Telephone Call Center with Method for Providing Customer with Wait Time Updates

Computing & Wireless : Utility Software

Available for non-exclusive licensing


  • Randolph Bias, Ph.D. , School of Information
  • Philip Kortum, Ph.D. , Biomedical Engineering
  • Robert Bushey , SBC Technology Resources, Inc.
  • Benjamin Knott , SBC Technology Resources, Inc.

Background/unmet need

There are some customer service tasks that arise when a customer calls into a call center and would rather deal with an automated self-service system than with a human agent e.g., they cannot pay their entire bill. For those customers, they can schedule a series of payments automatically. Some of the steps in payment scheduling require the automated self-service system to gather data from company databases (e.g., bill amount), and this may take time. The customer must wait while the system completes its task. Currently, feedback is often not provided by call center self-service applications.

Invention Description

Providing a customer with feedback, such as the status of the system?s progress, is important to the customer and increases usability and satisfaction with the system. This invention addresses customer feedback over the phone through the use of an auditory/visual progress bar (AVPB). The purpose of this AVPB is to provide the customer with a status of the system?s progress in accomplishing a specific task when providing visual feedback is not possible. One example of AVPB is to provide an ascending auditory tone to indicate the progress of a system process. The ascending tone is analogous to the filling up of a visual progress bar. The ascending tone would reach a certain pitch to signify task completion.


  • Customer will get a sense of how long he or she will be on hold.
  • Reduces frustration at being on hold
  • Encourages customer to remain on hold and thus to complete the transaction
  • Dramatically reduces costs (a human agent is approximately ten times the cost of an automated application)


    Auditory aspect of cue could be used in combination with visual aspect when both modalities are available (e.g., when the user is working on a computer or is using a phone with a display).System produces audio sounds that can be controlled by the automated system.System can match portions of the audio sounds to the progress of completing a task.System can vary pitch, tone, or rate where an auditory signal is presented.

Market potential/applications

Any company with an automated Interactive Voice Response system would be interested in this technology.

IP Status

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