Virtual Queuing – the End of Music on Hold?

Updated: July 08, 2011

This analysis starts with something rather innocuous, but it speaks well to why virtual queuing is important. It's taken a while, but here in Canada, Sirius and XM have finally followed their U.S. parents and merged into Sirius Satellite Radio. For subscribers of either service, this will naturally cause some anxiety, since they initially chose one of these providers for a specific reason, which has now become moot. Add to that the rush of Christmas, and Sirius wants to be as customer-friendly as possible to attract new subscribers and gift-givers.

If you visit their Contact Us page, you'll notice something different. On the right side of the page is a text box, titled Sirius Customer Care, and below that, the following message: "Don't wait on hold. Select an option below, enter your phone number and we'll call you back." If you've never seen a message like this, surely you must be nodding your head, thinking that's a great idea. Well, you're right, and that's virtual queuing.

The company providing this capability is Fonolo, a Toronto-based startup I've been following for some time. While there is a strong Canadian thread to this analysis, I'm not here to promote Fonolo, and as you'll soon see, there are other companies in the conversation. I may have come to virtual queuing from Fonolo, but there is a bigger story here, and that's what this Brief is about.

Virtual queuing really is win-win technology, as it makes contact centers more productive and effective, and it addresses a major shortcoming of the end user experience. Initially, the problem of waiting endlessly on hold was taken on by Virtual Hold Technology. Their virtual solution was very much a 1.0 type of offering by being largely hardware-based, and situated on-prem at the contact center. While effective, it's relatively costly deploy (which implies the need for a tangible ROI), and focuses primarily on the contact center - not the caller.

This certainly worked well at the time, but as we have all seen, the communications space has changed dramatically just in the past two years. I'd like to cite two trends in particular. First is the evolution of Web-based applications, and the shifting of voice from the phone to the PC, especially among younger users. Second is the explosion of smartphones, and when coupled with mobile broadband, how voice has moved even further away from the desk phone and out on to our wireless devices - and increasingly into the cloud.

These changes have helped make end users more active participants in the contact center experience, and innovation has come, namely from two companies - LucyPhone and Fonolo. All of these companies have become vocal advocates for their various technologies, but the interesting thing here is how their solutions are customer-centric and represent a different approach to the problem. They have both chosen to be cloud-based, and with that comes a much lower cost base, and more control for the caller to initiate virtual queuing. The Fonolo widget on the Sirius website is one such example.

While virtual queuing certainly solves a big problem, it raises some new concerns. Unlike call routing, which keeps the call alive in real time until the appropriate agent is found, virtual queuing initiates a new call back to the caller. Since the time for this new call cannot be specified, there is a chance of the customer's line being busy or getting voicemail, so phone tag becomes part of the new equation.

More importantly, once the service does connect the customer to the agent, there is the possibility of the service having access to the conversation, or even customer data. As such, there is a potential security or privacy risk here, and chances are that callers would not even be aware of this unless they really thought through how this process actually works.

Featured Research
  • The New 2017 Contact Center Comparison Guide

    We’ve put together a comparison guide that covers over 40 of the top call center software options, providing details on pricing, features, support, and integrations. If you want to save time and still make a great investment, this guide is a must read. more

  • Best Practices for Contact Center Quality Assurance

    A contact center often brings about a prospect’s first real-time interaction with your company. As such, if it’s not a positive one, they’ll likely look elsewhere for help. With 69% of Americans more inclined to recommend a company to friends and family after a positive customer service experience, you’ll need to exceed expectations on the following fronts. more

  • How to Make Your Contact Center More Efficient

    There’s a very good chance that your contact center is underperforming. With consumer preferences continuously changing, strategies that were once effective now result in too many unsatisfied customers. Fixing this problem involves reviewing your current procedures and optimizing them to drive better results. more

  • How Analytics Can Improve Your Call Center

    Do you know that 40% of contact centers have no data analysis tools, despite analytics being voted the top factor to change the shape of the industry within the next five years? This guide will outline the importance of call center analytics, and explore the many ways that analytics can help you improve your call center on every level. more

  • 8 Signs It's Time to Update Your Call Center Software

    Technology is always improving to meet the needs and expectations of businesses and customers alike. To make sure you’re providing the service your customers require and deserve, it’s vital to use up-to-date software solutions that fully support your customer service needs and company expansion goals. more