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Can it be done?

In Part I of this article I made the case for removing wait times from customer service, inspired by Tony’s Chocolonely, T-mobile and Bitcoin. In Part II we looked at some wrongs at the heart of customer service and what obstacles prevent us from eliminating wait times for our customers. For Part III let’s dream some more. Imagine being able to immediately answer your customers’ calls and chats.

Would they be suprised?
Would it increase their satisfaction?
Can it be done?


I believe it can be done, in some cases it should be done and a few will make it happen.


But how?

One happy family

Size matters in customer service because answering calls is – in part – a game of chance. Imagine playing tennis with a table tennis set vs. playing with a full size tennis racket. By organising your customer service in as large (skill)groups as possible you increase the size of the racket. This can result in wait times dropping as much as 25% and becomes more important as you aim to further eliminate wait times.

Pay up

Of course eliminating wait times will require some investment. The simplest measure to reduce wait times is to add more staff. Before looking at the cost, I want to invite you to think of some benefits:

– How much churn would you be able to prevent by cutting wait times?
– How would that translate into increased revenue?
– Could it benefit the image of your enterprise with current and potential customers?
– Can you put a figure on that?

So how much staff do yo need to add to achieve an insanely high service level of, let’s say 99% within 1 second? Take a look at below example of a contact center with 15k contacts per week and a current service level of 80% within 20 seconds. It would take a 23% increase in staff to (theoretically) achieve zero wait times:

The above example is calculated with a fully multi-skilled contact center. If you were to attempt this with two teams, each handling 50% of volume, you would have to add 31% more staff (35% more expensive).

Of course these examples assume perfect predictability of arrival patterns and the ability to staff accordingly. As we all know, reality is much more messy 🙂

Use predictive software

So let’s look at how to improve predictability of customer behaviour. The truth is we are still using primitive tools for this and there is much room for improvement. Spreadsheets are great (I love them) but are also prone to errors: how JP Morgan Chase lost $6 Billion because of a spreadsheet error.

When it comes to forecasting with software many are worried about the “black-box effect” that can occur when using algorithms for forecasting customer interactions. And for good reason: people want to be accountable for their work.

What if there was software that has easy to understand algorithms and has room for incorporating expert knowledge and customization? The good news is, this is already available!

We find that clients using our dedicated software were able to reduce on average 42% of errors in their daily volume forecast! You can now try this yourself for 30 days without any cost. Let me know your results!

Integrate front- and backoffice

As we saw earlier you’ll need more staff to account for randomness in arrival patterns, if you wish to reduce wait times. Naturally, you wouldn’t want to pitch reducing productivity in your contact center to the board; not without some countermeasures. Integrating the backoffice can be a great countermeasure if done well.

In stead of increasing your staff with 23% you could also create an overflow queue to the backoffice team (with flow-back). With an overflow routing your backoffice staff wil get calls but only when the frontoffice is fully occupied. This keeps productivity high on the front-lines without increasing the size of the team, while only utilizing backoffice capacity when needed.

No backoffice? Outsource the overflow volume to a third party that handles plenty of non-live interactions.


We’ll probably never be able to completely eliminate wait times but the world would be a better place if we tried. Remember that 57% of people find this the most annoying part of customer service. Less annoyed customers means better conversations, less churn, shorter calls and a happier workforce!

That’s it for now! Let’s wrap this up with some nice music from Coldplay:

Thanks for reading!

Richard Zeelenberg
Founder @ AIM Forecasting