Thriving in High Call Volume: Strategies for Efficient Customer Service

min read
Thriving in High Call Volume: Strategies for Efficient Customer Service

High call volume is a common occurrence in the world of customer service, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for call center managers and their teams to handle it. According to LiveAgent, the average call center handles 4,400 calls per month. That’s 144 calls a day! If First Call Resolution (FCR) takes up to 10 minutes, then the average 24/7 call center has exactly enough hours in the day to handle those 144 calls. Any more than that, and long wait times, dropped calls, and missed calls can prevail.

Agents in high-volume call centers are on the front line of ensuring customers have a positive experience. But contact center teams are tightly stretched even when call volume isn’t off the chart. Agents often experience stress and burnout. Staff churn is a common problem, too. So, it’s critical for call center operators to understand what drives high call volume and what strategies and tools they can use to ease the burden on their teams.

What Is High Call Volume?

When a call center receives more calls than it can comfortably handle, that’s high call volume. As outlined above, call center statistics show that the average call center is already at full capacity. In general, the industry benchmark for high call volume is 10% more calls than a call center typically receives over a prolonged period. 

Ten percent might not sound like much, but persistent high-volume caller activity could damage a business. According to call center statistics, $1.6 trillion is lost by U.S. businesses every year due to poor customer service. And nearly one-third (31%) of customers say they will stop doing business with a brand they love after just one bad experience.

Causes of High Call Volume

Several factors can drive high call volume. If left unchecked, they will cause long wait times for callers, drag down the customer experience, and diminish customer satisfaction.

Cause 1: Seasonal Fluctuations

Seasonal demand, such as holidays, promotions, or special events can cause sudden spikes in call volume as customers seek assistance with inquiries, orders, or support issues. 

Good communication between marketing and the call center, along with planned staff increases during seasonal spikes such as the holiday season, can help call centers manage these fluctuations more adeptly.

Cause 2: Technical Issues or Maintenance

Service disruptions, technical issues, or outages can prompt a surge in calls from customers reporting problems, seeking assistance, or seeking status updates on resolutions. 

It’s also common for call centers to receive an influx of calls caused by poorly optimized paid search campaigns. Tightening up your use of keywords and making other adjustments can eliminate this problem. (Get tips for optimizing your paid search campaigns here.)

Cause 3: Poor Customer Experiences

Issues such as significant product defects, billing errors, or unsatisfactory service can push call volumes up as customers seek resolution or want to express their grievances. 

Your website may also be contributing to high call volume. Putting too little information online forces customers to call with very basic questions that clog up call center phone lines. Having an extensive FAQ section on your site can help solve this issue. 

Cause 4: Insufficient Staff

Too few agents in the call center or insufficient tools to handle a high volume of callers make periods of high call volume tough to navigate. Inadequate staffing and the lack of technical resources means longer wait times, increased call abandonment rates, and reduced customer satisfaction.

Cause 5: New Product or Service Offered

Sometimes, a high volume of callers can be a byproduct of your marketing team’s success. High-impact marketing campaigns and the launch of a new product or service can lead to customers jamming up the phone lines looking for more information or to make a purchase.

While this is a good problem to have, the net result is often the same as any of the negative causes listed here. Customers may face long hold times or dropped calls, end up feeling dissatisfied, and decide not to do business with you.

Consequences of High Call Volume

The consequences of unexpected high call volume can extend well beyond the contact center. High call volume can impact your business operations and, in extreme cases, permanently damages customer relations. Not surprisingly, 95% of contact center professionals view customer satisfaction as their most important metric. 

Here are the most damaging consequences of high call volume, some of which we’ve already touched on in this post.

Consequence 1: Longer Waiting Times

High call volume leads to longer wait times, as customers are placed in queues or on hold before reaching a representative. Prolonged wait times can frustrate customers and negatively impact their experience with your brand. 

Worries about hanging on the line already prevent many consumers from picking up the phone. Research shows that the fear of waiting on hold is the number one reason customers won’t call a business. 

Consequence 2: Negative Brand Perception

Prolonged wait times, call abandonment, and a poor customer service experience due to high call volume in the call center can tarnish a company’s reputation and lead to poor word-of-mouth reviews.

Dissatisfied customers may go further and post negative reviews online. If left unchecked and unanswered, these comments can further damage your brand image and business reputation.

Consequence 3: Lower Customer Satisfaction

Extended wait times, difficulty reaching representatives, and unresolved issues contribute to decreased customer satisfaction and damage the overall customer experience. 

It can also dent sales. Research shows that three-quarters of consumers are at least somewhat likely to buy from a business based on customer experience alone.

Consequence 4: Overwhelmed Agents

Prolonged periods of high call volume can overwhelm customer service agents, leading to decreased productivity and even mental health issues. Employee retention rates may also take a hit, as overburdened and stressed-out agents are more likely to head for the exit door.

When overwhelmed agents struggle to handle inquiries effectively, the side effects are typically longer call durations, lower service quality, and a higher call abandonment rate. Tired and frustrated agents struggling with high call volume may even erode customer satisfaction by abandoning their use of soft skills like empathy during calls.

Consequence 5: Missed Opportunities

High call volume puts agents under pressure to address the most pressing customer inquiries and move through every call at a faster clip. This leads to missed opportunities for them to upsell or cross-sell products and services. 

It’s hard for agents to be in sales mode or give adequate focus to customer inquiries when calls are arriving at a fast and furious pace into the call center. Optimizing call handling process can help; it will allow call center teams to comfortably address unexpected peaks in call volume. Let’s look at how to do it. 

How to Optimize Call Handling Processes

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to optimize call handling processes to improve customer service and ensure a more efficient call center operation.

1. Analyze Historical Data

If you haven’t done this already, make a point to analyze historical call data. This will help you understand call volume trends over time, identify when call volume typically spikes, and common reasons for an influx of calls. Identifying patterns in the data informs resource allocation and leads to better scheduling.

2. Implement Call Routing

Intelligent call routing technology helps you direct incoming calls efficiently to the most suitable agents based on their skills and availability. This reduces wait times and enhances first-call resolution, leading to higher revenue. 

Invoca’s intelligent call routing seamlessly moves customers from digital to phone interactions by connecting calls to the right location based on the caller’s prior digital journey. This helps to increase customer satisfaction. It also makes agents more productive by connecting them to calls that make the best use of their skills. 

Automating Customer Service With a Human Touch
Sample Invoca intelligent call routing configuration

3. Use IVR Systems

If you’re dealing with persistent high call volume and you don’t have an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, consider investing in one — and soon. IVR provides self-service options and uses simple, automated menus to guide callers to information or to complete tasks without agent assistance. 

Look for systems that are easy to deploy and that won’t require major changes to your telecommunications infrastructure. Invoca’s IVR is cloud-based, so it’s easy to deploy and its menus can be designed to be user-friendly and intuitive.  

4. Establish Call Prioritization

Always use call prioritization to ensure that your agents are handling urgent or high-priority calls promptly. Prioritization is based on factors such as customer status, the seriousness of the issue, or its potential impact on business operations. 

Use call routing technology software to accomplish prioritization. Invoca’s call routing software prioritizes callers from high-value webpages, such as product order pages or online shopping carts, over calls likely to be support or general inquiry calls.

5. Optimize Agent Workflows

Once you’ve created a more efficient flow of calls, you can focus on optimizing the human element in your call center: your agents. Reviewing and streamlining agent workflows minimizes redundant tasks, reduces call handling times, and improves efficiency. 

Provide agents with integrated tools and resources, such as knowledge bases, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and scripting guides, to help them develop seamless call handling. Many agents complain that updating the CRM or creating call summaries takes too much time. But you can eliminate this tedious after-call work by using AI-powered conversation intelligence software. 

Invoca’s technology automatically creates call recordings and transcripts in real time and integrates seamlessly with your CRM system, giving your agents more time to do what they do best — help your customers. 

6. Training Agents

Technology also optimizes the process of training agents. Ongoing training programs equip agents with the skills, product knowledge, communication abilities, and problem-solving techniques to handle customer inquiries effectively. 

Invoca’s software automates quality assurance (QA) and scores calls objectively to provide managers with consistent scoring in real time without the headache of having to wade through recordings or transcripts. Invoca’s AI also identifies coaching moments in transcripts and calls them out for managers to use to educate agents with real-world scenarios. 

7. Monitor Performance Metrics

A final tip for optimizing the call handling process is to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) such as average handling time, FCR, customer satisfaction scores, and agent adherence to scripts or guidelines. 

Technology can make this task much easier. QA in contact centers is cumbersome, especially if you are doing it manually. But when you use Invoca, automated QA is easy, objective, and immediate. 

Sample Invoca agent scorecard generated by AI

There are many KPIs to monitor, but take care to pick those that are most relevant to your call center operation and useful for improving call handling. With software like Invoca, you can automate this task and take a deep dive into your call center data. You can also use the technology to develop and track KPIs for your customer service agents.

Managing High Call Volume with Invoca

Invoca’s conversation intelligence software helps call center managers alleviate the problems that can stem from high call volume by:

  • Intelligently routing calls to the right agent based on a caller’s digital journey
  • Prioritizing calls based on the nature of the call and who is calling
  • Informing agents as to who is calling and why so that they can get right to work on a solution
  • Providing a simple-to-use and easy-to-set-up IVR system and offering callers a self-serve option so agents are free to deal with the most critical inquiries
  • Automating after-call work by creating recordings and transcripts in real time and uploading customer data to the CRM
  • Monitoring contact center and agent performance in real time by automating QA
  • Delivering coaching moments and ongoing training by highlighting actual scenarios in call transcripts and recordings
  • Using AI machine learning to analyze call center data and deliver rapid call analysis to highlight trends and patterns and help agents handle callers more efficiently

High call volume doesn’t have to result in long wait times for callers or a negative customer experience, nor does it have to be a burden on your call center team. You can improve call handling by supporting agents with the right technology for handling routine tasks and training them in a way that drives continuous improvement.

Additional Reading

If you want to learn more about how Invoca can help you manage high call volume and create a more efficient customer service operation, read the following posts: 

Don’t wait for a prolonged period of high call volume before optimizing your contact center operations. Book a demo today to learn how Invoca can help you overcome the pressure of high-volume caller activity.

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