When more is less: Field evidence on unintended consequences of multitasking

Paulo B. Goes, Noyan Ilk, Mingfeng Lin, J. Leon Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


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 data set 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 postservice customer surveys. We find that agent multitasking leads to longer in-service delays for customers and 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 it has implications for the design of agent time allocation in contact centers and more broadly for howfirms can best manage customer relations in newservice channels enabled by information technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3033-3054
Number of pages22
JournalManagement Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • Customer satisfaction
  • IT policy and management
  • Information systems
  • Multitasking
  • Service operations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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