What is a Queue?

In contact centers, a queue is where customers virtually wait to interact with an agent. If you have ever called customer service and had to listen to jazzy music while you waited to speak with an agent, you've been in a queue. Phone queues are the most well-known queues, but with the introduction of digital methods of service other interaction channels, such as emails, chats or text messages, can now also be put into a queue until an agent is available to handle them. A universal queue is an important aspect of contact center routing, as it allows handling incoming contact volumes across channels in a balanced way. It can ensure that real-time interactions such as phone calls or web chats are handled with higher priority than non-real-time channels such as an email.

Contact centers very actively watch their queues, focusing on how many customers are in the queues and how long they have been there. High average queue times are to be avoided because they negatively impact customer satisfaction – after all, who likes waiting in line? High queue times also drive abandon rates up as customers get tired of waiting and disconnect. Some of these customers may not reach out again, which could mean lost revenue for the business.

Queue times will never be zero because that would require many agents to be sitting idle, just waiting for a call. That isn't an efficient use of labor resources. To balance out customer satisfaction with labor efficiency, some contact centers will adopt a service level target such as 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds. This helps ensure the queues are effectively managed by balancing the impact of wait time on customer satisfaction with the need to handle interactions in a cost efficient way.

When queues get backed up, it's usually because either volume came in over forecast and/or there weren't enough agents to handle the volume. If it's the former, workforce management should investigate the cause and possibly adjust their short-term forecast or refine their forecasting practices. In the case of not enough agents, switching agents from "quiet" queues to the busier ones is one alternative, as is calling in agents that aren't scheduled to work that day. There is also a technical solution - some interactive voice response (IVR) systems offer callers in the queue the option to call them back when an agent becomes available. Many customers prefer this to waiting a long time in a queue.

How NICE can help

NICE CXone is the market leading contact center software in use by thousands of customers of all sizes around the world to help them consistently deliver exceptional customer experiences. CXone is a cloud native, unified suite of applications designed to help a company holistically run its contact center operations. CXone includes:

Omnichannel Routing – routing and interaction management that empowers agents to positively and productively interact with customers in digital and voice channels. These solutions include an automatic call distributor (ACD), interactive voice response (IVR), interaction channel support and proactive outbound dialer.

Workforce Optimization – unlocks the potential of your team by inspiring employees' self-improvement, amplifying quality management efforts to enhance customer experience and reducing labor waste. These solutions include workforce management (WFM), quality management (QM), recording and performance management (PM).

Analytics – turns insights into results by making data relevant, easy to consume and actionable to drive measurable improvements and understand the omnichannel experience customers receive. These solutions include interaction analytics, customer surveys, reporting and performance management.

CXone also includes pre-defined CRM integrations and UCaaS integrations with most leading solutions on the market. These integrations provide a holistic contact center software solution capable of elevating customer experiences for companies of all sizes.