If you have to wait in line as a customer, you want to know that someone will be along to help you shortly, and a call queue allows you to set expectations for your callers like this easily.
Everyone’s experienced waiting in line in a call queue when they contact a sales or customer support center. In fact, most people are already anticipating a long hold before they even dial the number, which can make them annoyed at the very thought of getting in touch with your company. And when you’re trying to provide a good customer experience, annoyance is the last emotion you want customers to feel.
That’s the beauty of a call queue.
Sure, your customers might have to wait a bit, but when you use the call queue feature, an auto-attendant periodically reminds your customers that the next available agent is only a few moments away.
Let’s look at what a call queue is, why it’s an essential component of every contact center, and how to set up an unrivaled call queue experience.
What Is a Call Queue?
The word ‘queue’ is more commonly used in Europe than in the United States, but it essentially means to ‘line up’ or ‘wait in line.’ A call queue mimics the process of standing in a physical line, where customers dial a phone number and automatically get lined up, so you can serve them in the order in which they called your business. It’s the old adage of “first come, first served”.
Call analytics are useful tools for predicting call volume and minimizing wait times. That said, predictions are nothing more than educated guesses. As much as you might plan for the proper call center staffing, anomalies can and do happen. But, during the busiest of times, a call queue can save the day! There’s a lot less chance of a customer dropping off the line when you can use call queuing to let them know they haven’t been forgotten, and that an agent will get to them at the earliest possible time. This prevents them from getting frustrated by unusually long wait times.
What happens when customers get frustrated?
The best-case scenario is that they hang up and call back later. At worst, they start looking for your competition, or they start leaving negative comments on your social media platforms. Needless to say, that’s the kind of customer experience that will diminish your bottom line.
How Does a Call Center Queue Work?
As inbound calls come in, the call queue feature routes them to the first available sales or support agent. In technical terms, this is referred to as “First In, First Out (FIFO)”.
When your customers call in, they automatically receive a greeting (usually followed by some enjoyable hold music to entertain them while they wait). If the amount of time that a customer has to wait is too long, the queue callback feature will kick in, and the next available sales or support agent will call them back.
This means customers won’t have to wait on hold, but can go about their day and simply answer the phone when the agent calls back.
What Is an Invisible Queue?
An invisible queue is a call center queue where callers wait in line, without knowing what their place is in the line. Unlike waiting at the deli counter, where you can see how many people are in front of you, customers who have to wait in an invisible call queue can’t even see the line. For all they know, there could be a hundred customers in front of them, or two.
As you can see, there is a psychological aspect to standing in line that you have to think of when setting up call queuing in your contact center.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. No one likes to be told to “take a number”, and no one likes to stand at the back of the line, especially when it’s moving slowly.
But, being last is a lot easier to take when you can see that you’re making progress toward the front of the line. In fact, about 60% of customers won’t wait longer than 2-5 minutes before they give up and hang up the phone when they’re on hold in an invisible queue. Call queuing, on the other hand, lets customers know exactly how many callers are ahead of them, and they can envision the line getting shorter and shorter as their place in the queue counts down.
You can even set up your phone system to play hold music or recorded announcements periodically.
Why Call Queueing Is an Essential Phone System Feature
When a customer hangs up after waiting a long time, you can chalk it up as an “abandoned call.” They might call back, but then again, they might not.
A few customers here or there may try some other channel, like chat or email, to contact you again. However, the chances of that aren’t great. Over half of customers prefer to call a company and speak with a live agent.
The rate at which customers hang up calls is called the abandonment rate. The formula for the abandonment rate is the total number of calls that enter your queue, divided by the number of calls that drop.
Obviously, if your abandonment rate is too high, you’ll need to increase the number of people answering your phone lines, as this indicates that wait times are too long in general. However, when you implement call queueing, you increase the chance that a customer will hold long enough for someone from your company to speak with them, therefore reducing your abandonment rate.
What it really comes down to is whether you’re willing to take a chance that your customers will contact one of your competitors, who just might answer their calls more quickly!
The Advantages of Using a Call Queue
It would be pretty awesome if you could set up your call center so that every voice call gets answered as soon as it comes in. Sadly, though, that’s not really realistic. But a modern business phone service that incorporates a call queue feature helps your small business manage your call flow as best you can.
Here’s are some of the advantages which businesses get from using a call queue:
- Minimize customer wait times.
- Keep your callers engaged until someone can speak with them.
- Distribute the workload to your team members fairly.
- Lower your call abandonment rate and increase your chances of creating brand loyalty.
- Decrease stress and pressure for sales and support agents.
- Give your sales and support agents the time to record and organize data without feeling rushed.
- Foster an overall sense of empowerment and satisfaction within your call center.
Next, we’ll take you through some best practices for managing customers’ expectations using a call queuing feature.
Best Practices for Managing Customer Expectations
Chances are that your customers first chose to do business with you because you met their initial expectations. Now that you’ve won their support by giving them a positive experience at the start, you don’t want to squander it by letting them down on subsequent calls.
Here’s some best practices for managing customer expectations:
- Manage your call flow with a VoIP phone system with call queueing features, so you can answer calls as quickly as possible.
- Use a quality cloud-based phone system which offers queue callback. Customers that have to wait for a long period can get a call back when they reach the front of the line.
- If an agent can’t get to a customer right away, be honest and transparent about when someone will be able to get back to them.
- Use digital tools and analytics to determine the appropriate staffing requirements during various business hours.
- Use metrics, like service level, average handling time, and average speed of answer, to increase efficiency in your call center. Be sure to keep sales and support agents in the loop.
- Set up an IVR that interacts with customers and discloses wait times – this will encourage customers to wait until someone can get to them. Update customers about every 30 seconds or so.
- Test out your call queue workflows before using them to manage large volumes of incoming calls.
- Set maximum limits for queue sizes or wait times. During peak call volume periods, send customers to a voicemail system or use the IVR to route calls to another department for help.
- Make sure you’re able to gather feedback from sales and support agents. Use digital tools to send out automated surveys to gather customer feedback.
- Use a visual map to depict call flows, and configure your call queue system based on it.
How To Set Up an Optimal Call Queue Experience
Now that you have a behind-the-scenes look at the call queue feature, let’s dig a little deeper into how to set up an optimal call queue experience.
First, choose a quality cloud-based phone system to work with, like Aircall, which offers lots of voice call features in a single, integrated platform, including:
- Call queue
- Queue callback
- Business hours availability
- Call routing
- Interactive voice response (IVR)
- Ring groups
- Toll-free numbers
- Call center analytics
- Digital business tool integrations
Once you have the right features, the next step is to set up the optimal call queue experience.
Step-by-step process for call queue best practices
- Set up the call queue feature to line customers up in the order in which incoming calls were received.
- Use queue callback to give your customers the option of hanging up and getting a call back while keeping their place in the line, rather than holding on the phone.
- Assign the business hours recording, so customers won’t waste time calling when representatives aren’t available to help them.
- Establish options for call routing, call extensions, or skill-based routing to get customers to the person that can help them best from the first call.
- Set up an IVR system to give customers an opportunity to get the answers they need without speaking to a live agent. This feature is great for handling common questions and routine requests.
- Aircall works seamlessly with your CRM and other digital business apps, which gives your sales and support agents access to the call history and other customer details before they even answer a call. Having access to this data will allow them to personalize interactions, resolve problems faster, and improve the customer experience overall.
- Use Respect Queueing Time (RQT) to limit the amount of time callers stay in the queue.
- Utilize the ring group feature for sales teams. The most motivated sales team members will be quick to pick up.
With call queueing, waiting on hold doesn’t have to be a miserable experience for your customers.
A call queue will limit caller frustrations by eliminating the ‘invisible queue’ problem. Instead, callers see the progress they’re making towards having their issue addressed. At the end of the day, all of this works together to make the customer experience better when callers contact your business – even during times when your call centers are busier than usual.