Queuing is a part of everyday life. Whenever you walk into a shop, bank or post office, there’s a chance you’ll have to endure a wait before you can purchase your shopping, talk to a teller or send your parcel.

In the majority of cases, we’ll be willing to bear a short wait. After all, most people appreciate that businesses operate in a competitive environment, with limited resources; and queuing can be an effective way of ensuring everybody gets served. If the queue looks too long, we can make the decision to turn around, walk out, and come back at a different time.

Unfortunately, many call centres don’t offer the same visibility into queuing that your local post office branch does. Instead of arming their customers with the knowledge to know how long their wait is expected to be, they leave them in the dark, unable to work out whether they’ll be served in 5 minutes, or 50.

What is Visual Queuing?

Visual queuing is designed to provide visibility for queuing customers. In its simplest form, a call centre can tell their customers how long they’ll have to wait to speak to an agent. Callers can then choose between speaking to an agent or calling back at another time; giving them the same choice they’d have in a high street shop or government office.

If queues are exceptionally long, it can better for both the call centre and the customer to be up-front about the wait. Instead of forcing callers to wait blindly in line for an unspecified amount of time, you can offer to reschedule the call, provide alternative services (like website and email support), or suggest alternate times when the queue is forecast to be shorter. This type of visual queuing empowers customers to make decisions about how they want to use their time, and can help manage your call volumes more effectively as a result.

Simple visual queuing options are built-in to virtually all phone systems – so why do many call centres avoid implementing it?

Why Call Centres Don’t Offer Visual Queuing

In some instances, it may be that the call centre is embarrassed by the length of their queues, and unwilling to admit that a caller is ‘300th in the queue’. Instead of addressing the performance issues that have caused queues to build-up to this length, they turn off visual queuing, and hope the situation improves.

In other cases, call centres are concerned that informing people about a wait will cause an increase in call abandonment. In reality, abandons happen, regardless of waiting times or visual queuing. In some instances, visibility may even reduce abandoned calls – and for some people, ‘You’ll speak to an operator in 20 minutes’ will be enough of a reassurance to prevent an abandon.

Looking at the bigger picture, metrics and targets should only be pursued in service of the customer experience. If visual queuing can improve the overall customer experience, it has to be worth considering.

Queuing and the Customer Experience

Queuing is a stressful process. Without insight into queue lengths and waiting times, customers will find themselves asking all manner of questions, the least of which are ‘Will I get to speak to someone?’ and  ‘Will they even be able to help?’.

With an increasing focus on Customer Effort Scores, call centres everywhere are talking about solving these problems, but few actually act upon them. Visual queuing allows your call centre to walk the walk, and say ‘We appreciate that your time is valuable, and even if we can’t always help it being busy, we can at least do X, Y and Z to help’.

Instead of taking away the customer’s choice, visual queuing gives it back – and that’s better for the call centre and the customer alike.

To discover another strategy for improving your customer experience, download our executive summary below.

How Intraday Automation Can Help Your Call Centre