Fielding incoming calls from customers, answering their questions and resolving their problems is a core function of any good customer service team. Sometimes, however, your company might get more calls than it can handle, leading to long customer wait times, dissatisfied customers and team members, and, ultimately, lost revenue.
However, by effectively managing your high call volume, you can keep your customers and team happy without losing potential sales.
How to effectively manage high call volume
Here are eight effective, affordable tactics you can use to regain control of your call volume and please both your customers and your team:
- Hire more (or temporary) staff. Expanding your customer service team is a great short-term solution for handling increased call volume. It doesn't address the reason(s) behind your increased call volume (unless a staffing shortage is to blame), it does immediately increase your ratio of customer service reps to answer calls.
- Increase staff training. If customer service staff aren't adequately trained, they may be overwhelmed with a large volume of calls. Give your customer service reps the tools and knowledge they need to succeed. With a fully supported and trained team, your call volume might be more manageable.
- Forecast high-call periods. If seasonal factors or marketing initiatives increase the number of calls your business receives, prepare in advance. Hire more staff and put the necessary protocols in place before your prediction becomes a reality.
- Add FAQs to your website. Including FAQs on your website can lower your call volume. Many consumers check a company's website first before calling. If your site doesn't have an FAQs section, ask your customer service team which questions they answer the most frequently and what the official company answer is for each question. If your customer service team already has FAQs document they use, modify it slightly, and place this information in a prominent, easy-to-find place on your website.
- Add chatbots to your website. Install a chatbot on your website to field consumer questions that might otherwise require calls. This approach is becoming increasingly popular, including among entrepreneurs who say they will implement chatbots in their companies.
- Map out your team's incoming call workflow. Your team can save immense amounts of time by immediately knowing to whom they should route incoming calls. When you devise a workflow that enables your employees to pair callers with the right agents for their needs, you can more quickly address customer concerns and distribute work among your team more evenly.
- Implement automated answers. When customers call your company, perhaps they don't necessarily need a person to answer their questions. Consider offering pre-recorded answers to FAQs among your call menu's options that customers can listen to when they call in.
- Pivot to callbacks. A recent survey by Software Advice reports that 3 in 4 customers would rather have a company agent call them back later instead of waiting on hold. By offering to call your customers back, they talk with actual customer service reps, but without the frustrating wait time. An additional benefit for you and your staff is that you can avoid the wave of upset customers and the ripple effect on your team's morale.
What is a high call volume?
A high call volume is when the number of inbound calls exceed what your team can accommodate. When your team can't handle the number of incoming calls, customers experience long wait times and interact with customer service representatives who may be too overwhelmed to fully assist customers. Customers, in turn, may turn to your competitors instead, thus leading to revenue loss for you.
A high call volume is a 10% increase in calls above its usual volume. This guideline may be helpful, but it's not the whole story. If your team struggles to answer calls before the 10% mark, you're experiencing high call volume.
What causes a high call volume?
High call volume rarely happens for no reason. Even during the biggest call rushes, you and your team can trace the increased number of calls to one or more of the below factors:
- Seasonal spikes. Your company may see an uptick in calls during (and shortly after) the holiday season. Another example might be if you're an outdoor adventure company – you likely experience high call volume in late spring as customers make early plans for their summers.
- Service outages. Following a natural disaster, large numbers of people without basic services may call your company if what you sell can quickly remedy their urgent situations. You may also face a substantial influx of calls if your services become unavailable – an example might be a DDoS attack at a project management software company that blocks customer login and platform use.
- Marketing initiatives. That massive discount you're advertising is likely to increase your incoming call volume. If going viral is part of your marketing strategy, that may also result in more people calling your company.
- Marketing mistakes. Owing to an error, you may have plenty of confused (but interested) new customers dialing in.
- Structural flaws. Agents who aren't well trained or are simply wrong for the job can contribute to call backlogs. Additionally, a small call staff can lead to long wait times that cause customers to call your company's other departments.
If none of these reasons explain your high call volume, you should determine the reason why you're experiencing this increase. Sure, tending to all of your calls immediately might feel more important, but when you resolve the underlying issue, you potentially decrease the number of calls you have to answer in the first place.
The pros and cons of high call volume
High call volume is cause for concern, but you can find silver linings in it as well, including:
- Clear demand. Sure, right now, you're overwhelmed, but it can be better to have greater demand for your products and services than no demand. High call volume, if handled well, can translate to more sales and profits. Low call volume, on the other hand, can reflect low sales (and demand) that ultimately hurt your bottom line.
- Direct conversations with customers. It's one thing for a customer to buy goods or services from your company because they need them. It's another for a customer to choose your company above your competitors because you've forged a connection with them. A high call volume allows your team to form that personal bond, thus potentially leading to increased customer loyalty.
A high call volume is a business concern because it can be unpredictable, difficult to manage, and it can have serious, long-term repercussions for your business. The cons of a high call volume include:
- Lost sales. When someone calls your company and can't reach you even after an extended waiting period, they may abandon you and go to your competitors. Nobody wants to wait, especially when they need something. If another company can provide it more quickly, that's where your customers will go.
- Loss of future sales due to poor reviews. Internet reviews can make or break a business these days. Additionally, people who call your company and can't reach you (or who have a poor customer experience) can share their story to thousands of potential future customers on Facebook, Yelp, and other review sites.
- Loss of employees. High call volumes, and the accompanying wave of upset customers who unload their wrath on your employees, drain your team. If you don't take steps to manage your high call volume, your employees will leave. And with fewer people handling your incoming calls, you're back at square one with a poorly staffed customer service team tasked with managing an even higher call volume.