9 Expert Tips For Managing High Call Volume
High call volume may not seem like a big problem on the surface. After all, if your customers are calling in frequently, maybe that’s a sign your business is growing, right?
Maybe. But high call volume can also be a sign something is off. If managed poorly, high call volume can also cause all kinds of downstream problems, like employee burnout and lower customer satisfaction. For example, Dialpad analyzed call data from 130,000 customer calls across 120 companies and found that hold times longer than a few minutes led to a dramatic drop in customer satisfaction (CSAT).
At Peak Support, our outsourced customer service experts work with dozens of companies. We’ve seen a lot. And while high call volume can be a big problem, fixing it can be easier than you might think. Below are some critical lessons we’ve learned about managing high call volume effectively.
Defining high call volume
High call volume generally means that your call center is receiving more calls than its agents and systems are equipped to handle. Since call centers forecast and staff for a specific number of calls, anything significantly above that forecast can be considered high call volume. That might be 500 calls per month for some teams, but it might be 5000 or 20,000 for others.
Your customer experience can suffer due to high call volume, which can then have a cascading effect on your customer support team’s ability to handle other customer service channels in a timely manner.
What causes high call volume?
A high volume of calls can be attributed to several root causes. Some of the most common causes are:
- Seasonality. Seasonal activities can be a contributing factor. If you’re an ecom company, you probably see a massive increase in call volume during the holiday season. If you’re an education SaaS company, August and September might bring high call volume.
- An issue with your product or service. If your customers experience a widespread product issue or disruption of service, they’re going to want it fixed. Depending on how quickly your engineering team can respond, this can lead to a huge spike in call volume.
- Staffing gaps or attrition. Gaps in staffing due to agents getting promoted or moving on can make it seem like call volume is high even if the actual volume it’s holding steady. Again, what qualifies as “high volume” is relative to your team’s capacity at a given moment.
- Successful marketing campaigns. If your marketing team does a good job getting your product in front of customers you may see a spike in callers interested in what you have to offer. It’s a good problem, but a problem nonetheless.
Tips for managing high call volume
Dealing with high call volume can be difficult and stressful for everyone in the company, especially your customer support agents. Problems caused by high call volume compound—if you’ve got a backlog today, it’ll probably just be worse tomorrow—so taking quick action is critical.
1. Invest in more (or better) self-service options
One of the best ways to reduce call volume is to remove the reason a customer needs to call in in the first place. Self-service is the best way to do this.
An online knowledge base is often the first thing that comes to mind when support teams think about self-service. And that’s great, because they work! But simply sharing knowledge with customers—educating them on how to fix their own problems—is only one method of self-service. Through using tools like chatbots and robotic process automation software, you can actually unlock additional self-service for your customers. Improving your tools and user experience can also help (although every support leader knows these things take time).
Some common examples of phone calls that we’ve seen successfully move to self-service channels are updating payment information, changing a mailing or billing address, or upgrading or canceling an account, or initiating a return.
2. Staff accordingly and move agents in real-time
Sometimes high call volume simply comes down to numbers. If you don’t have enough agents available to answer the calls coming in, everyone gets unhappy. You’ll experience both poor customer satisfaction and poor employee satisfaction.
How can you prevent that? Analyze your call center data, build an accurate customer service staffing model based on that data, and then work with your recruiting team to get employees hired and trained quickly.
After you’re staffed appropriately, you can also move your agents in real-time to help with any sudden spikes in call volume. If you suddenly get an increase in the number of calls holding—maybe your product goes out— but all your phone agents are on calls, move some agents from another support channel to help deal with the volume until it subsides.
3. Schedule your team strategically
In order to effectively manage high call volume you need to have your agents available when your customers are calling. For example, say all your calls come in over lunchtime. If most of your team is scheduled for lunch during that interval, you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
This is where scheduling comes in. Analyze your call data to determine when calls are most likely to come in and make sure you have enough people scheduled during those intervals.
Better yet, invest in a workforce management solution. Workforce management software can help analyze historical data, predict spikes in calls, and create forecasts to help you schedule your team. Calabrio WFM, Verint WFM, and Assembled are some options that might be worth exploring.
By scheduling your team strategically, you’re able to handle both normal call volume and spikes in calls effectively.
4. Outsource your call center
Outsourcing your call center operations can be one of the most cost-effective and quickest ways to handle high call volume. Whether you need to outsource permanently to scale your support team or just need to get ahead of a seasonal increase in volume, outsourcing can be a great way to help mitigate high volume.
What’s great about outsourcing is you get to choose exactly how much you want to outsource. If you’re only interested in supplementing your existing support staff, you can choose to share the burden with an outsourced call center. You can even have your internal team focus on phone support and outsource other support channels to another company.
Alternatively, you can take high call volume completely off your company’s plate by putting the responsibility into the hands of an experienced outsourcing partner.
At Peak Support, we have a lot of experience in providing experienced teams of call center agents. We’ve found that companies who outsource customer support often experience improved customer retention, greater productivity, and an overall better customer experience. Determine if outsourcing is right for your business and then let us partner with you to help you manage your high call volume.
5. Create a customer onboarding program
Customers commonly need support when they’re not sure how to get the most out of your product or service. If your sales team did a good job of enrolling a new customer, the last thing you want to do is to let your brand-new, highly impressionable customer fend for themselves. That creates higher call volume, but it’s also just a bad customer experience.
Creating a customer onboarding program can reduce that call volume and improve the overall customer experience.
An effective customer onboarding program shows your customers how to use your product, guides them toward a specific goal (or set of goals), and helps them get the most value from your offerings. It creates a fast time to value for your customers and helps decrease the learning curve associated with your product, which means less customers need to call in for help.
6. Provide continued training and coaching for your team
One of the best ways to handle high call volume is by using your support department’s greatest asset—your employees. Happy employees create happy customers.
Training your team well decreases their call handle time and increases the number of calls they can take without feeling overwhelmed. Great training can make it feel like there’s been a decrease in calls even when there hasn’t been. Here are four key ways you can focus on training and coaching:
- Default to coaching your employees (rather than controlling them). Coaching your team to the answer helps them retain knowledge and boosts their confidence since they’re the ones figuring out the answer (with your guidance).
- Create an employee knowledge base. No matter how well you train and coach your team, they’re going to forget some things. Help them find the answers they’re looking for quickly by creating a knowledge base that outlines key support processes and procedures.
- Make training continual. Every employee gets initial training, but your program shouldn’t end there. Build in a regular cadence of refreshers to increase product knowledge or to build soft skills (like how to lead conversations or how to ask great questions).
- Provide scripts and templates. Support interactions should be warm and personable—not like talking to a robot. However, providing natural-sounding scripts and templates to your support team can save a lot of time on calls. Here are 28 templates you can use to help improve your support calls.
- Consider an ambassador program. Consider giving your customer service agents a sample product to use as their own. While this doesn’t make sense for every product or business, it can be a great way to get your team familiar with your product and to create empathy and understanding for customers.
7. Encourage customers to use other support channels
A great way to cut down on the number of calls your call center receives is to actively encourage your customers to use other, more efficient support channels like live chat and email. This may mean launching a new support channel or changing the user experience within your product to put specific channels front and center.
Live chat is more efficient than phone calls because most support agents can handle more than one chat at the same time. Customers love it, because it makes it easy for them to continue whatever they’re doing—browsing your site, using your product—while waiting for support.
Offering email support or a callback option can be a better fit than phone calls, especially if you have a complex product. If your team is trying to troubleshoot complicated issues while customers are on the line, you’re probably experiencing long handle times and low agent capacities.
8. Be upfront with your callers
Sometimes you just can’t get around a large spike in calls. For example, if there’s an issue that will take some time to fix, you might have to deal with high call volume for a bit. That means your customers may have to wait on hold for a little longer than usual.
Create a high volume messaging script and frontload the recorded message on your IVR (interactive voice response) system. Be sure to let your customers know four specific things:
- You’re aware of the issue
- What this specific issue is (to avoid confusion)
- You’re working on fixing the issue (and when you expect it to be fixed)
- Hold times may be high due to a high number of callers
Playing this prerecorded message when your customers call in will help alleviate some of the call burden on your support team. Many customers will hear that you’re aware of the issue and end their calls.
You can also use your IVR to gather information. You’ve probably seen this if you ever had a power outage at your home. If you opt to call in when an outage occurs, most utility companies will use an IVR to automatically gather relevant information and eliminate the need for you to speak with a human agent.
9. Fix the drivers of call volume
Another piece of call center data you can analyze is exactly why customers are calling in the first place. Dive into CSAT and customer loyalty data and your historical support ticket data to determine the top reasons your customers are calling. Then fix the root causes.
Fixing product issues (usually) doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s the best way to be proactive in reducing high call volumes.
Dealing with high call volume
When call volume starts to go off the rails, you need to get help quickly. Some of the tactics above—like creating an onboarding program or improving your product—take time. If you’re already reeling from high call volume, you need a solution that will have an impact immediately.
At Peak Support, we can launch new outsourced customer service teams within a week or two. If you’re feeling the pain of high call volume and you’re ready for some relief, contact us today to see how outsourcing can help!