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Virtual queuing offers a new way to handle a very traditional problem in call centers – customers waiting, sometimes endlessly, to talk to customer service agents.  High wait times have been correlated to poor brand loyalty, low re-purchase rates, loss of positive word-of-mouth and high customer attrition.   Companies who employ a virtual queue allow their customers to hang up the phone and do whatever it was they were doing before they placed the call, while their place in queue is maintained to trigger an outbound call from the call center to them.   According to a Forrester Research study conducted in 2006, 50% of all customers who were presented with this virtual hold option accepted it. 

An acceptance rate of 50% actually seems low to me.  Maybe the number would be higher if measured in 2011, but definitely the acceptance rate would be higher it’s done right.  If you are a Comcast customer, you know how it can be done right.  The cable provider (not one of CRM’s clients, but the cable provider to our company’s president) is a great example of a company utilizing a virtual queue with a focus on the customer experience.  Even though she would have been fine to wait on hold while multi-tasking, the offer was so compelling that she accepted it.   

This approach to serving customers minimizes quite a few of the negative outcomes of waiting, such as flaring tempers, stressed-out agents, frustrating customer experiences and the repeat work and escalations generated by the latter two.

In addition to the customer experience benefits, users of virtual queue technology have reported significant gains in operational efficiencies and increased profitability by abandoning FIFO (First In First Out) in favor of a more fluid method of prioritizing and serving customers.  According to a Case Study on Call Center Times one client, a major wireless provider, experienced a 17% improvement in service levels, a 13% improvement in average handle time and a 4% improvement in % of calls handled using virtual queuing.

The unrelenting pressure to deliver improved service experiences with fewer resources has led many of our business partners to explore virtual queuing, but this technology is not without its drawbacks.  The most successful implementations of this new technology are by those organizations which already have a wealth of information about their customers’ needs, behaviors and experiences.  In parts II and III of this series, we will explore the successes and challenges of business partners who used virtual queuing to increase satisfaction among small business customers, manage the impact of increased collection activities, and control seasonal peaks in call volume.

For more blog posts on Virtual Queuing, check out “Can I trust that you’ll callback?’ by Dr. Jodie Monger.

About Jim Rembach

Jim Rembach is a panel expert with the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) and an SVP for Customer Relationship Metrics (CRM). Jim spent many years in contact center operations and leverages this to help others. He is a certified Emotional Intelligence (EQ) practitioner and frequently quoted industry expert. Call Jim at 336-288-8226 if you need help with customer-centric enhancements.

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