Expected Wait Time (EWT) is the length of time a customer has to wait in the queue before an agent answers.
However, it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. There is a systematic approach to calculating EWT which should factor in things like staffing, handling time and the wait time of recent calls.
Important: There is no such thing as a precise estimated wait time!
EWT is always a best guess. Because EWT is primarily used to give customers an idea of how long they’ll wait in a queue, it is almost always rounded to the nearest whole number.
(For example: you might inform customers that they’ll wait 1 minute. You probably *won’t* tell them that they’ll wait 1 minute, 12 and half seconds!)
How to Measure EWT
EWT is not a simple calculation that you can perform on the back of an envelope.
It requires call center software that can perform rolling calculations. The software will deliver that to an operational manager and, ideally, to queuing customers.
The first factor that EWT considers is the length of time the most recent customers needed to wait for service.
Important – this calculation can only begin once the customer has been routed to the queue by the ACD.
The second factor is the length of time that the customer has already waited. If the system initially calculates a two minute wait time, after one minute it will report a one minute wait time.
The third factor is the average handling time of current calls. As this rises and falls, the EWT will do the same.
One important caveat is that the wait times you report to customers should balance optimism with practicality!
The Importance of EWT
It is generally considered best practice to let customers know approximately how long they can expect to wait.
Research shows that customer experience benefits greatly from this kind of practical information.
On the other hand, generic messages including ‘we value your call’ and ‘you may find answers on our website’ tend to aggravate customers.
Another trend in last-generation queuing systems was a propensity to hang up on callers after a certain period of waiting.
This clearly has an enormous impact on CX!
Sometimes, long queues are unavoidable. In those scenarios, virtual queuing is usually the best option.
Virtual queuing allows customers to remain in a call queue even after hanging up.
An outbound call from your contact center is automatically scheduled and placed when agents are once again available.
This is a very useful way to flatten peaks and troughs in call volume.
A great asset for customers and businesses
In 1999, Disneyland used something very similar to the virtual queuing system in order to improve the queuing experiences in the park.
Their FastPass system allows customers to hold their place in line ‘virtually’ while they enjoy other attractions.
For contact centers this is a tremendously useful way to spread calls and meet call volumes without the expense of hiring more employees.
Daily experience shows us that customers are far less affected by a period of waiting when they have some guarantee of service – and (ideally) when they don’t have to wait on hold!
Unfortunately, not every company has this feature. Many still use arcane ways to answer the phones and with technology turnaround being at least every twelve years, EWT should be first on the list to maintain quality.