Customer vs. Queue: Whose Side Are You On?


Trojans_on_offense_at_USC_at_Cal_2009-10-03_6Kathy VillasenorWith four older brothers, I think I understood football before I learned to read.  I spent a major part of my childhood at football games and practices. I grew up in Los Angeles and my dad loved college football. USC was the team we followed and it was the magical McKay years when I was a little girl and was captured by the excitement. In my teens I had a brother who ended up at UCLA, while he didn’t play football the family became divided, USC versus UCLA.  Pick a side and stick to it, it was easy for me later in life since I married a Trojan!  This rivalry is not unique: Alabama vs. Auburn, Ohio State vs. Michigan, Army vs. Navy, Oklahoma vs. Texas, USC vs. Notre Dame (well that one is easy).  We all have to choose sides and rarely do we change.

A Saturday not too long ago I was getting ready to watch the Trojans when I discovered my TV had no connection.  I was furious. Since you cannot watch college football games live on the internet, what was I going to do?  While I was on hold waiting to talk to someone about the problem, I was advised of my position in queue. I was number five, which seemed pretty good since I figured there was some kind of outage. About three minutes, later I received an update on my position in queue: Number seven.

What the heck? I was totally offended. I’d dropped my position in queue?  How dare they! Didn’t they know who was on hold?

Well, in fact they did; I was just a small fish in their pond with a minimal viewing package. When I got over my hurt feelings, I had to accept that they were doing exactly what every other company does – prioritizing their work (my call) in a logical order. They had picked their side. Their only misstep was advising me of it.

This raises an important question: How much information should a company provide to customers in queue? Do they provide an estimated wait time and the customer’s position in queue, or do they keep that information to themselves?  If there is a long projected hold time, they are advertising their bad news (possible understaffing or product issues). But the upside is they are respecting their customers’ time and allowing callers to decide if they want to hold.  There is definite contention in terms of which way to play it.

You need to understand your customer base as well as your market share to decide if your customers can handle the information. It seems that the consumer is more willing to accept a long hold time if their only choice is to wait (technical support comes to mind). However, if you are in a competitive marketplace, you cannot afford to disappoint your customers since they can easily leave you for a competitor.

In some queues it is completely appropriate to provide an estimated wait time and position in queue (an internal Help Desk is a perfect example). If you don’t want to provide specifics about the call, why not consider Unified IP Queue Optimizer as an alternative which will allow the caller to schedule a callback?  There is also the ability to leave a message if queue times are high and you would like to offer your customers some type of alternative.  If that doesn’t work you can elongate the time between messages and consider using FAQs as messages instead of the standard “Your call is important to us, please continue to hold for the next available representative.”  That gets old real quick. (Do you know what never gets old from hearing it over and over again? That’s right, the USC fight song after each and every Trojan first down!  Fight On!)

So choose your side and decide what works for your customers and your business!