Please hold

I don’t get it.

It’s the holiday season. Ho Ho Ho. Spend spend spend.

Companies spend a fortune to get you to call. Call 800 CLUB MED to book a room. Call 1-800-WWW-DELL to buy a computer. And it’s not just consumer marketing. They want you to call to buy insurance, business travel, hotel rooms and a new energy-efficient roof for your warehouse.

And then, when you call… hold.

Can you imagine visiting Dell’s web site and waiting more than two seconds for it to load? Well, it takes more than half an hour to reach a salesperson at certain times if you call Dell. 1,800 seconds. Or call Club Med without a touchtone keyboard and the system hangs up on you…

Obviously, there’s a load balancing issue. In order to have enough well-trained operators to answer every call Saturday at 2 pm, they’d have thousands of underemployed people later on.

But instead of punishing the customer, why not reward them?

"Hi, you’ve reached us when we’re too busy. Quick, write down this code: 123×23. Now, give us your phone number. When we call back (within an hour, we promise), give us the code and we’ll pay you $20 on the spot for the hassle in getting this order processed."

The problem is that people who build call centers try to lower costs instead of increase revenues. They view what they do as a commodity, not a strategic tool to dramatically increase customer joy.

Marketers have worked hard to jam a huge amount of buying into a real short window of time. Alas, there’s a big cost to that.