Routing and Staffing in Customer Service Chat Systems with Impatient Customers

Tezcan, Tolga; Jiheng Zhang
July 2014
Operations Research;Jul/Aug2014, Vol. 62 Issue 4, p943
Academic Journal
We consider customer service chat (CSC) systems where customers can receive real time service from agents using an instant messaging (IM) application over the Internet. A unique feature of these systems is that agents can serve multiple customers simultaneously. The number of customers that an agent is serving determines the rate at which each customer assigned to that agent receives service. We consider the staffing problem in CSC systems with impatient customers where the objective is to minimize the number of agents while providing a certain service level. The service level is measured in terms of the proportion of customers who abandon the system in the long run. First we propose effective routing policies based on a static planning LP, both for the cases when the arrival rate is observable and for when the rate is unobservable. We show that these routing policies minimize the proportion of abandoning customers in the long run asymptotically for large systems. We also prove that the staffing solution obtained from a staffing LP, when used with the proposed routing policies, is asymptotically optimal. We illustrate the effectiveness of our solution procedure in systems with small to large sizes via numerical and simulation experiments.


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