dburrows/ blog/ entry/ from-blogspot/ Good ideas in customer service: kill the hold period

The lender for one of my student loans has apparently started using a rather cool system to manage incoming customer service calls. If all the call-takers are busy, then instead of forcing you to sit there listening to a call telling you how important your business is to them, they let you request a call-back. They ask you to enter a phone number where they can reach you, then give you a time window in which they'll be calling (in my case I think it was about two minutes wide). When my turn came up, they called me and I was able to speak with a human immediately.

This is such a huge improvement over the typical call center experience that I'm amazed it hasn't caught on more broadly.

I'm guessing that this option will be available in more and more places as companies computerize their telephone systems. Another nice twist, if there are any telephony guys reading this, would be to allow me to request the customer service call from a Web page, eliminating the toll-free call altogether and presumably saving some expense for the company.

An interesting question for me is how they generate those estimates of when they'll be able to help you. I'm guessing that they use some queueing theory to estimate the most likely wait time for the next incoming customer, but this is something I have only a fuzzy awareness of. However they did it, the estimate seemed accurate enough to me.

Comment by Jonathan at 7:01 PM:

I love systems like this. My small local ISP has this setup, only they're rarely too busy to take a call pretty much immediately.

However, signing up for a call from a web form where a user just inputs a phone number sounds just way too ripe for abuse :)

Comment by dburrows at 9:52 PM:

Yes, that's true. I was thinking more in terms of being able to log in to the Web site and then request a call. :-)

Comment by Anonymous at 1:12 AM:

But please don't kill the phone number. In particular for ISPs I would not want to have to use a web form...

Comment by midorigin at 10:02 AM:

I had to call an Amazon.com support line not long ago. They've got a similar thing set up, but what's really cool about it is that instead of just posting a phone number online, there's a form on the website where you type in your number and a time you'd like to be called at (now is an option), then the system calls you as soon as someone is available to talk.