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Virtual queue (wikipedia.org)
73 points by damian2000 on Dec 26, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments

The article is quite opinionated towards this system, while I think the main beneficiary of this, is the call center. And not because they actually operate more efficiently, but because the can fake more efficiency. When I pick up the phone, to call a company, it is usually because they already did something wrong, and I need help with that immediately. In all other cases I wouldn't contact them or would have send an e-mail. The article claims that "the best bet for improving both customer satisfaction and contact center operations" is some queue management stuff and so on, but I think the "best bet" would be getting someone on the phone asap. And asap is not after 20 minutes of waiting time (whether on the phone, or off the phone).

> asap is not after 20 minutes of waiting time (whether on the phone, or off the phone).

Sure, but if the prevailing queue conditions mean I'm forced to wait 20 minutes regardless, I'd much rather do that without a phone to my ear. I'd even prefer a 40 minute virtual queue to a 20 minute physical queue, so it seems appropriate for there to be some discounting of virtual queue times when compared to physical ones.

Yes. Being in a queue means you have to constantly keep an ear out for being transferred to an actual human being. Which can be quite hard when the hold music is regularly interrupted with voice announcements. Yes I realise my call is important to you, but if you didn't tell me that every 10 seconds I could stop listening so hard and (maybe?) enjoy the music.

As an aside, their comparison of voluntary queuing with and without virtual queues is suspect as they seem to inform the customer about the length of the queue only when they also have the callback system. These are two separate things and should be measured separately.

The stats piece is close to nonsense as well, if you measure ASA from your phone system's call duration when you have a virtual queue you are lying to yourself at best.

The math of say 10 sec max queueing vs say 5min wait time is pretty straight forward but maybe not intuitive. You pay significant (30%+ sometimes, depends on volume) overhead for those last minutes (queueing theory, Erlang C formula). For that reason, it's nice to do something like this. Low customer effort cost but high savings.

Virtual queueing through the phone is a bit meh, you still have to pick up the phone in the first place. Doing it through the web though gives imo a less annoying experience - wait time less visible and only have to pick up the phone once.

> I pick up the phone, to call a company, it is usually because they already did something wrong, and I need help with that immediately.

That is a very narrow case. Others I've personally used

  - place order
  - schedule appt, make reservation
  - check status
  - make change to order/appt/etc
  - cancel order/appt/etc
  - talk about suspicious activity

> When I pick up the phone, to call a company, it is usually because they already did something wrong, and I need help with that immediately.

That might be true in even most cases (I doubt even this based on only my experiences), but certainly not all!

Think: IT support. Did they do something wrong? No. Your PC broke. No fault here.

Think: you have a question about your bill. Just a question, but it's nagging you. No fault here.

Think: maybe you left your lights on and need AAA! You need immediate assistance, but you'll have to wait in queue anyway. This is your fault, but it isn't like listening to Aerosmith is going to make you feel better! Let them call you back.

> I think the "best bet" would be getting someone on the phone asap.

Well, it is impossible to know who needs immediate assistance VS who doesn't. Maybe two pronged: 1) to be called back ASAP 2) to be called back when we're more available? First is the queue how it is. Second is a low-pri queue for people who are honest?

Queueing exists for a reason...the variability of arrivals makes it extremely expensive to provision for high levels of availability. If you are like most people, you aren't willing to pay the true costs of what you're asking for.

Or, you know, a lot of companies are offering alternative choices besides calling them, but it seems few people avail of them

So yeah, I understand why they might want to increase attrition for things like frequently asked questions that are on the website and other simple operations.

When we took our kid to get a picture with Santa this year they used a virtual Queue. It allowed them to backup a queue of customers up to 8 hours! Customers registered at the top of the line and then were sent away. They texted 30 mins before and then 5 mins before. It was quite effective. When we finally arrived we were in front of Santa in 5 mins.

Another nice system is for you to 'queue jump' when you call back after a certain time. E.g. if you call before 10am at a busy time, you have the option to call back after 12pm and you will be guaranteed a direct connection to an operator.

Nice for the caller, yes.

I got started working in an IT call center: I can guarantee you, it's nice for everyone!

First: we were ABSOLUTELY required to keep the calls flowing. Did not matter how many we got: if a call went above 5 minutes in queue...which did happen with our volume to tech ratio...we all were berated: I'd go as far as saying verbally abused at times (think: directors literally stomping their feet on the floor and screaming at you.)

Second: no one likes to wait on the phone. It's annoying. They want their problem fixed. If they have to wait on the phone they'll just be more angry by the time they speak to a tech.

Third: you're still handling the same number of calls, most likely. Sometimes even less! We'd have people call and abandon constantly, so that'd drive up our numbers and make us look really bad (they didn't want users abandoning.)

The wikipedia article is about incoming call queueing which I find good even from end-user (caller) perspective.

What I found more interesting is that at least some telemarketing call centers actually use outgoing call queues. The reason for this is:

1) They anticipate some percentage of unreachable numbers; 2) To maximize efficiency- operators don't spend time waiting on somebody picking up the phone, they are only engaged when there is someone on the line.

Yes- if you ever picked up the phone and there is 3-5 second delay before you hear someone, that is the queue/robodialer realizing someone picked up and sending you to the telemarketer

So the fake virus scammers who call from 'Microsoft' are also using the same system then ...

It's like lazy-loading people's attention.

I tried to use this feature while on hold ... once.

They returned my call using a poorly tuned predictive dialer, I listened to 20-30 seconds of silence before the call dropped.

There was no second attempt.

I use this all the time. Never had an issue.

We used this callback system when I worked at a call center selling products from TV infomercials, although it wasn't anywhere near as advanced as the example in this article. The dialing was automated but we had to manually initiate each call, and make sure we were speaking to the right person.

I don't even know how many times I've said the phrase "We are currently experiencing a high volume of calls". Hopefully never again.

Does anyone provide this as a third party service? It'd be pretty cool to be able to drop a number I know I am going to need to call, and wait over to someone else who will do a ringback for me.

I've used FastCustomer in the past successfully. It's a mobile app that calls customer service numbers and connects you after waiting in a queue.

There are systems in at least the UK that will queue for you on a callcenter. You call them first, they queue for you and when the call picks up you get the call joined by them calling back to you. Never used it though.

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