The Gatekeeper’s Dilemma: 'When Should I Transfer This Customer?'
34 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2020 Last revised: 6 Oct 2021
Date Written: June 2, 2020
In many service encounters, front-line workers (often referred to as gatekeepers) have the discretion to attempt to resolve a customer request or to transfer the customer to an expert service provider. Motivated by an incentive redesign at a call center of a mid-size US-based bank, we formulate and solve an analytical model of the gatekeeper's transfer response to different incentive schemes and to different congestion levels. We then test several model predictions experimentally. Our experiments show that human behavior matches the predictions qualitatively, but not always in magnitude. Specifically, transfer rates are disproportionately low in the presence of monetary penalties for transferring, even after controlling for the economic (dis)incentive to transfer, suggesting an overreaction to transfer cost. In contrast, the transfer response to congestion information shows no systematic bias. Taken together, these results advance our understanding of cognitive capabilities and rationality limits on human server behavior in queueing systems.
Keywords: decision-making, behavior in queueing systems, service operations
JEL Classification: C61, C91, L96
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation