Contact Center Overflow queuing... Why you should never do this.

I'm very excited to be onboard here at Clarity as the Product Manager for Clarity Connect. I am eager to share lots of the great stuff we're working on here for improving this great product. I also want to begin to share my thoughts and experiences gained in my 10 years as a Contact Center Consultant. The first of which is my strong opinion that overflow queuing is one of the worst things you can do. Ever. The Problem: Calls sitting in Queue Vs. Calls Answered in set amount of time

Think about what you're trying to accomplish: get a call answered. Now think about your caller, and what they are trying to do: Get some help regarding a specific topic. So for you, your goal may be to make sure all calls are answered by a warm body within X amount of time. However, If you route the call to an overflow queue that has agents who cannot actually assist the customer, you may be meeting your goal of getting the call answered by a live agent, but not meeting the customers goal of getting to talk ot someone who can help them solve their issue. As a customer I will always argue that I would rather hold a little longer, and either be given an option to leave a message for a callback, leave a callback placeholder in queue, or stay on the line, rather than being routed to someone who can't help me out. The more times I have to repeat myself to explain who I am and why I am calling.... the less satisfied I am.

The second problem with this is that it plain muddies up the reports. Your queue reports no longer show clean easy to read numbers of calls presented, answered and abandoned to this queue. You now have to spend a bunch of time or money trying to figure out how many were initially presented here, but then de-queued and re-queued elsewhere.

The Solution: Keep it simple, Either an Agent is skilled to handle the call type or they are not.

If the agent is skilled to handle these calls, and you want them to be "Overflow" Agents, then simply use Skills Based Routing with levels. All the Agents you wish to primarily handle these calls, skill at the highest level. All The Agents you wish to be in the secondary group get scored at a lower level and so on. you can create multiple levels of "Overflow" this way, while still ensuring that callers only get their calls answered by agents who can solve their issues, and your reports stay clean, because calls are only presented to a single queue. (you can still escalate to a level two type of scenario, or subject matter expert queue... that is different than overlfow)

Here is an example to try to illustrate the point.

Caller chooses Technical Support from the IVR tree, gets routed to the Queue for Technical Support. After 65 seconds in Queue, the system de-queues the call and re-queues it to Customer Service to try to get it answered within 90 seconds. The CS Agent answers the call, but can't actually help the customer. Caller is Mad, CS Agent is frustrated by having to chase down someone who can help the caller and not perform the duties they can perform, instead they have become an operator, or a manual call distribution service. reports are messy, etc...

The Better Option:

Caller chooses Technical Support from the IVR Tree and gets routed to the Technical Support Queue. The system looks for the Primary group of agents (those with the highest skill level) if any are available it will route the call to the longest available fo those highest skilled agents, if they are all busy, overflow by skill routing automatically kicks in and the system checks the next highest skilled group of agents, and so on. If at any point any of the agents who are skilled (high or low) to answer the call becomes available, the call is instantly routed to that agent. This also shortens the average hold times and handle times, etc, because the call doesn't have to wait 65 seconds or whatever is configured in the system before it brings in the other levels of agents to get the call answered, and not just answered, but answered by someone who can help the caller.

This results in shorter times within the contact center, better overall performance of many factors within the contact center, as well as happier agents and customers.

This method has repeatedly proven to:

  • clean up reports
  • lower average speed of answers
  • raise customer and agent satisfaction scores.

In 2011 I did this for three different contact centers improving all of these items, the most significant of which had average hold times in queue across their system that were in the 12 minute range with 5 different levels of overflow routing. After switching to this type of skills based overflow routing (as well as a complete redesign of their IVR eliminating all manual overflows) their average hold time went down to just under 2 minutes. This also increases agent effectiveness, and the number of calls they are able to handle each day.

If you're looking for a Contact Center Solution for Microsoft Lync, please contact us to see how Clarity Connect can solve these and many more problems for you.

Please feel free to comment below or contact me if you wish to discuss this.