can’t, active queuing improves the overall experience for customers by speeding the time required to resolve their problem and keeping them engaged during the wait time.

Why not overhaul your waiting experience? Contact Subtonomy to find out how we can turn your passive, Muzak-enabled queue into a smarter, active and less frustrating queue that helps revolutionize the total experience you’re delivering.


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