on hold

People Hate Waiting – So Let the Machines Queue

We know that waiting on hold drives people crazy. So why in the name of all that’s good and holy, do managers, business owners and doctors arrange things in such a way that people have to wait. To be fair, until recently it was difficult and expensive for a business to offer an alternative to queueing. But not any more: it’s time to let the computers queue for us!

I know I know, you’ll say: “but it depends how long”. 10 minutes at the doctor’s is no issue at all. And that’s right. But it also depends on the context, the communication channel and the expectations:

  • Context: At a clinic that deals with emergencies, you understand that the other guy was in more critical need of your time slot.
  • Communication channel: Waiting 2 minutes on the phone listening to muzak feels sort of the same as 20 minutes in a waiting room. Why? Because on the phone you are stuck in a low information channel – you can’t look around and assess the situation and most of the time only really big companies can afford a system that accurately tells you how long you’ll have to wait.
  • And expectations: if you want to buy an expensive video projector and you need to talk to someone, then having to wait on hold seems totally inappropriate – after all the website says: “We’re here to help”.

The interesting question is this: Is being put on hold inevitable? The answer is “no”. In most situations it is not the only way. For example, a telephone call to a company is a form of request to talk to someone. Either the right person is available or not – if they are then it’s all hunky-dory. If they are not available, then a computer is much better at keeping a slot in a call queue and waiting than a human is. Just note the request to talk to someone, find out what kind of person they need and arrange a callback. No hold music, no one waits, the consumer gets an agent with the right skills and everyone is informed of the status of the “queue”. Great.

It is through that sometimes it makes sense to leave a caller wait – at least briefly. Some variable waiting might be necessary, i.e. to allow for reprioritizing cases based on severity or customer status. But overall average waiting time can be reduced through better use of technology to manage capacity and resources and integrate these with other systems: CRMs, Helpdesks, ERP, appointment booking systems, etc. The tech is there for both the virtual queuing and for the automation across your integrations-

This really is not difficult, nor is it expensive. Even a small or medium-sized business can now have enterprise-like capability at a reasonable price.

Now you just need to decide to allow your customers the freedom: Let the machines wait while we get on with our lives.