I’m scratching my head a little over the news that Southwest have implemented what is referrred to as virtual queuing software from a company called Virtual Hold Technology. The crux of it is that you call Southwest, and rather than waiting on hold, the airline automatically returns your call when an operator is ready.

“Callers are given the option of the Virtual Hold service after they’ve been holding for a minute or two, according to Lance Morton, Southwest’s director of operational support, customer support & services. Callers are not charged for the Virtual Hold service, he adds.”

It would appear Southwest are the first airline to sign up for this, and it happens only a few months after Virtual Hold announced ex IBM executive Kevin Sjodin as their new CEO. Well done on winning this new business from such a prominent client, especially as it appears this is no small scale limited trial: “Southwest is offering the Virtual Hold service at all six of its customer-service locations.”

But as I said earlier, I really am scratching my head, and it’s got nothing to do with dandruff. I spend a lot of time trying to help airlines make call centres more efficient, and I can see no reason why this would do anything other than add a few seconds onto the average handling time for each customer service representative – that would be the few seconds between connecting the call and the person picking up their phone. And then there will be the percentage of customers who have walked away from their phone when the call back occurs, adding even more seconds to average handling time; not to mention these customers thinking the airline never called them back if they do not have voicemail on their phone.

The goal of any airline call centre should be to focus on sales, and push as much servicing as possible to the online chanel. And if top tier frequent fliers have a special number to call or there is some other way the call centre can recognize them, then these calls should automatically be placed at the top of the queue and answered by the next available operator. Putting in tools to invite more non revenue producing servicing calls to the call centre is a backwards step, especially if these calls are coming from anyone less than your most valuable frequent fliers or full fare paying passengers.

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