Call queueing

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting, this is Vincent. How may I help you today?” This was my opening spiel when I was taking incoming calls for Virgin Mobile USA. So, after our discussion about queueing last meeting, I was inspired to relate it to my work experience in the call center industry where queueing is one of the challenges that needs continues improvement. Garcia (2020) stated that “queues grow due to variability and they do not disappear when utilisation levels are high.”

Most of us have experienced stress from waiting so long to talk to customer service over the phone. One of the reasons is called call queueing.

What is call queueing?

Call queueing is a concept used in inbound call centers. When calling a phone system that uses call queues, callers usually hear a welcome message and an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menu and are then sent into a call queue, where they hear waiting music and position announcements until an agent becomes available.

Quality Department to monitor the Average Handle Time and Average Wait Time

Apart from your direct supervisor, your performance is also controlled by the quality department. They audit your call if you comply with the standard operating procedures including the  efficiency of  managing the time such as Average Handle Time.

Average Handle Time, or AHT, which is the average time an agent takes to complete a call or customer interaction.

Average Wait Time (AWT), also known as Average Speed of Answer (ASA), is the average time an inbound call spends waiting in queue or waiting for a callback if that feature is active in your IVR system. AWT can be measured globally across the contact center, by ring group, agent or phone number. The traditional call center industry standard service level is 80/20, or 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds, but there are a few reasons why this might not always be an optimal number.

In this photo, I am multitasking by talking to the clients over the phone while pulling up tools from the system

According to Lui, et al (2017) “customer waiting time in queueing systems is a key factor of service quality. Customer might negatively react to the long waiting time by switching to other companies.”

In my experience from working in the call center, I discovered that agent’s expertise about the product is one of the determining factor in improving the Average Handle Time. This expertise is acquired through product training. At this stage, agents learn the different aspects of the products and get familiarized with the database such as Oracle in order to answer queries, solve issues and/or provide troubleshooting relating to the product. Part of the training is to adapt with the company’s culture in providing quality service in the shortest time possible.

In the call center industry, you will keep the interest of your clients (in this case Virgin Mobile) as your business partner so long as you provide efficient management of calls, minimising long  calls because the longer the time call center agents spend in taking calls the higher the cost (clients part). The same goes for customers (callers); if the queue is long, they might abandon the call and not call anymore.

In conclusion, queues grow due to variability and they do not disappear when utilisation levels are high. So, contact centre industry will continue to innovate and renovate solutions for keeping high customer satisfaction and retention.

References:

S. Liu, J. Gong, L. Ma and M. Yu, “Influence of waiting times on customer loyalty and queueing behavior in call centers,” 2017 29th Chinese Control And Decision Conference (CCDC), Chongqing, 2017, pp. 1130-1134, doi: 10.1109/CCDC.2017.7978688.

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