Call centers exist to provide speedy customer service and issue resolution. Speed is key; achieved through efficient call queue management.
What is call queue management?
Simply put, call queue management is the management of inbound calls to ensure minimal customer wait time and fair workload distribution. When done right, call queue management ensures:
- Reduced wait times
- Lowered dropped calls
- Efficient workload distribution amongst agents
- Better customer experience
Why is call queue management important?
If you’re calling customer support, chances are you’re already frustrated. But, to have to wait for assistance, and listen to a recorded message or music only makes it worse! The average customer hold time is 56 seconds (Source: conversational.com). That may not seem like a lot, but after 2 minutes, customers hang up (Source: Small Business Chronicle).
In this Inbound Queue Analysis, we can see that out of the 244 queued calls, 55 calls dropped.
70% of business callers in the US are put on hold (Source: Inbound/Outbound). How much lost business and disgruntled customers are we talking about? Substantial! Especially, as 40% of customers in the US attempt a phone purchase (Source: American Teleservices Association).
Finally, something doesn’t add up: 90% (or more) of the marketing budget is spent to get customers to call, but only 6% is spent to handle the call (Source: Inbound Telephones Call Center)! By not managing their incoming call load or call queue, businesses are wasting marketing dollars and losing revenue.
A good call queue management system is critical. It minimizes and manages call wait or hold times for customers.
How to manage call queues efficiently?
Good call queue management isn’t difficult. Some of our clients’ customer support centers ensure that 90% of their callers connect with live agents within 10 seconds. How can you manage your queues better? Here are 8 ways:
Carefully design your IVR and consider self-service.
Consider what your IVR requirement is? Do you really need to give your customer multiple level menu options? Many of our clients connect callers to live agents directly. Others divert few customers to live agents and others to IVR, based on caller history/customer value. Consider self-service: For many routine tasks, it’s actually preferable to divert customers to self-service. Popular use scenarios: While paying medical bills, customers don’t have to wait in line to be assisted by a live agent, but can follow IVR prompts to pay the co-pay, at their convenience. You can also read our case study on Treebo, a chain of boutique hotels that allows customers to reserve and cancel bookings via self-service.
This IVR flow efficiently uses CRM integration and self-service to manage your call queues.
Plan call distribution
How do you distribute calls amongst your agents? Your ACD or Automatic call Distribution transfers calls to your agents. Broadly speaking, there are two ways of distributing these calls: evenly by number; or by talk time. You need to choose your method in such a way that it is fair to your agents.
When you have a sales team, each call is an opportunity to talk to a lead. So incoming calls should be distributed to agents in a round-robin manner. No matter how much time the agent spends on the call, the next call will go to the next agent and so on. In all cases when your agents’ sole function is not to answer calls, this is the best method of distribution.
When you have a dedicated support staff for answering calls, your ACD can be configured to “most idle agent”. The ADC sends calls first to the agent who has completed the least amount of talk time. This evenly distributes the workload amongst your agents.
Create call priority
It is important that callers don’t wait for long. But some callers are more important than others. Can your phone system recognize these callers and bump them up the call queue when call traffic is heavy? Yes, If you have good CRM integration, your telephony software can use Dynamic Queue Reprioritization to do this. Just decide what criteria based on which you will give some callers a priority over others. It could be their average order value, or an unresolved/escalated open ticket/complaint. Whatever the criteria, your telephony system will use your CRM data to recognize these callers by their phone numbers, and send them to the top of the call queue, whenever call queues are high.
Define fallback rules
Divert calls to voicemail or another skill group when call queues or wait times are long
Limit the time taken by callers to wait in the call queue by defining fallback rules. These rules come into play when the number of calls in the queue exceeds a certain limit. Or when call wait time exceeds a certain time limit. In these cases, calls can be diverted to another set of agents (fallback skill group) or voice mail.
Plan your staff
Use reports to see when call loads are high, and plan agents accordingly.
Access your reporting to understand lull and busy calling cycles and tweak your staffing accordingly. You can use part-time work-from-home staff for peak hours. Or keep other staff members free to pitch in during this time.
Reports can be accessed in real-time too, where supervisors can take necessary on the spot action to mitigate holds (re-route calls based on criteria such as agent availability/ skills, personally take calls, etc.).
Use voice mail and abandoned call alerts to plan callbacks
Have you made a caller wait so long in a queue that they hung up? Don’t worry, if you resolve their problem fast, you can still redeem yourself. Remember adding voicemail as a fallback when queue wait times are high(see point no. 4)? The system can be configured to send these voicemails directly to a supervisor’s email account, so callbacks are scheduled.
When customers hang up, the call is dropped or abandoned. Systems can be programmed to alert the agent/supervisor whenever this happens, so all abandoned calls can be accessed and callbacks to those numbers scheduled.
Contact center software solutions have given businesses many options to streamline the experience for both customers and agents. As this article illustrates, no matter what the size of your customer support center/help desk or contact center, managing call queues is not difficult. I hope it helps you deliver better queue management, efficient working, and happier customers in the days ahead.