Iranian researcher offers updated tools for measuring call center caller patience

TEHRAN (ISNA)- An Iranian researcher Morteza Emadi along with his colleagues at Chicago University has presented a more precise approach for modeling waiting time of a caller in a call center, reducing the delay time.

One study from messaging service Talk To found that at the start of 2013, eighty-six percent of customers reported being put on hold every time they called a business and forty-eight percent believed customer service agents were not helpful. Seventy percent of consumers reported experiencing rage when encountering and trying to solve a problem with a product or service.

More companies expanded their contact portals in 2013 in an effort to ease the strain, adding chat functions to websites, call-back service to call center hold queues, and famously, Amazon’s new Mayday personal tech support feature on the Kindle Fire. Eighty-eight percent of companies now offer a multi-channel customer service experience which means the quality of the interactions across channels will determine their popularity. Avaya (News – Alert) Communications has published a report on 2014 call center trends listing “Investing more – and more wisely – in contact center personnel” as the top priority and “focusing on the quality of customer interactions” in second place.

Even with call center use declining, phone agents are still a must-have for most large companies, which means finding the sweet spot between staffing and customer experience quality. No company can afford to have agents sitting idle, but multi-channel offerings are making it harder than ever to estimate call volumes.

Information from a new study on “caller delay sensitivity” published in Management Science may help call centers better predict their call volumes as well as their customer’s willingness to hold. Researcher Baris Ata points out the importance of knowing a caller’s patience level.

“It’s no use spending millions on advertising a new product, service or event if your call center can’t cope with the customer response,” Ata said. “Since the model produces more realistic results for how long a caller will stay on the line, it enables a more precise estimate for the number of callers who can be served per hour, day and month.”

The study showed that existing models to predict caller behavior are outdated, overestimating a caller’s patience and underestimating their willingness to hang up. But callers are responsive to efforts to improve service, notes researcher Che-Lin Su. “When a call center alters its discipline to improve speed and service, add agents, or change call routing and priority, we theorized those things should influence caller patience—and our model shows that such improvements do indeed make a difference in whether people decide to hang up or hang on.”

Previous studies have shown that callers to small businesses are more patient, and perhaps more willing to sacrifice hold time (the average was 1 minute 47 seconds) in exchange for the personalized service of a small company. The same studies showed that medium-sized businesses boast the shortest hold times, while large and extra large companies left callers on hold longer. These last two groups account for much of the frustration and rage levied at corporate entities and perceived lack of customer care.

The results of the entire delay-sensitivity study can be viewed via subscription at the Management Science publication page.



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