By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
I’ll admit it; I’m an idealist. I think life should be fair; everyone deserves equal opportunity. That’s why I favor impartiality when distributing calls in the call center, with each call handled in the order received and going to the next available operator: universal call distribution.
However, we must remember that, whether for profit or nonprofit, a call center must function with a business mindset. Therefore, doesn’t it make the most sense to give priority to the calls with the most value?
I propose – in partial jest but with thought-provoking seriousness – we consider a different model. Let’s deviate from universal call-distribution idealism. Instead, let’s use the worth or anticipated worth of each call to route it.
A person looking for a family doctor represents a lifetime of service and billing opportunities. Perhaps answer that call first. It’s not as important as the person wanting to make an appointment – that has less value. Of course, some procedures are worth much more than others, with heart bypass surgery ranking much higher than an annual checkup, which is worth more than an appointment for a sore throat. Of least importance might be calls for information readily available through others means, as well as the person who skips automated routing or messaging by pressing zero.
Then, to be bold, let’s tweak calls by giving higher priority to people who are nice to staff and don’t complain, with lessor importance given to rude callers and complainers. After all, if a call will go unanswered, wouldn’t you prefer it be a mean person instead of a nice one? Lastly, factor in payment history. Why make it a priority to answer a call from someone who has trouble paying or won’t pay at all?
I’m still not sure how serious I am with all this, but it sure merits consideration.