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Just the observation that hold times for a chat or phone call now is upwards of 60 minutes or more, and it used to be no more than a couple of minutes or even no wait at all.

Okay, maybe you didn't notice that I previously said customer service employees are working in an environment with much less support (hard to ask your neighbor what to do about something when the person sitting next to you is your kid), and with many more distractions, which has resulted in a lot less discipline on call handling. In talking to friends of mine who are still in the call center business, there has been a significant increase in average handle times for calls, which results in longer wait times with the same number of reps.

Dude - customer service contact center operations (forecasting, scheduling, and budgeting) was LITERALLY my job for over 20 years.

You are wrong in your assumption that the cause of the long wait times is that they laid people off. As I showed you with actual data, the brokerages were, at a minimum, staying relatively level and most were actually hiring.

Not just my personal observation---this complaint is widespread.

Oh, I know - I spent 16 hours over 3 days trying to contact a company recently before I finally got to someone who could help me. And I see all kinds of complaints on social media about long wait times. But the root cause is mostly not that companies are laying off customer service people.

So, they what? Hired a bunch of people and had them not answer the phone?

No, but the people that they hired probably aren't trained as well because they couldn't go into an office for in person training, plus they don't have the same type of support, like in person coaching as part of OJT, since they are working from home. That has increased handle times significantly. Same number of people, same number of calls but longer handle times means longer wait times for customers.

Less discipline in call center operations not only means longer handle times, but it often means that people aren't adhering to their schedules as well, either. Even if the call volumes come in exactly as forecast, if the number of reps you scheduled to be on the phone aren't there when you scheduled them, because their kid had a problem, because their neighbor is making too much noise, or because they decided to take their lunch at a different time than they were scheduled - that's all going to impact how many calls can be answered.

And then there's that pesky call volume demand side, too. Now that more people are working from home, they have more flexibility to do things like open brokerage accounts, research (i.e. search social media) for stock ideas, and call into customer service for help. New customers call in 3 - 5 times as often as customers who have been with a company for at least a year. So all of those Robin Hood Redditers who are now looking for other brokerages - they're creating lots of extra call volume. And market volatility adds to the number of calls, even for legacy customers.

My prediction is that we're probably going to continue to experience longer wait times until companies can get at least half of their customer service reps back into contact centers. When will that be? Maybe this fall, or the beginning of next year. But probably not before then. At that point, when there is more monitoring and more discipline in taking the calls, so that they can answer the same number of calls with fewer reps, there will probably start to be some layoffs of customer service reps.

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