The sound of phones ringing at the office can be music to your ears. When things are going well, it's like the sound of money.
Then there are those times when a high call volume is wholly unexpected. That's when all that ringing turns into your worst nightmare.
Regardless, if you're in a position in which you deal with a high number of phone calls, then you must be prepared for every scenario -- including an unexpected surge in calls. Miss out on too many of them -- or any, for that matter -- or make your customers wait too long on the phone, then you've likely lost business.
So, how, then, should you and a high call volume call center handle those tricky, unexpected surges in calls?
Step 1: Identify the root cause
It may be time to break out the spreadsheets and any tracking software you might have. As is the case with any problem, the first step toward developing a solution is to identify the source. Why is your high call volume call center receiving so many calls? Was it expected or unexpected? Are you receiving complaints about a product or service? Could this be the result of an ad or marketing campaign? You can't develop a plan to handle the high volume until you understand why you're experiencing a surge in calls.
Step 2: When are the calls coming in?
You should have a pretty good idea by now when calls typically come in. But if you also deal with international clients or customers, then all bets are off. The same goes for a sudden surge to your high call volume call center. Calls could be coming in at all hours. The point is, while identifying why you're receiving a surge in calls, you also need to track the time those calls come in, then adjust accordingly. It may be time to change your employees' hours and schedules. Ultimately, you might find out that your overall call volume isn't as high as it seems; instead, calls may be coming in at hours when you're understaffed. By figuring out when the highest call volumes occur, you can adjust your schedules and train accordingly. Plus, if you're tracking the cause behind your surge in calls, then you know whether it's a temporary or permanent situation.
Step 3: Are Calls Handled Promptly?
Time is of the essence at a high call volume call center. You need to know how to limit the duration of calls without compromising quality customer service.
- It goes without saying: all employees who deal with customers should have a thorough knowledge of your business. But that's easier said than done. Make sure you're tracking the types of questions and/or issues your customers are having, then develop a Q&A for the employees who are answering customer calls. Leave nothing to the imagination. It doesn't necessarily have to be scripted, either. Come up with as many questions as you can, then make sure all employees who answer customer or client calls have the answers to those questions.
- When possible, try to avoid putting your customers on hold or redirecting them to other staff. Individually, the short time lag likely isn't a massive issue for the client or customer on the phone. After all, they want answers and are probably willing to wait a few minutes. Instead, it's a collective issue. If you're putting all your clients on hold for a few minutes, then, at the end of the day, you're getting to fewer phone calls.
- Have protocols in place for "challenging" phone calls. There's always going to be difficult calls, and those calls typically take up more time. While putting together that Q&A for your employees, use it to identify the types of calls that will likely need more time and attention, then map out who's going to handle those calls, how much time should be spent on them, etc.
Step 4: Back to the Basics
Training isn't just for the new employees. Basic training should be considered from time to time for all employees at a high call volume call center. After all, complacency sometimes sets in, especially with employees who have been there for several years. While their experience and knowledge are invaluable, you might be surprised to find out that some protocols aren't being handled properly. This complacency also means tracking things like duration of calls, quality of customer service, number of calls handled by each employee and generating new business. Higher skill levels also translate to improved efficiency. This is especially true for training managers and supervisors. Remember, if the managers and supervisors aren't properly trained, then the employees they oversee likely won't be, either.
Step 5: Skill-based routing
Skill-based routing campaigns is a call-assignment strategy to assign incoming calls to the best-suited staff member instead of simply redirecting to any available agent. Skill-based routing is a necessary strategy employed in multiple high call volume call centers to deal with a broader base of call types. It focuses on the concept of matching an appropriate staff member with a certain level of expertise in the area the customer wants. This routing method enables the worker to provide better, more efficient service while improving staff productivity, revenue, and even the capital-labor ratio, reducing cost in the long run.
Skill-based routing, at its core, improves customer service, minimizes training duration and shortens call-handling time. It offers a flexible deployment plan to boost productivity. The software ChaseData offers, for example, is tailored to individual call centers to improve management of call queues, routing, and escalation.
Step 6: Low turnover rate
This may not seem like much, but it is a critical aspect of any high call volume call center. With a surge in calls, stress piles up, workloads surge and more often than not, worker satisfaction decreases. A high turnover rate means more time is spent on training and a loss of productivity. That's why it's important to remember that worker satisfaction is just as important as customer satisfaction. Remember, replacing employees is expensive -- it can cost your company thousands of dollars for each new employee, not to mention the loss in productivity.
Step 7: When in doubt, outsource the work
Outsourcing the work is a tricky issue for new or small businesses. On the one hand, handling all the work internally or at current staffing levels might save you a few bucks. On the other hand, if current employees are putting in too many hours and the work continues to pile up, then you're going to start losing employees. Remember Step 6!
Handling the calls with current employees might be convenient, but it's not necessarily the smart move. At some point, contracting out a professional call center such as ChaseData has to be a part of the conversation. That's because answering calls is likely only a part of what you and your business do -- maybe even a smart part. Aside from creating your product, generating sales, and shipping and delivery, you also must contend with marketing your product or brand and networking with the right people. You might also have the business, accounting, and HR departments.
The bottom line? You have a lot on your plate.
But there's still a tipping point in which it becomes more cost-effective to contract out some of the work, whether it's shipping, accounting or dealing with an increase in phone calls. A good high call volume call center comes equipped with individualized, data-driven solutions for businesses big and small. Translation: You'll turn what was once a source of inefficiency and employee -- and customer -- dissatisfaction into the engine that drives your sales and growth.