The pandemic’s emergence caused major disruption globally, and all the companies had to adopt a new business environment that comprised working remotely. The marketing and sales team faced a lot of challenges such as approaching new audiences and converting the sales prospects into active customers. It was a difficult phase and the most difficult part was there was a sudden rush in the inbound customer support services.
Several order-taking call centers were in a dilemma as they are completely unprepared for the catastrophic event. Customers were highly emotional, unstable, worried, and frustrated at that time so, it caused a major surge during the lockdown. The inbound call center services were facing a crisis as they were not able to handle such a high call volume. Things became even more challenging for order-taking call centers.
- Today, we are going to discuss the uncalled situations that can happen in a call center service. We will also discuss the ways that can help to mitigate catastrophic events in a call center.
- One of the common problems that every call center service faces are unprecedented call volume and inadequacies in the resources for handling the intense workload. What are the possible contingency plans for these problems?
- Why are putting emphasis on handling call volumes? From a sales perspective, missing even a single call is bad for business. A caller is a prospective buyer, a business opportunity. Whenever a caller reaches a business number, it is imperative that their call must be attended to, at any cost.
- If a caller leaves after not being able to connect to an agent after a long time of waiting, it puts a negative mark on the performance of the entire call center service. During the COVID lockdown, a lot of call center services faced this challenge as hundreds and thousands of customers were calling at the same time.
- Especially, a typical order-taking call center usually receives calls from a customer who is ready to process an order. During peak seasons, every order-taking call center receives more calls than it can take. During these times, they usually are in need to increase the count of agents or pick up the pace.
- Agents are given orders to keep the calls as short as possible, but that only degrades the overall quality of calls. Moreover, it is not a healthy way of handling large call volumes. We should have a good strategy for handling such situations.
In actuality, we are trying to stress the fact of how important is a contingency plan in an order-taking call center service. We are going to discuss the coping mechanisms that would help to sustain the productivity of the call center service. The thing is we can never truly anticipate the events that the future holds for us. But that doesn’t mean we can leave things up to chance, especially in this line of business.
Devising a backup plan involves retrospecting the resources we already have. A proactive plan first and foremost requires a proactive mindset. You should be very conscientious about your working habits. Only by knowing your strengths and weakness, you will be able to know what’s best you can do in the time of hectic circumstances. During critical situations, the only thing that will help you is your agility; the things that you learned over time.
Techniques for Handling High Call Volume
Every call center service has its individual structure and set up of team members. Everyone knows about their job roles and responsibilities. However, the TLs and managers should also be aware of the specialties of each team member. these little things help in constructing a plan that will help you to maintain productivity intact. Anyway, let us dive into the pointers that will ascertain the performance no matter how bad the situation gets.
Schedule Your Team Accordingly
If you are anticipating a surge you should first look forward to your team. Maybe a little bit of change in the pace of work is enough to handle the call volume but there might be a chance some of your team members have applied for a day off on the day when you are expecting a huge call volume.
So, first, you think you do is contemplate how many team members would be available on a particular day. At the same time, try to categorize the number of phone calls according to their nature. If some calls take longer than usual, make sure you place the best agents that are good at closing those types of calls faster than others.
Providing Self-Service Resources
Analyze the nature of phone calls and figure out the calls that have repeated concerns. Maybe the company has recently launched a promotional offer that customers want to confirm properly. In that case, dedicating your agents to such menial tasks would be a poor choice. It is better, you introduce a self-help source that will help everyone's caller.
For repetitive concerns, you can share the answer on the dashboard of your website which customers are likely to visit first. Maybe you can attach a call-to-action link at the bottom of the page that contains further details of a particular concern. It is best to leave the concern oblivious at customer support’s end so that more important concerns can be entertained.
Consider Adding Another Customer Service Channel
One surefire way to handle a massive surge of incoming calls is by adding another channel, e.g chat support service. When calls are not enough, introduce online chat support systems. It has been tested and proven during the COVID lockdown, the online chat support service was highly welcome by the people during the lockdown.
The reason why it was so welcomed is that customers were able to articulate their concerns and convey them better to the agents. Likewise, agents were able to attend to as many customers as they could with chat support systems. High-priority concerns were handled via call while longer and menial concerns were handled over the chat.
Analyze the Call Center Data
Call center data analysis is a regular drill that goes without a formal announcement. Every time we analyze the call center data, we are essentially trying to find out an answer to a particular question. Likewise, when it comes to uncertain spikes in the call flow, there must be a reason behind and that reason can be found using the call center data analysis. You can begin by asking a couple of contextual questions.
Is there any seasonal promotion at large at this moment? Is there something you missed in the company’s recent campaigns? Has the company released any product that has some deformities or limitations? Did something go wrong with the company’s recent PR drill? There could be criticisms coming from customers regarding a certain aspect of the company’s function or product.
Or there could be something about a product that customers need answers to. It is best if you conduct a meeting with your team members and ask them about the most searched and asked questions of the customers. Once you find out these outliers, you will be able to think about the next plan of action for reducing those menial calls. To make the process faster, you can analyze the call center data and get enough insights.
Introduce a Call Back Service
Consider providing your customers an alternative assistance if you are not able to attend to their queries for the first time. When the call volume exceeds your handling threshold, it would be best if you offer your customers a callback from you. Allocate a small group of representatives for making follow-ups for the customers who did not get proper assistance or were not able to connect due to longer wait times.
A call-back feature ensures no customers left the service unattended. Most companies try to increase the pace of call answering but agents end up giving improper answers. Conversely, if they attend to all the customers adroitly and give them enough time, the wait time will increase. It will cause friction among customers and deteriorate the overall call quality. So, scheduling a call-back service for customers will compensate for the customer’s hassle.
Establishing a call-back service can immediately ramp up the overall quality of call center service. It is an effective tool for compensating for the damage and inconvenience caused for not being able to attend to the customer at first instance. The customer experience and satisfaction rate remain unhurt when you establish a follow-up system. Introducing a callback service can cost you some money but it is all for a worthy cause.
Install an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System
We all are aware of how IVR systems work. Call center services take good leverage of IVR systems during hectic situations like high call volume. Whenever a caller calls a business number and it comes busy right away, it puts a negative impact on their mind. However, if you introduce an IVR system, it can mimic an actual agent quite well, also we can use it to categorize and identify the issues and concerns of the caller.
Depending on the area of concern, we can use a call distribution system to appropriately distribute the call to a more relevant and capable agent. An IVR can give the agent enough information to foresee the possible solution even before the time caller and agent start conversating with each. This way agents are able to acknowledge and reciprocate the caller's concerns quickly, thus putting a better impression on callers.
Through various studies conducted with the help of data centers from various call center services, we have observed, IVR systems are really a good way to improve the overall customer experience and call center performance. Many organizations are considering introducing AI in IVR systems for making conversations more interactive and realistic. In this way, agents will be able to focus on more intricate customer issues.
Hiring More Customer Service Personnel
The technology would be able to help you run things systematically only up to a certain extent. However, if you are seeing a single agent taking hundreds of calls all by himself on a daily basis, it is high time to distribute the workload by recruiting a couple of extra agents for the job. Some service-oriented businesses have complex issues and they can’t be just resolved using an IVR or artificial intelligence (AI). You need to extend your approach.
Oftentimes, many call center services, especially order-taking call center services realize how much load they are putting on their agents with high call volume. Order processing calls usually don’t take much time and attention so call centers to try to take up as many calls as possible but they are putting their agents in a pretty hectic situation and grooming them to have a quantitative work policy than a qualitative one.
Well, one might think what’s it got to do with handling high call volume? The job is getting done, right? However, after a certain period of time, agents lose their ability to handle complex issues and their analytical skills too. Plus, any call that is forcefully closed due to time constraints leads to poor customer satisfaction. Therefore, to avert these inadequacies, it is better to hire new customer support agents.
Outsourcing your Call Center
Sometimes, even after exhausting all of your resources, you might not be able to fulfill the obligations necessary for handling the call center pressure. Things often go astray during sudden spikes. Moreover, if you already dealing with issues related to the affordability of new recruits and technology, without a doubt you must start considering outsourcing your call center services. It is better to let things be handled by a third party during these times.
- By hiring a third-party agency, you will be able to streamline the call center operations better. Also, you will have enough time and space to supervise the performance of the call center service.
- However, you have to be extra cautious when hiring an outsourcing company because they might be quite oblivious to your business's working methods, goals, and long-term plans.
- It takes some time for every outsourcer to relate and coincide with your business. While they try to get familiar with your business goals, you can prepare a good call center strategy and share it with them for attaining top-notch performance.
- Make sure you discuss your objectives with the third-party company before hiring them. Also, take some time to study their technological resources and how they use them to get results.
Hiring a third-party agency would cost you capital but it is all for good cause. If you are experiencing a huge spike in incoming calls, it means there is a huge customer base in play and they have some level of trust and confidence in the brand, which is why they are coming in large numbers. If they are well tended, those customers will become recurring buyers and eventually, the ROIs will churn up.
Tips for Handling High-Volume Callers
Call center services always find themselves in a dilemmatic condition because of high-volume callers. These callers are the ones that are most difficult to handle. An irate customer is relatively easier to handle because they are irate because of some dissatisfaction with the service, probably due to some delay or inadequacy. However, high-volume callers have comprehensive issues.
A high-volume caller has the knack to make back-to-back calls as they are not able to understand the resolution provided to them on the first attempt. These customers can be quite anxious, probably have trust issues, or not be able to process the information provided by the agent. They inadvertently consume a lot of time and require multiple attempts for understanding a single query. So, let us understand the tips for managing them.
Invoke the Customer Success Team
The first and foremost thing that should come to our mind is calling out the customer success team.
- The customer success team comprises dedicated professionals focused on providing all the necessary resources and tools for the customers for resolving their issues.
- They make sure, by the time customer leaves their jurisdiction, they may never face the same issue again.
- They are responsible for optimizing the company’s value in customers’ mindsets. They are the next level of ideal customer support service.
- When you realize a customer is constantly needing assistance, it is high time you call out the CSM (Customer Success Manager).
- Continuous requirement for assistance does not always mean answering support inquiries.
- Most often it means retaining the customer by providing them an extra hand of help in using the company’s product properly.
Sometimes, customers need a better understanding of the resources like multichannel support systems, knowledge base, online chat support, etc., for better assistance. CSMs are professionals that are there for handling complex issues and major disputes.
Create a Personalized Onboarding Plan
New customers are more susceptible to requesting assistance online. Since they are new to the system, they are not familiar with your products or services as much as old customers. Naturally, they will end up calling for assistance which leads to a high call volume. They will be requiring more time and call instances. In that case, assigning the customer success team won’t be a good option as they are allocated for more critical scenarios.
Instead, you can create a personalized kit that consists of all the resources required for customers to understand the company’s products and services in a detailed manner. Also, you can share a knowledge base comprising the answers to FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). An onboarding program will help customers with a hassle-free start and prevent them from seeking online call support for every single and insignificant query.
Be Consistent with Phone Etiquette
The agents should communicate politely and should not rush as if they are trying to catch a train. It is common in every call center service that whenever there is a spike in the call flow, the agents are asked to speed up and finish the calls as soon as possible but in the quest to lower the AHT, they end up compromising the quality.
Ensure maintaining phone etiquette at all times. In many cases, the same customer might show up several times. Whenever a caller is appearing several times for assistance, the call distribution system assigns random agents every time. Since the customer is not getting the same agent every time, they might get easily frustrated.
Because they are in a position to explain their issue multiple times. For averting this inconvenience, there should be an advanced customer case briefing before the conversation is initiated. The agents should have a quick grasp of the situation before they even start probing about the concern.
Make Use of Advocacy Language
Resolving the customers’ problems is the basic purpose of all call center services but how you do it determines everything. Every customer support service, showing genuine concern towards the customers’ can resolve half of the problem already. A company is obliged to provide only what it has promised - nothing more and nothing less. Only some unfortunate delays can disrupt the service otherwise, the customer never faces a major problem.
In most cases, agents are saying no to the customer’s request because that was never a part of the deal. The customer has to leave the conversation disappointed. Whenever a customer comes with an issue or concern, instead of saying, “I will see what I can do,” you should say, “Let’s see what we can do.” By speaking this way, you are teaming up with the customer and showing a collaborative effort in resolving the issue.
You are actually advocating for the customer and manifesting that you put the customer before anything. Empathy plays a major role in consoling the customer in hexed situations. By using the term “we” you can immediately gain the confidence and trust of the customer. Hence, you will be able to take better control of the conversation. In customer support, owning the conversation with customers is imperative for overall performance.