CXO

Caller ID: arguments for and against enabling it on the help desk

We're all familiar, I think, with caller ID.  At the time your phone rings, your display indicates the telephone number and (usually) the personal or company name of the caller.

The IT leadership of a client disabled the caller ID capability of telephones of the help desk staff.  Their rationale involved concern over what they saw as misuse of caller ID.  Specifically, they believed that certain help desk analysts were intentionally avoiding answering calls from customers the analysts saw as being "difficult."  In other words, if caller ID were available, the analyst would look at the display, say to him/herself, "Oh no, it's [name of difficult caller]," and "punt" on the call, waiting and hoping another analyst would pick it up.  By having to answer "blind" calls, the reasoning went, these difficult callers still would get attention, instead of being avoided.

I pointed out to the leadership group that this strategy of disabling caller ID carried with it the possibility of unintended consequences involving caller dissatisfaction.  In many cases, a caller would begin a call by describing the symptoms of a computer problem.  After hearing these symptoms, because of the absence of caller ID, the analyst would have to ask for the name of the caller.  At this point, a caller might become annoyed, and consider this type of question to be a step backward.

On the other hand, by having caller ID, the analyst was in a better position to help the caller, even in being able to address the caller by name.  By doing so, the call could start on a positive note. 

I further suggested that there were alternate ways of addressing the "punting" issue.  The system the help desk uses has a report feature, and one particular report gave information on the number of calls answered.  I pointed out that deliberately avoiding calls would show up in this report, and, using this information, management could address the issue with the analyst.  

What does your help desk do in this regard?  Do you have caller ID enabled or disabled, and why?

About Calvin Sun

Calvin Sun is an attorney who writes about technology and legal issues for TechRepublic.

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