20 ideas for reducing call volumes and waiting times – and improving customer experience


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Every second that a customer hangs on the phone to your centre is costly:
• Someone is paying the phone bills
• Every second the customer is hanging on, they’re losing patience
• Getting the staff numbers right is a notoriously hard game to win
• Too many staff and you’re losing money; too few and the customers get grumpy

In this light, it’s worth looking at ways you can reduce the numbers of calls you get, which in turn will reduce waiting times and raise your customer satisfaction scores and your profits.
Here’s a list of 20 aspects of your business that you can affect in order to reduce volumes of both inbound and outbound calls. Each of these suggested changes will make a small difference, and cumulatively will make a significant reduction over time.
We know that not all these changes will apply to all businesses, but we hope that our ideas will help get your creative juices flowing.

Alternative methods of contact

“We are now part of a multi-channel experience and our role in providing a coherent customer experience lies in our ability to support the business in meeting customer expectations to interact with organisations using their channel of choice”: from the Executive Summary, Dimension Data’s Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report

1. Investigate options for automation of email, SMS, web-chat, and Instant Messaging (e.g. Chatter on SalesForce) for communication with other departments and customers
2. Prioritise which types of outbound calls to customers and other departments could be replaced by Agent-generated and/or automated SMS or email
3. Does your CRM system have a ‘Preferred Contact Method’ field? Can such a field be added in? On first contact with a new customer (or repeat calls from existing customers, where you don’t have this information) brief your Agents to ask customers which is their ‘Preferred Contact Method’: telephone, SMS, email or IM. The customer’s choice should then be used for all routine contact.

P.S. In this context a ‘CRM System’ does not necessarily pre-suppose a multi-million pound all-singing piece of software. There are still many companies out there operating paper-based systems which work remarkably well.

IVR Options

4. Which types of simple/repetitive call could be handled by self-serve IVR? We understand that this approach might not fit with your current contact strategy. It may also be the case that your centre receives such a wide variety of calls, and a small volume of each type, that this line of thought may not be worth pursuing; but do at least give the idea some consideration
5. Does your IVR menu need to be reviewed? Is it too complicated? Or too simplistic? Remember that while IVR can increase your efficiency, it’s frequently Number One on customers’ ‘Hate List’
6. Do you assess what happened to calls which abandoned in the IVR? Which types of calls? From whom? At what stage do they abandon? Are there common causes why they abandon, over and above wait time?

Internal Comms

7. Formal communication (updated as often as needed) to all internal departments which have direct contact with your centre (e.g. Sales, Engineers, Managers) detailing precisely which queries the Contact Centre Team do and don’t handle, and which calls are un-necessary.
8. An example of un-necessary calls: we have recent experience of a client operation where Engineers often called in to ask has an appointment been set. Since they get an automated SMS telling them the details of all appointments, the absence of an SMS should be taken by default to mean ‘no’
9. Over the years, has your Contact Centre become an unofficial switchboard/helpdesk/directory enquiries for the whole of your organisation?


10. Investigate the options for and against a ‘division of labour’ for various times of day; for example into ‘Handling Inbound Calls’, ‘Making Outbound Calls’ and ‘Pure Admin Activities’ (off the phones)
11. Investigate the viability of an outsourced contact centre acting as a overflow during periods of exceptionally busy inbound traffic. The outsourcer could offer a range of options, from simply taking messages right up to e.g. setting appointments for Sales people or Engineers
12. Is your broadband speed sufficient to ensure fast loading of screens? If not, this could be a false economy

Skills and Knowledge

13. Do your Agents have access to a Knowledge Base/FAQ/Troubleshooting facility? If not, investigate how this could be set up and who will be the champion to keep the resource updated
14. If your centre was originally set up as a service centre and you are now expecting them to up-sell, give them additional training. Alternatively, recruit a specialist team to undertake sales calls. Sales needs a different mind-set and skills-set and should not be simply an add-on to the Service team’s routine calls

Metrics and Targets

In addition to what you might regard as ‘routine’ metrics (talk time, numbers of calls, numbers of sales, conversion rates etc) there are some other stats which are worth gathering – if your systems allow. We appreciate that it is difficult to get reliable stats for some of these.

15. Can you measure first-call resolution? If you can, you should make it a personal target for each agent
16. Can you measure how many calls have been inappropriately escalated? i.e. the issue should have been resolved by the first-liner, but perhaps an AHT target assumed more importance than c-sat.
17. Can you measure how many calls it takes to resolve a query? Can you set a target around this?
18. Can you target lower internal transfers? A certain number is inevitable, but can you set a threshold? Can you count mis-routed internal transfers? Per Agent?
19. Can you report on how timely Agents’ responses have been to queries of all types? Ditto for promised call backs made within the agreed time frame?
20. Do you measure complaints? Do you know the main causes? What can you do to rectify recurring mistakes?

Kieron Murphy
I have over 25 years' experience in management, leadership, and training. Much of my time is spent on the operational side of the customer contact business, both in-house and outsourced. This gives me very practical skills in coming up with common-sense solutions, which produce significant measurable improvements in results and motivation. I have excellent interpersonal skills and believe passionately in the links between good people-management, leadership, the power of teamwork, enjoyment, and commercial success.


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