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I was travelling in to London yesterday and from the train window looked across to Heathrow. As I looked up into the flight path I got an amazing view of the landing planes, each one perhaps 90 seconds apart, and as I strained my eyesight I could see perhaps 8 to 10 planes in the queue.

Planes queue up to land
Planes queue up to land

Planes arrive from all over the globe, and in order to land at Heathrow they need to get into an orderly queue. This queue might stretch 50 miles or so away from the runway and it’s first come first served with the longest waiting plane landing first.

This got me thinking, are all the planes really equal? Is it really the case that first come is first served?

What if:

  1. One plane is running low on fuel
  2. One plane has been hit by lightening
  3. One plane needs to meet a connecting flight
  4. One plane left early so is ahead of its scheduled landing slot

Knowing this information would you still land the planes in the order in which they arrive? You would probably push out the plane that has arrived early, and prioritise those that are at risk.

In addition, you need to decide where each plane is going to go once it lands on the runway. You could wait until they land, have a look at the logo on the tail fin, and then make a judgement. Much better would be to route each plane to a predefined stand or terminal whilst they are still in the air to save time once they are on the runway. For example, British Airways planes will typically be routed to Terminal 5 and this is known well before landing.

Not all planes are equal. By looking out into the flight path we can make an assessment of each plane, prioritise and route it appropriately, ultimately giving a better level of service to passengers.

Are all calls equal?

So let’s think about how your clients deal with their inbound calls. Does your client make any attempt to look into the flight path and determine the relative value of each caller, or do they wait until the call has ‘landed on the runway’ before deciding how important it is, and how to route it?

Imagine the next 6 calls that your client might be receiving:

  1. An unhappy client with an open support case
  2. A prospect that has an open sales opportunity worth £6,000
  3. A client who has an overdue bill
  4. A prospect that has an open sales opportunity worth £24,000
  5. An unrecognised number
  6. A happy client

Given this information of the next 6 calls in your queue would you want to answer them in the order that they arrived, or bring forward certain callers?

Would you want to route your calls to the same queue or to different groups of agents - perhaps the client with the overdue bill goes straight to your collections department, or the client with the largest open sales opportunity goes to your best sales team.

Perhaps you might want to play different in queue messages to different callers - case studies to the £24,000 opportunity, details of the support portal to the open case caller.

There are three main reasons why looking into the flight path makes great business sense.

  1. Happier callers, because magically they get straight through to someone who can deal with them appropriately.
  2. Happier employees, because they get calls that are appropriate to their skill levels
  3. Lower costs, because calls get dealt with quicker, and more effectively, feeding back into 1 and 2

Ultimately your contact centre can add to your brand perception, and not detract from it. After all, this might be the only interaction you have all year with your client. What a great opportunity to give them a personalised and efficient experience.

Action Points

Most businesses today believe that answering calls in the order they arrive is the only available solution. In meetings with clients why not draw up the Heathrow flight path diagram, annotate with their examples of call types, and ask them - which call would you pick up first, and who would you want to answer it. I’m confident you’ll get into a really exciting discussion as your client starts to think of the possibilities.

Do you wait for your calls to land before deciding what to do with them? Have you come across other interesting ways of routing calls?

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About Charlie Cowan

Charlie is passionate about cloud computing and how it can help real businesses to run more profitably.

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