The Power of Knowing How Long the Line Is in IT Service
Everyone hates to wait for help, but there are a few simple steps IT service and support teams can do to make the end user feel better about the wait.
A friend of mine, Alan Nance, encouraged me to write this article from a conversation we had about customer service and XLA or Experience Level Agreements. I am going to share an experience with you that hopefully inspires some of you to change the way you interact with your customers.
Scheduling Versus Walk-in
Alan co-authored an article about how the customer experience was different between a barber and a hair stylist. Many barbers still take customers by a walk-in service, whereas a hair stylist usually requires a prescheduled appointment. This reminded me of how service centers were with calls, walk-ins, and desk side support.
There is no doubt that scheduling an appointment ahead of time is the best way to go for the customer and the service desk. The service desk knows their schedule and can show up or contact the customer at the appointed time. The customer can also plan for this appointment and be ready for help by not being in the middle of work at that time.
This all works great for request management, when the customer needs something they didn’t have and there is no urgency or emergency to their request. You show up to help them install something, upgrade something, or teach them something. But what happens if it is an emergency or their issue is an incident, not a request?
This is when you encourage your customers to come to you immediately for help, of course - when an incident occurs that cannot wait for an appointment, and they need help now. Maybe their password expired, they can’t print to their assigned printer, or their computer quit working. Depending on the issue, urgency, and your offerings, they may call, chat, or walk-in to your service desk. But what happens when everyone on your team is engaged with customers? Everyone else has to wait.
In this situation, it is the behavioral characteristics of an individual or group that I want to write about. If you have ever been to an amusement park and had to wait in a long line to get on a ride, you will certainly be able to relate. Some of these places tell you how long the wait is when you enter the line, and some even have digital signs throughout the queue keeping you informed. This is better than not knowing how long the wait is, and may help you decide if you want to wait or skip that ride.
Many Service Desks and call centers like to use metrics to measure things, like call abandon rate, first call resolution, and customer satisfaction. This helps us determine how well we are doing as we try to meet our Experience Level Agreements. When people call, chat or walk in and the line is long, like at the amusement park, people are less satisfied with your service.
Often when this situation happens, people hang up, close the chat window, or walk out. This not only hurts our metrics, but also weakens our relationship with the customer. Maybe even causing them to call their shadow IT friends
So what do you do to improve this? I recently had an experience while trying to change a flight to the upcoming Support World Live conference. My flight was changed by the airline to a flight that would get me into Las Vegas later than I needed to be there. I called the airline and was greeted with the message that all associates were busy, and the voice asked if I would like to wait for the next available person. Oh boy, I thought, the dreaded hold music.
But to my surprise, not only did the message tell me how long the wait was, thirty-five minutes, but I was also given the option to have a live person call me back when it was my turn. No waiting in line, and no dreaded hold music while I tried to work while waiting.
Remember that amusement park line I mentioned earlier? Now think about the parks who offer a pre-scheduled time to get on a ride. Restaurants have also gotten on board with the idea when they are busy by asking for your cell phone number and putting you in the virtual queue, sending you a text message while you wait.
Think about if you did this with your Service Desk. Even though your customer will have to wait the same amount of time by not being on hold or waiting in a line watching others take up their time, they could be doing something else while they wait for you to call them back. In their mind this was a better experience because you told them you would put them in a virtual queue, so they did not have to wait in or on a line.
We are all trying to improve the customer experience, which in turn helps our metrics, improves our service, and strengthens our organizations. Remember how it feels when you must wait in line at a restaurant or amusement park that does not use a virtual line. Compare that experience to those that do use the virtual queue or call back service. Think about the impact to the customer and how a simple change to your process could change their satisfaction. You did not have to add staff; instead you set the expectation by changing their psychological or behavioral thought process.
If your organization already does this or you feel this would be too complicated in your environment, leave me a comment below. If you would like to learn more about the Experience Level Agreement (XLA) please feel free to reach out to me through HDI or LinkedIn.