You need something or have a problem, so you call the handy phone number only to be told all agents are helping other callers, your call is ever so important, and it will be answered by the next available agent. Then you put your phone on speaker, set it down, and brace yourself for several minutes of music you’d never listen to voluntarily.
Every so often, there’s a pause and your heart skips a beat as you wait to hear a friendly voice, only to be disappointed by the same recording and more music.
As a managed services provider delivering call center services, we also find it frustrating. We know how people react — whether it’s hanging up a few bars into the music and calling again later, snapping angrily once the call is finally routed to an agent, or lowering their opinion of the company they’re trying to reach. We even track a metric we call “patience,” identifying how long people stay on hold on average before they hang up.
That’s why we’ve incorporated what’s known as Queue Callback (QCB) technology to provide a better option, keeping callers from waiting in a hold queue, and significantly improving their customer service experiences.
When we know an agent won’t be available within a predetermined amount of time, our system asks the caller if they’d prefer to be called back instead of waiting on hold. Once the system recognizes an agent is available, it dials the caller, verifies they still want to talk, and connects them with the agent.
Companies that have implemented QCB find most callers jump at the opportunity to be called back — and callers who have experienced QCB before nearly always choose it when given the option. Face it, waiting in a hold queue for a few minutes is annoying. Any longer than that can be excruciating. You don’t budget a large chunk out of their day to listen to on-hold music. So when you’re given the option for a callback, you can move on to other tasks — whether that’s folding the laundry or writing the report that’s due tomorrow — instead of being tethered to an indeterminate period of limbo.
Once you get that callback, you’re happier because the company you’ve called lived up to the promise it made and hasn’t wasted your time. So you’re more receptive to what the agent will have to say. In addition to improving caller satisfaction, QCB can dramatically reduce call abandonment rates. We’ve seen abandonment rates drop by nearly half after implementing it.
A big benefit from our perspective is that QCB allows us to level out spikes in the number of calls and become more efficient at determining the optimal number of agents. Essentially, we’re simply transforming calls waiting in a hold queue into calls that are lined up and dialed the moment agents become available. It’s like a rain barrel that fills up quickly during a thunderstorm and then releases the water as needed in a manageable flow.
Another benefit is related to higher retention. Because QCB makes callers happier, they’re no longer angry when they connect with an agent. Not being screamed at has a tangible effect upon our team’s morale. The more highly experienced our agents, the better the quality of service they deliver on behalf of our clients, which further enhances the caller’s experience.
Some might wonder if they should automatically route every incoming call into their QCB system. That’s a bad idea. If one of your agents can connect with the caller in a relatively short period of time, there’s no point in subjecting the caller to even a brief delay. The key is to understand how much queue time your company’s callers are willing to endure before they start to get antsy. If we’ve tracked a particular client’s caller patience at 2.62 minutes, we may choose to offer the QCB option at the two-minute mark.
Another smart strategy is making QCB an option. Callers don’t like being forced to do something, even if it benefits them. So present it as a choice, as in: “If you’d prefer, we can call you back at this number as soon as the next agent is available. If you’d like us to call you back, press 1. If you’d prefer to keep holding, press 2.”
What’s the downside of well-structured QCB? Frankly, we’ve yet to find one. It makes callers happier, improves the experience they have and their opinion of the clients we serve, it strengthens our team’s morale and agent retention, and it makes it easier to optimize our staffing. The only question it raises for us is after seeing its many advantages, why would anyone choose to keep making their customers suffer?
Jeff Medley is the CEO and founder of Netfor.