We are in the busy season of the year, and many call centres are struggling under the increased call volume.
Call Centre Helper asked a panel of experts how to relieve pressure on call centres during busy periods.
1. Plan ahead
It’s vital that managers let their agents know when the peak times will be. This will give them a chance to prepare and will mean they’re not taken by surprise with high volumes of calls. Making sure the scheduling is correct is really important. Organisations can do this by looking at times of peak calls in previous years. Once the trends have been identified, forecasts can be made as to when future busy periods will be. This enables managers to recruit extra staff to help out if necessary.
Ben Dale-Gough, Site Operations Manager – Domestic & General (www.domgen.com)
2. Update call queue status message in IVR
Give customers information on the current call queuing times in your IVR message, and redirect them to the self-help section of the company/organisation’s website if possible. If the volume of calls is high and the waiting time is more than a couple of minutes, informing customers in IVR will help redirect some of them to a less busy time of day or the website.
3. Allow staff to have frequent breaks at peak times
An increased break schedule during peak times will help agents deal with the busier period. By reducing lunch to half an hour, but with a ten-minute break away from the phones every hour, agents will feel incredibly refreshed, and it will allow them to deal with difficult calls more effectively. The mental break is important.
4. Make sure new agents are up to speed on the top 20 reasons for calling
A lot of call centres take on new agents, especially students, in the run-up to Christmas. All these new agents may be answering calls on things they’ve never come across before, and simply as a result of the volume of calls at peaks times there is going to be an increase in the number of difficult calls. So make sure your second-tier agents are available to help resolve the difficult calls with their experience.
Get the fresh staff up to speed on the top 20 reasons for calling as quickly as possible, because that will account for 80% of call volume. Don’t forget that those top 20 reasons can change day by day.
5. Listen to customer feedback
On a certain percentage of calls, ask the person calling in what you could have done to cut down the call time. The answers will be very interesting, and will give an external perspective almost for free. If the company then implements that change, they may well find that they save time. If a minute could be knocked off each call, that releases a lot of call volume for the selected period.
Clive Turner, Consultant
6. Use self-help videos on your website
Online self-service can answer very complex questions through multimedia. For example, a short three- or four-minute video that the customer can play as many times as they like in the comfort of their own home can be used by the contact centre to deliver an answer. Some of our customers, such as Panasonic, are using this method quite heavily to ease the technical support service they provide for customers.
Dee Roche, European Marketing Director – Eptica (www.eptica.com)
7. Automate manual processes
To help deal with the seasonal increase in incoming calls, some call centre managers have been making sure that their agents’ desktops are set up to provide them with the information they need to view at the touch of a button.
By giving agents the necessary intelligent, context-sensitive view of the customer, it will save them having to jump from screen to screen to view or edit, duplicated and potentially inaccurate details in order to deal with the call.
Automating manual processes can greatly assist the speed with which calls are handled.
Francis Carden, founder and chief evangelist for Openspan (www.openspan.com)
8. Let your agents let off steam after hours
Have a party! At Christmas we hold a dress-down day, where staff have the opportunity to come in wearing fancy dress. We also hold a free raffle for all staff and provide food on the day, before going on to our staff Christmas party in the evening. We also encourage workers to become involved in carol-singing competitions.
Sandeep Aggarwal, Executive Vice President of Sales, Solution & Transition – Intelenet Global Services (www.intelenetglobal.com)
9. Keep customers informed of any changes in service
The best way to reduce calls to call centres is to make sure your customers don’t have a reason to call. A lot of the calls customers make are about deliveries and in-home appointments, with questions about when the technician or delivery will arrive, why they are late, whether it can be rescheduled, etc. The best way to reduce the number of calls is to be proactive in keeping the customer informed.
Richard Alden, European President – TOA Technologies (www.toatech.com)
10. Allow leeway on targets
It is important not to get too hung up on hard targets such as ‘time to answer’ and ‘total time’. Customers will wait a little longer if they know they will get good, friendly, efficient service when they do reach an agent. Unhurried contacts generate better customer service and higher value.
Kathryn Penn, Contact Centres Technical Sales Expert – Siemens Enterprise Communications (www.siemens-enterprise.com)
Have you got any other tips on taking pressure off the call centre? Please leave your thoughts in an email to Call Centre Helper.