When customers call with a question, they expect answers immediately, as this is currently the "standard" for good service. Customers do not care about the limitations of your billing system, nor should they, but these limitations do place agents in an awkward position. When agents can't get back to callers promptly with a complete answer, it leads to customer dissatisfaction. Customers are likely to take out their frustration on agents. Even when customers are advised that they will not have a complete answer for 30 to 45 days, they may not believe it, and may call back and ask someone else the same question to check up on your answer.
What I'm saying is that your company should fix the underlying cause of delayed answers with some investments in your billing system. It may include giving agents historical access to customer bills, for example. The fix should provide agents with the information required to address customer inquiries at point of contact, as even a 3-day response time is not considered good service today. If a systems upgrade isn't possible, then your company should draft procedures that explain the situation to customers so that your agents can set proper, realistic expectations.
This was first published in March 2006