Call center queues to optimize productivity for businesses even though they irk customers. The trade-off seems destined to offer a lesser customer experience. There are many ways to optimize to improve customer experience.
Strategizing your call center queue with tools like IVR systems ensures customers will get a more personalized experience.
You must make the queuing process as stress-free as possible since 1 in 3 Americans say that they’d be willing to switch companies after only one instance of a poor customer service level.
Why Do Queue Times Matter?
One survey showed that 75% of all lost customers were the result of excessively long waiting times. This may seem like bad news but it’s reassuring as well since it means you could potentially increase customer retention by 75% if you speed the queue up.
But how long is too long? What is the threshold for call center queue times? How long can you go without losing customers? Well, it’s likely shorter than you think since an American Express study showed that the majority of customers are only willing to wait on hold for 12 minutes before they hang up.
This can cause major problems for large companies that get large call volumes daily since their customer service department may be unable to get to every caller promptly. Fortunately, this article will show you how to leverage software as a solution to this problem.
Call Center Queue Theory
Various aspects of queuing theory have been automated thanks to advancements in technology. These new systems run smoother due to ACDs — automatic call distributors — and other virtual queuing technology that handles outbound and inbound calls in real-time.
Round robin systems have also optimized the efficiency of most queuing models since the software can power them autonomously without the need for any human input. This reduces the odds of any error or wasted time occurring in comparison to systems that rely solely on humans.
Lastly, there’s been a slight reduction in the importance of call center queue theory on the macro scale because knowledge base help desks can help customers solve their issue through self-service before the incoming calls are even picked up by an agent.
How Do You Optimize Call Center Queues?
The key to optimizing call center queues, cutting wait times, and improving first call resolution rates requires adjustments across your call center. Here are the ten steps to bring your figures up.
Step 1: Simplify IVRs
The IVR systems menu is instrumental to any call center’s queue management. It helps you route calls to the appropriate department from the get-go so that you don’t waste time forwarding queued calls around the office.
However, as the saying goes, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. The last thing you’d want to have is an overly long IVR menu as this will lead to a higher rate of call abandonment and caller frustration. Anything beyond three layers in IVR systems generally qualifies as overkill.
Of course, there are some exceptions, but the rule holds in most scenarios. There are many situations where callers could lose track of their place in the IVR menu, making it more difficult for them to reach an agent.
This is something that you must avoid at all costs since IVRs that are properly utilized can be your greatest ally in saving time and keeping your call center queues running smoothly — but they can also be your worst enemy in cases of poor execution.
Step 2: Use Flexible Call Flows
The next thing you should do is ensure that your IVR call flow is configured in the most efficient manner possible. The configuration of your call flow determines how easily callers can reach agents.
When picking out call center software, factor in ease-of-use into your buying decision. The software that makes it easy for you to structure a simple-yet-flexible call flow should be prioritized over solutions that sacrifice usability in favor of bells and whistles.
Be sure to map all your external contacts, agent groups, and individual agents to the right call flows as this will optimize the overall system. Callers will appreciate this seamless experience whenever they contact you.
This step alone will show customers that you make an effort to be accessible. The benefit isn’t all on their end though since you’ll also be able to reduce your operating costs when optimizing the call flow.
Step 3: Audit Your Workforce
We know the word audit strikes fear in the hearts of many businesses, but it can help you in situations about customer satisfaction. The human element is oftentimes the key to the entire equation.
You could have the most sophisticated call center software in the world and couple it with a perfectly tuned call flow, but it still wouldn’t make a difference if your workforce management isn’t up to par. The good news is that gathering data on your workforce is surprisingly easy.
The first thing to measure is the scale of your workforce. Are you adequately staffed or is the call center team understaffed? Like any department, support teams will struggle to perform effectively if they’re spread too thin.
If you notice that hold times are on a rapid increase, then this is indicative of an agent shortage in your call center. The only way to resolve the issue is to hire more people so that agents can focus on each call without having to juggle cases.
It might seem costly to invest in expanding your employee pool but it’ll pay off in the long run by helping you acquire new customers and retain the ones you already have. This puts your company in an ideal position for growth.
Step 4: Integrate Workflows
One thing that has been known to slow down the speed at which call center queues move is agents who spend far too much time on every individual call. This is understandable since no support representative wants to rush through things for fear of making a mistake.
That being said, there’s a fine balance between rushing to the point of detriment and working at an efficient pace. There’s one way that you can help your agents reduce their average time on each call without reducing the quality of support that they provide.
You can achieve this by integrating your workflow with call center software. Switching back and forth from one application to the next can increase the average wait time. Fortunately, modern software has made it possible to integrate multiple solutions onto a sole platform.
If your agents can view all the caller information on a single dashboard, then they’ll be able to provide targeted support at much faster speeds — boosting company efficiency and ensuring that your customers stay happy.
Step 5: Provide Alternative Contact Options
When customers call your hotline, they want to speak to the next available agent. There’s no question about their intent. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a failsafe that provides other options when the ideal solution isn’t available.
Rather than saying “our agents are busy please stay on hold or call back later” you could provide the option of leaving a voicemail. This will help customers send their concerns to the support department then get back to work while they wait instead of listening to hold music.
Another approach would be to let customers request an automatic callback to their phone number. This is better than making them wait in the call queue for half an hour since time will seemingly pass faster if they’re preoccupied with other tasks.
Customers are also more likely to leave negative reviews over long call times in comparison to slow call-backs. Lastly, you could try redirecting their call to an empty queue based on the availability of your live agents so that they can get the help they need immediately.
Most contact center software lets you configure redirection settings through the admin panel. By providing more options to your callers, you’ll be able to protect your company image and improve customer satisfaction.
Step 6: Implement Predictive Behavioral Routing
Of course, no optimization guide would be complete without advice on how to leverage AI. Predictive behavioral routing is one of the best AI applications for call centers because it can direct customers to the appropriate department based on their behavior.
Software solutions that use predictive behavioral routing look at the communication habits of both the agent and the caller to ensure that the interaction is as positive as possible on both ends. This satisfies customers while reducing the stress of your human agents.
This two-pronged call routing approach is so effective because it puts your customers in a mindset that will be easier for your agents to deal with so that they can perform better under the job. Many call center agents agree that a steady stream of agitated customers can cause burnout.
There are so many ways that machine learning can influence the way we communicate, and predictive behavioral routing is only the beginning. If you’re looking for call tracking software that utilizes this technology, then check out our review of Phonewagon.
Step 7: Utilize Predictive Lead Scoring
Of course, call centers can be just as much for sales as they are for customer support. That’s where predictive lead scoring comes into play. In a nutshell, it ranks the value of potential customers based on who is most likely to do business with your company.
You’re probably wondering how this impacts your call center queues. Well, sales teams can often be bombarded with high call volumes when a new product or service launches — bringing the question of who to prioritize.
Without predictive lead scoring, there would be no way of knowing which callers are most likely to convert into a customer. By integrating predictive lead scoring with your call center software, you’ll be able to send the highest-ranking prospects to the best sales agents.
Matching the most valuable leads to the right closers can give your conversion rate a massive boost and increase your overall revenue. This is why it’s so important to use these emerging technologies together to get the most bang for your buck.
Step 8: Record Calls
Analytics that gauge the performance of your call center is essential because they can show you what areas to improve on. For instance, the “first call resolution rate” is one of the most important metrics that you can use to measure the efficacy of your call center.
Solving an issue for customers in a single call means better satisfaction ratings, less queue time for other callers, and lower operating costs for the center as a whole. The call recording data that you gather can make it easier for agents to self-manage.
They’ll be able to track problematic patterns in the way they communicate with callers so that they can correct it before the issue grows. By recording calls, you provide a platform for growth that lets agents perform at their best and nip bad habits in the bud.
Step 9: Set Automatic Time Limits
The vast majority of call center solutions let you set time limits for your call center queues. As we mentioned above, the upper limit of the amount of wait time customers will endure is 12 minutes. We wouldn’t recommend getting that close though.
Which duration is right for your business depends on the industry that it’s in as well as the intent of the caller. If it’s a support queue, then you can get away with slightly longer hold times since people are eager to resolve their issues.
In contrast, incoming sales callers are less likely to hang around if they aren’t rapidly connected to an agent. Once you set your limit, the customer will automatically be directed to voicemail after the time has elapsed — preventing unnecessary frustration during peak business hours.
Step 10: Define Queue Size Caps
To optimize your call center queue, you have to be honest with yourself about its upper limitations. Of course, you should always invest in expanding your pool of agents whenever possible but that’s not always financially feasible.
If your company doesn’t have the necessary financial foundation to hire more call center agents, then you should consider lowering the maximum queue size on your admin panel. This will reduce negative feedback by directing callers to voicemail when the queue is already full.
This will prevent the worst-case scenario of a customer calling during peak hours, waiting in the queue for what feels like an eternity, and then publishing their negative experience in an online review aggregator.
Customer Experience Doesn’t End at Call Center Queues
Using call queuing solutions for your phone systems will improve other KPIs like resolution ratios and conversion rates while also reducing call abandonment rates. This takes customer experience management to the next level.
Statistics show that customer satisfaction with call centers has been steadily dropping over the past decade. This is likely due to higher expectations rather than an actual drop in the quality of service.
Lastly, queuing software, when used in tandem with call center dialers, can make a big impact on your marketing campaigns. The combination of shorter wait times and streamlined outreach work together as a force multiplier for your company.