If We Could Save Time In a Bottle, Would We? Time Distortion and the Contact Center


April 24, 2019 - 2 Comments

Jim Croce’s posthumous #1 hit “Time In a Bottle” was noteworthy for two reasons – one, it had a waltz tempo, and two, only three instruments were used to produce the song. More importantly – Croce had it right when he penned “but there never seems to be enough to do the things that we want to do, once we find them.”

Psychologists indicate that humans have a deep aversion towards ambiguity. When ambiguity arises, and there are no clear answers, we develop a strong need to know and know something as quickly as possible.

Humans are naturally programmed for knowledge acquisition and some type of closure!

Let me give you an example. In a very tall building in a major city, tenants were complaining to the management company that the elevators in the newly built high-rise were too slow. A few weeks later, the compliments and thank you calls began as the residents were now pleased with the speed of the elevators. What was surprising is nothing had changed other than mirrors were installed inside the elevators and the actual speed had remained exactly the same.

Likewise, time perception or better stated, time distortion is a common inflection point for positive or negative customer interactions. This is very true when managing a contact center. Those that forecast and manage resources have hundreds of detailed statistics all linking agents, customers, success, and failure directly to one variable – time.

Your customer is the frontline of this conundrum. From the moment they decide to engage with your business they are tacitly measuring each point of interaction on how well you use (and respect) their time.

Have we been “chasing the wind” trying to measure how long something has happened rather than more importantly understanding why it’s happening?  Time distortion will have  a silent impact on both customers and agents, never becoming known unless your customer’s journey is completely inspected and analyzed.

At a Fortune 200 business, agents would avoid reentering the queue when the call-delay in queue threshold indicators was active. Agents knew that a frustrated customer might be waiting, and they themselves, in order to avoid an unpleasant interaction, would wait until the threshold indicators were off! While there are many reasons for customer dissatisfaction, your customers will measure time using their own criteria, in ways you may not.

What to do?

Review every point in your contact center where time distortion can occur. Announcements, self-service scripts, and call-back options all must be inspected with this dynamic in mind. Tracking the motivation of customers that call more than once in a short period of time will open insights into process improvements.

Not understanding this dynamic from your customer’s perspective will only add time to your contact center with increase in call abandonment, repeat contacts, and longer customer and agent interactions leading to ineffective and less efficient business outcomes.

The tenants at the high-rise I mentioned earlier were too busy looking at themselves in the mirrors and found that they actually needed more time when they initially thought they didn’t. Simple but effective.

Find out how your customers want to be treated, and they will come back for more – even if a longer wait

Want to know more about Cisco Customer Journey Solutions? Check us out here.



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2 Comments

  1. Zack, makes a great argument for understanding time distortion. However, it is just one aspect of understanding the management of the "Impression Centre". If you understand the entire ecosystem chain of events of the customer interaction, you then start to gain the insights of which way the pendulum is swinging when it comes to the impression you leave with your customer. How has your customer impression changed, who/what has changed their impression and who's impression will they change?

  2. Zack, spot on as always! Thanks for sharing, Rudy