Queue Management- Best Practices

This has been a very long time coming, and I don’t know why I’ve put it off for so long. Ok that’s a half truth, part of the reason is there’s only so much you can do about the queue management in most situations. In fact, it’s the main reason several support and service channels are inherently kind of awful for both sets of participants most of the time.

And Queue Management is What Exactly:

This pertains to handling people waiting in turn for service. Lines, waiting rooms, waiting lists, anything like that is under scrutiny by this science. But, it also goes a step further to managing waiting work orders to resolve problems or investigate them as well.

To clarify which side we’re referring to in discussion, let’s call people waiting to talk to support/service the incoming queue. Let’s refer to work and investigation orders for technicians, scheduled by the prior contact, as the outgoing queue.

The Different Rings of Hades:

Well, it’s an apropos way to describe the various kinds of waiting structure and handling thereof, from unpleasant to abject psychological torment. And, it’s not close to entirely the companies’ faults that this is the case. But, part of it is.

In modern times, we see different wait structure, often less defined from the view of the customer. Help desks, social support and social CRM don’t put you as a place in a line or someone waiting a fixed time to be handled. In most cases, it simply tells the user that the request for help has been tendered, and will receive a response as soon as possible.

On the underside of that, tickets tend to be prioritized by urgency and time submitted. Most support and service teams running over these frameworks will have the goal of clearing the queue of urgent ones in the order they were received, and then divide up piles of the lesser in order received among each other, to see that in the gap, all other levels are touched while urgent are addressed ASAP at all times.

This works, and nothing can be done to further it beyond staff growth.

But, oh boy, the one that’s terrible is the classic call center.

Call Centers:

A lot of bad unanimous decisions by businesses at large have led to the call center being a bad experience. Originally, it wasn’t so bad, even if it hadn’t been all we had to work with. But, once automated menus replaced operators, and then computers tried to be CRM agents themselves over voice recognition happened, things got bad.

On top of that, the outsourcing has resulted in mismanagement of staff allocation to handle incoming volume. And the customer, of course, is the one who suffers for this corner cutting.

In order to handle queues better here, there are just some common sense actions to take, and beyond that, it is what it is. Simplifying the menus, and never making them more than two button presses deep is very helpful. Making it possible to dial out and get a general agent is a must.

During wait times, looping music must be of high sound quality, and the loop very long. It needs to be relaxing and globally inoffensive, and classical is a good choice for that. Intermittent advert recordings are a no-no.

Hold times should never be longer than five minutes. If they are, that is not okay.

As for outgoing queue management, all I can say is that “any time 8-6 on a given day” is just not okay.


Amy Clark is the Lead Author & Editor of IWantItNow Blog. Amy established the Customer Engagement blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to customer service, support and engagement.