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The Pros and Cons of Virtual Queues

quality management

Many contact centers are grappling with labor shortages, surging workloads, or a brutal combination of both. The resource mismatches have resulted in long wait times and frustration for customers, and high occupancy and burnout for agents. More serious implications can include employee turnover, lost customers, and a hit to your organization’s reputation and results.


We’ve been getting lots and lots of inquiries about the use and effectiveness of virtual queuing. Virtual queue technologies enable customers to hang up and receive a return call without losing their place in the queue. For customers, this prevents the need to leave a voicemail or to wait on hold. For agents, there’s little difference between an inbound call and a callback — the system places outbound calls and delivers connected calls to agents, much like inbound calls.

How well virtual queuing works depends on the willingness and availability of customers to take callbacks and the resource capacity of the center to handle the calls. It can be especially useful in organizations influenced by weather, service outages, and other factors beyond their control. Used in the right way and for the right reasons, virtual queuing technologies can be a big help, both internally and with customer experience.

However, virtual queues are not, and cannot be, the sole answer to chronic staffing mismatches. As their use has become more prevalent, significant challenges have emerged. Consider these issues:

  • System reports on workloads and service levels become at least somewhat more difficult to decipher. Realtime variables such as callbacks, transfers, and changes to routing or work assignments add complexity and cloud the data needed for planning. With callbacks, you’ll need data on when the offered calls arrive, the time to callback, and whether you successfully reached customers.
  • Many contact centers see, overall, higher average handling times. When customers place the initial contact, they are generally ready. When they receive the callback, there is a greater likelihood they are not immediately ready, as they have moved on with their days.
  • If customers are not available when return calls arrive, the ensuing message cycle can weigh heavily on resources and customer patience. Further, callbacks inherently mean that service level is struggling and occupancy in those windows is 100%—chronically above the 90% to 92% threshold that, if exceeded over an extended time, will burn out advisors.
  • There’s a saying in contact center management circles: “Nobody calls you now because they want to talk later.” Customer willingness to use callbacks should not be confused with inherent satisfaction with delayed service. They’d far prefer the organization to be available when it is first convenient for them.

There’s no getting around the laws of supply and demand—you’ll need a certain level of resources for the workload. Virtual queues can take some of the edge off of bunched up contacts while providing more convenience to customers.

My advice is to use callbacks when and where they work well, but use them as sparingly as possible. Handling customer work—cleanly and correctly as it occurs—is a convenience to customers and, as a rule, the best scenario for your organization.