4 Methods of Customer Support Call Handling


Your business is growing so you start thinking about setting up a customer service and support center to take care of incoming customer calls. But have you given any thought to how to parcel out those calls? While many companies just publish a number and hire a few people to answer it, the lack of thought behind getting the call to the right person to answer the question can make customers feel as though calling the support line is the last thing they want to do.

According to Spectacular Support Centers by Kristin Robertson there are  four choices, each with its own peculiar advantages and disadvantages.

Dispatch – Think “Ernestine”: One Ringy-Dingy!! Is this the party to whom I am speaking?

Someone is hired to answer the phone, determine what the caller needs, and transfer the caller to (hopefully) the correct person or department.


  • Don’t need to install ACD (cost savings)
  • Support agent does not need to spend time entering basic information, the “operator” can do it.
  • An actual human answers the phone every time! This could make you unique.


  • Size of support center may make ACD a better proposition money-wise
  • Not easy, nay, Impossible! to track call metrics this way
  • Caller gets sent to wrong agent due to misunderstanding of the problem. Or of the customer. Or both.

Best for small centers (<10 agents) supporting complex products and with long standard call handling times (20 minutes or more).

Best practice: Give dispatchers agent schedules, areas of expertise, and workload so they have a better idea who to send the caller to, rather than use the first in-first out queuing method.

Expert Groups – To each their own.

In this case, groups of agents are created who are experts in a product line, a technology, or a process. Either a dispatcher or an ACD places the call into the queue of the group with the appropriate expertise.


  • large contact centers can provide an expert group for customers who pay a premium for expert support


  • Costly for smaller contact centers due to the staffing needs
  • Customer may wait longer in queue for expert group than if a common queue was used

Best for large centers where economies of scale makes it financially feasible or for small centers that can justify the cost because of the high value of the customer.

Touch and Hold – You took the call. Now you own it.

This is where the agent that first took the call is expected to be responsible for it until it is over. That agent can collaborate with others for assistance but he or she is ultimately responsible to making sure this call is appropriately completed. This does not include escalations where ownership moves to the new tier.


  • Good for centers of any size with complex support
  • Allows independence of agents


  • If turnover in agents is high, support for new agents is not available
  • If speed of answer is important, this method will not work well since the premise is that the agent keep the call until completed instead of being able to send it on to someone else after a certain period of time has elapsed.

Best for centers with highly technical staff that work independently but may collaborate when needed.

Tiered – Call Center Triage

This is an escalation process where each tier, or level, of support handles at least 80% of the calls and escalates the rest to more expert agents. This generally starts with self service offerings that may be considered level 0. The upper tier may be an escalation group since they will receive the most complex and difficult to resolve calls. The tiers in between are typically in the support center with a larger group of agents at level 1 and the senior agents at level 2.


  • most efficient way to handle most issues
  • provides quick access to more experienced agents
  • offers career paths within the support center


  • delays access to highly complex support
  • does not offer the possibility of working with the same analyst at each interaction

Best practice: Make certain the escalation queue is being actively managed so backlogs don’t develop.

Often a mixture of methods can work well depending on the size of the support center and the complexity of the calls handled.

Any comments or recommendations from anyone? How is your support center structured?


Scroll to Top