Let’s face it: waiting on hold for customer service is annoying. You cringe through the cheesy music, sigh through automated messages that play at timed intervals, and check your call timer display obsessively to see just how long you’ve been waiting.
A call center team that wishes to spare their customers this agony has two options: hiring more agents or lowering inbound call volume. Whereas hiring brings with it a significant cost increase, reducing the number of calls coming in is not only cost-saving, but also more feasible than you may think.
Here are 6 ways to keep inbound call volume in check while improving the overall customer experience.
1. Make other channels accessible and inviting
Every interaction with a customer should include quick-connect options for further contact. If a customer receives a confirmation email, it should include a link or tab for connecting to livechat. If a customer is visiting the website, the company’s chatbot should initiate contact with a pop-up. If a customer is waiting on hold, they should be given options to connect in other ways. In short, every effort should be made to spread the volume of customers over multiple channels.
The more accessible the channels are, the more likely customers are to make a habit of connecting in ways other than the phone.
2. Good omnichannel support and training
If you’re going to drive customers toward non-phone channels, then your contact center must be well-equipped, staffed, and trained to do so. The key to a successful omnichannel strategy is making sure all channels are well-integrated with one another, so that customers can feel comfortable switching from one to the other without fear of gaps, overlaps, or repetition in the transfer of information. Likewise, your contact center must ensure that adequately-trained agents are staffing all channels, and that replies, especially on asynchronous channels, are timely and effective.
3. Offer self-service options
Customers increasingly prefer self-service options anyway, so why not make this a part of your strategy for lowering inbound call volume? According to a recent Forrester report, customers’ reported use of internet or mobile self-service options rose from 67 percent in 2012 to 76 percent in 2014. The following self-service options may be helpful if your contact center is interested in lowering inbound call volume:
- Detailed and easily-navigable FAQ’s allow customers to find an answer to their problem without being directed by a service agent. Your FAQ section should be more than just a handful of questions and answers thrown on a page; it should be a living document, constantly evolving and filled with links and tabs that are useful for organizing the information from the top down and from the bottom up.
- Web portals for making account changes should be available to customers both online and through a mobile app.
- Online tutorials for solving relatively simple tech problems allow customers to forgo the phone queue and get the job done on their own timetable with minimal interaction (read: friction) with customer service agents. These tutorials can take the form of YouTube videos or online documents or slideshows. The internet has become a smorgasbord of DIY content, so get your contact center in on the action.
And the best part of offering self-service options? Customers will learn how to resolve some of their own service issues, making them less likely to become an addition to your call volume in the future.
4. Lean toward asynchronous channels
Agents who are on the phone have a very limited ability to multi-task. Real-time voice-to-voice interaction demands the agent’s full attention, and compared to some other channels, this is less than efficient.
Channels that are asynchronous, like chat, SMS, and e-mail, allow agents to handle more than one customer at any given time.
Agents on average can handle two customers at once via webchat, or a maximum of four without sacrificing service quality. So if presenting customers with options is part of your strategy for lowering inbound call volume (see #1), lean toward asynchronous channels that allow your agents to handle more customers in less time.
5. Optimize your IVR
Your IVR (interactive voice recognition) system can do much more for you than direct callers to the right department or agent.
The IVR system can also provide successful “exit points” for the customer that result in their not having to speak with an agent at all.
If there are simple clerical tasks that customers can complete themselves via touch tone options, make these a highly accessible part of your IVR call flow. This lowers the volume of calls arriving at your agents’ phones, and allows them to focus on more complex customer tasks and services.
6. Focus on FCR
A good FCR rate means the customer has no need to call back (at least, not regarding the same issue), thus cumulatively lowering inbound call volume in the future. In fact, A 15% improvement in FCR results in a 57% reduction in repeat calls. Moreover, this also has positive implications for customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. 12% of customers who have to call more than twice to resolve their issue will leave a company or brand behind.
Lowering inbound call volume has many benefits for your contact center. Not only can you cut costs, but customers will be less frustrated by waiting on hold. Finally, your agents will become more skilled and satisfied in their work by handling only the more complex calls.