What is a Queue?

In contact centers, a queue is where customers virtually wait to interact with an agent. Phone queues are the most well-known queues, but with the introduction of digital interaction channels, emails, chats or text messages can also enter the queue until an agent is available to handle them. A universal queue is an important aspect of contact center routing, as it enables balanced handling of incoming contact volumes across channels. 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 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. 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 or there weren't enough agents to handle the volume. If it's the former, then workforce management should investigate the cause and possibly adjust their short-term forecast or refine their forecasting practices. In the case of understaffing, switching agents from "quiet" queues to the busier ones is one alternative, as is calling in agents who 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 be called back when an agent becomes available. Many customers prefer this to waiting a long time in a queue.

How NICE is Redefining Customer Experience

NICE CXone is the industry’s only interaction-centric platform where channels, data, applications, and knowledge converge to improve customer experience at scale.

It is the leading, most complete and unified CX Platform on the market, used by thousands of organizations 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 you holistically run your call (or contact) center operations.

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