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On Hold Take-a-Number

Don't call us, we'll call you!
  [vote for,

I was just thinking about how we put people on hold at our office. The customers hate it, and they call back on the hotline because obviously we don't know what we're doing if we put them on hold. Even though it would be more expeditious for them to patiently remain on the line. And most cell phones can't take a thirty-minute wait on hold.

So here's my solution: you are perhaps charged a nominal fee, depending on what the company can afford, so that when you are put on hold for more than an arbitrarily-designated number of customers, you can have an automated call-back when it is your turn to speak with an operator. This feature could be entirely opt-in, offered simply for the convenience of the customers. An automated dialer would handle the calls and then automatically insert them into a much shorter queue based on how many operators were available to handle the calls.

polartomato, Aug 23 2002

(?) Talk to a Human Service http://www.halfbake...a_20human_20service
Credit where credit is due, for my inspiration. [polartomato, Aug 23 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]

No-YOU-wait-for-me http://www.halfbake.../No-YOU-wait-for-me
Apparently this has been discussed before... see McFrank's idea... [polartomato, Aug 23 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]

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       Is the whole world crazy? What is wrong with this picture? Why are you suggesting that the entity who presumably wants to spend money with you should pay "a nominal fee" in order to be added to a shorter queue? I think you have spent far too many evenings waiting to be admitted to exclusive night clubs.   

       On the flip side, many of us already pay regular monthly or annual additional charges to have special numbers to call and accounts that allow us to slip in the back door. But you better be selling something a lot more delectable than home siding or term insurance! So, it's either baked, or usurous.
jurist, Aug 23 2002

       No, I meant that you wouldn't have to stay on the phone, but you would still be on hold. Sort of like hiring someone to stand in line for you. It could be free, it could cost a few cents, I dunno.   

       Where I work, we have fluctuating customer flow. Some days there are twice as many customers as on other days. Inevitably, someone is put on hold. If companies actually hired enough people, the prices of many services would skyrocket. It isn't feasible to hire and train extra employees for a few far-spread-apart days a year. Anyway, I'm just writing about a cheap way to improve the way things are as of the current moment, while working with the needs of the company as well.   

       As a side note, once someone has reached support/customer service, they have already spent their money and committed to the product... think about it.
polartomato, Aug 23 2002

       Polartomato: However good your intentions all you are doing is hiding the cost of providing a good service. Rather than pushing the penny about what needs to happen is for call centres to become more efficient.   

       One possible solution is to releve some of the traffic by creating a web help service. A web operator (using something similar to a chat room interface) can handle several 'callers' simultaneously. The consumer (who still has to wait for an operator) can surf/answer their emails etc while they wait in a queue. The progresss of the queue is shown on screen.   

       This is not a halfbaked idea. Palm did it a while back but stopped due to buggy software that kept dropping connections. Hopefully they and others will restart the service.   

       I can see no downside to this:
• The business can handle more calls simultaneously.
• The calls can be partly automated using keyboard macros and forms to fill in before starting the converstaion.
• The calls are automatically logged so returning to a recurring problem is easy.
• Text conversations take less bandwidth than voice and are therefore cheaper.
• The caller has a more pleasent wait time (can easily do other things).
• Hopefully, due to reduced costs and greater efficiency, the customer can also enjoy a reduced wait time.

       Obviously there are some business areas that cannot easily use the web (e.g. a helpline on how to set up your modem). I also feel that phone helplines should be maintained as an alternative.   

       I do think, though that a wider adoption of systems like this could improve call centres no end.   

       Sorry about that, rant over. As you may detect, this is a matter close to my heart -- I used to me an NTL customer (Customer service lines: wait time > 1 hour, sales lines: wait time < 10 sec, email support time > 1 year (no reply))
st3f, Aug 23 2002

       Without giving away where I work, I will say that my customers are nowhere near a computer. Although I like your plan st3f.
polartomato, Aug 23 2002

       "Any business that requires you to listen to a machine for more than ninety seconds which tells you that your call is very important to them, rather than providing you with a live human being to talk to, is by definition lying." - Stephen William Rimmer
angel, Aug 23 2002

       I like the idea, sans fee. If the queue was longer than a few minutes, the system could just periodically ask everyone if they want to stay on hold, or if they want to leave a number and have customer service call them back in X minutes or so.
beland, May 26 2003

       There's no way you should pay -- contact centers will reap the benefit from you not waiting in queue & wasting their toll money. Systems already exist that tell you your estimated wait & let you request a callback instead of waiting on hold. You can get a callback in the same amount of time as if you waited in queue, or you can schedule it at a more convenient time. check out http://www.virtualhold.com for info; they do these sorts of callbacks and also have a web callback feature.
atrober, Sep 17 2003


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