When More Is Less: Field Evidence on Unintended Consequences of Multitasking

Management Science, Forthcoming

46 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2017

See all articles by Paulo Goes

Paulo Goes

University of Arizona - Department of Management Information Systems

Noyan Ilk

Florida State University

Mingfeng Lin

Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology

J. Leon Zhao

Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen

Date Written: February 3, 2017

Abstract

Online customer service chats provide new opportunities for firms to interact with their customers and have become increasingly popular in recent years for firms of all sizes. One reason for their popularity is the ability for customer service agents to multitask, i.e., interact with multiple customers at a time, thereby increasing the system “throughput” and agent productivity. Yet, little is known about how multitasking impacts customer satisfaction, the ultimate goal of customer engagements. We address this question using a proprietary dataset from an S&P 500 service firm that documents agent multitasking activities (unobservable to customers) in the form of server logs, customer service chat transcripts and post-service customer surveys. We find that agent multitasking leads to longer in-service delays for customers, and also lower problem resolution rates. Both lead to lower customer satisfaction, although the impact varies for different customers. Our study is among the first to document the link between multitasking and customer satisfaction, and has implications for the design of agent time allocation in contact centers, and more broadly for how firms can best manage customer relations in new service channels enabled by IT.

Keywords: Multitasking, Customer Satisfaction, Service Operations, Information Systems

Suggested Citation

Goes, Paulo and Ilk, Noyan and Lin, Mingfeng and Zhao, J. Leon, When More Is Less: Field Evidence on Unintended Consequences of Multitasking (February 3, 2017). Management Science, Forthcoming , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2917233

Paulo Goes

University of Arizona - Department of Management Information Systems ( email )

AZ
United States

Noyan Ilk (Contact Author)

Florida State University ( email )

Tallahasse, FL 32306
United States

Mingfeng Lin

Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology ( email )

United States

J. Leon Zhao

Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen ( email )

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