Call centers have experienced a dramatic increase in call volume over the last year and half since the onset of the pandemic. Managing high call volume has impacted contact center performance and call center metrics by driving up average handling time. The uptick in volume level has also contributed to longer wait times. In order to combat a high volume of calls, contact centers should consider reevaluating their customer service strategy.
In this article, we’ll cover two strategies to manage an increase in inbound call volume.
Responses to a spike in call volume
What has been the contact center’s response to managing high call volume? Well, it encompassed a shift to working from home and strategic reliance on IVR, automatic callbacks, call forwarding, and digital channels.
Over the course of the last eighteen months, we’ve seen at-home agent configurations double on the LiveVox platform, inbound call volume increase, and digital channel adoption accelerate. In this new setting, efficiency and customer experience concerns are more paramount than ever. Many of our customers have opted to supplement voice channels by adding the digital options that customers demand like webchat and SMS to slim the volume of calls.
Our COVID-19 task force has shared a few operational and campaign adjustments they recommend to provide customers with shorter wait times and faster call resolutions to help customer service teams manage this new normal.
Below is their guide to managing an increase in call volume:
I. IVR can be your greatest efficiency creator.
Managing high call volume in the contact center pivots on how effective your interactive voice response (IVR) is at handling and escalating customer interactions. Your IVR strategy can help balance an increase in inbound call volume by increasing self-service and enabling faster talk-offs. Intelligent call routing can ensure effective workforce engagement so the right agents are fielding the right calls.
Increase Self-Service: Review your most common inbound call inquiries. Have they changed as a result of COVID-19? Can these calls be serviced through an IVR without an agent or with updated message prompts? If so, that may help avoid having an agent service the call entirely. This is especially true if your business has specific COVID-19 related developments that are driving consumer call volume.
Minimize Talk-offs: IVRs can also be used to confirm consumer identification before getting to an agent. The information that is inputted by the consumer can be presented automatically to the agent upon call connection. This can help eliminate critical seconds during talk-offs while also creating a more personalized experience.
Shift Volume to SMS: SMS is a preferred customer service channel. SMS is effective at deflecting the volume of calls coming into voice channels as well as reducing call abandonment rates. Inbound call deflection with SMS can be done by sending a text prompt while the caller is in the IVR queue alerting them to schedule an automatic call back. There will always be some consumers that prefer not to self-serve and also that do not want to stay on hold. Minimize the risk of losing an opportunity to engage with this group of consumers by offering an SMS alternative. This allows consumers to go about their day while enabling agents to reach them. Because agents can handle numerous messaging interactions simultaneously, agents will also have more capacity to engage consumers via SMS.
II. Use digital channels to your advantage.
SMS notifications, including new payment options, loan offerings, and service alerts, are more welcomed by certain consumer segments than ever before. Leveraging SMS can drive efficiencies while meeting consumers on their channel of choice.
Deflect Inbound Volume: Contact centers are seeing an increase in inbound call volume and need to ramp up their outreach campaigns as a result of COVID-19. By sending out proactive and timed SMS campaigns, contact centers can meet consumer channel preferences while simultaneously controlling when and what calls come in.
Promote Self-Service: You can use digital channels to promote the use of your knowledge by sharing links to relevant articles. SMS campaigns can also be leveraged to direct consumers to self-service portals or website pages. If a new service offering is available for example, sending an SMS to direct consumers to a website with common FAQs can minimize repeat service calls.
Minimize bandwidth requirements: To ensure call quality for at-home agents, having optimal bandwidth is critical. However, this is not the case for servicing SMS interactions. If there are connectivity concerns for certain agents in shifting to at-home work, routing digital conversations to this workgroup can help you maximize the number of agents that can be migrated to remote work. Combined with timed SMS campaigns, these workgroups can be quickly ramped up / down based on digital campaign cadence.
Eliminate distractions: Not everyone has an ideal work-from-home environment. Between family and other distractions, the risk of background noise is one challenge in shifting to a remote workforce. Email/SMS interactions can eliminate that risk by providing agents the ability to serve consumers without exposing consumers to undesirable background noise.
Triple agent service capacity: SMS also presents the opportunity for agents to move from a 1-to-1 service ratio to one-to-many service efficiency. While a phone call requires a dedicated agent to service, agents can service multiple SMS interactions at once.