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This weekend’s Dragon’s Den episode kicked off with a pitch from an entrepreneur trying to solve the problem of contact centre queues. When callers hit a contact centre queue the technology enables them to press press a button, hang-up, and get on with their day whilst the application queues on their behalf. Once at the front of the queue the app calls you back and connects you to a waiting advisor.

Unfortunately for the entrepreneur he received short shrift from the Dragons for his overly optimistic valuation, but for me there were deeper questions about the problem he was trying to solve – rather than managing queues we should be going to war on them!

A queue exists because the number of callers is greater than the number of available advisors. It reminds us of a cartoon that stated “Your call is important to us, just not important enough for us to hire more people!”

Here are some of our suggestions for going to war on queues!

Re-brand the contact centre as a profit centre

If every caller is seen as a cost to the business then it makes sense to try and answer your calls with the minimum number of people. But when executives really believe that customer service is a competitive differentiator they happily ensure the right number of advisors are available and allow them to comfortably stay on a call until the customer is truly happy.

Offer self-serve for simple queries

IVR’s get a bad name, but really it is badly implemented IVR’s that people hate. If you want to confirm that a package has been shipped or a balance on an account then many people are very happy to self-serve and avoid the need to speak to an advisor. I for one hunt out the self-serve counter in a supermarket so I can speed through and get on my way.

Get callers to the right advisor first time

Instead of answering your callers and then finding out what they need use the information you already hold on them to give them personalised options that get them to someone that can help them. By reducing transfers you free up advisors to deal with new callers.

Consolidate offices as a virtual contact centres

If you have more than one site that takes calls then make sure they are connected. It’s painful to know that calls are queuing in one contact centre when advisors are available in another. The larger the number of advisors across your entire organisation the easier it is to plan and handle with fluctuating call volume.

Use other employees in emergencies

As Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Despite your best workforce planning an ash cloud or a flood can have calls piling up in the contact centre. Don’t accept this as ‘just a bad day’, but instead get calls routed to employees outside of your contact centre. Even if the person that answers is unable to fully resolve an issue it is preferable to an abandoned caller going on to tweet about being #onhold.

We believe queues are unacceptable and we work hard to help our customers build call plans that avoid them rather than accepting them as part of our industry. What do you think? Are contact centre queues unavoidable? What does your business do to try and minimise them for your customers?

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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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