4 ways agents can handle unexpected high call volume while keeping callers happy and satisfied

Story points
Call spikes and why it’s necessary to handle these spikes

-Ways to handle:
1. offer a call back service
2. Encourage customers to move to chat when things are busy 
3. Direct customers to self-serve 
4. Work to improve average handling time and first call resolution rate.

Usually, when we talk about customer service, we focus on the things that can be planned well such as boosting NPS and CSAT, maintaining SLAs, exercising empathy and eventually keeping customers happy. That’s on a normal day with call volume that you can handle. But what happens when there is a customer service surge? One of the primary metrics to soar through the roof is call volume. That is when the challenge begins because once the call volume shoots up, the wait time increases, call resolution decreases along with a drop in customer satisfaction. Although surges in customer support are not necessarily new, they can leave agents feeling overwhelmed after its occasional occurrence. Having a proactive plan in place will make it easier for you to prepare and handle the situation when an unexpected surge hits and reduces or drastically improves your struggle to meet customer demand. 

Let’s start with the basics…

What exactly a call volume surge is?
Also known as high call volume, it refers to the drastic increase in the number of calls reaching the customer support centre as opposed to the regular call volume it normally handles. Research shows that the industry standard of a call volume surges to be 10 times over the usual rate of incoming or inbound calls.

Variability and unpredictability on a daily basis is the heart of call centre management. Sometimes call volume variance will be predictable based on historical information and existing data. Spikes during the holiday season are a good example. Other times you may not have as much data or notice on your side, therefore, leaving you blindsided to answer the rush of phone calls that accompany this unpredictable surge. For example, if the weather is really bad in a major delivery area, the customer support is going to be inundated with complaints from unhappy customers when their packages don’t arrive. 

Regardless of whether a situation is entirely predictable and planned or if it catches you by surprise, these four tips will help you handle volume spikes with a genuine human experience that will help your callers during trying times, without you getting stressed out in the process. 

1. Offer a call back service

Source: https://customersthatstick.com/

Customers with a grievance or a complaint and ‘staying on hold’ do not mix well together. The above statistics refer to how 1,100 respondents feel about customers waiting on hold and their views pertaining to the callback option. Customers, rightfully so, get frustrated while waiting for a response, while agents feel pressed and pressured trying to find a quick solution. You can remove the hassle of ‘wait time’ entirely by offering to call the customer back. The callback option is a win-win for both parties. By letting your customer know that a call back can be arranged, you are mitigating the risk of losing a customer by alleviating their current frustration and providing them with a smoother and seamless customer experience.

2. Encourage customers to move to chat when things are busy 

Source: Hubspot 

This graphical representation indicates a surge in customer-initiated live chat conversations, recorded by Hubspot in 2020. When the pandemic hit, the most attractive yet convenient channel for the customer support teams at Hubspot became live chat. Unlike conversing over the phone with a single caller each time, agents who interacted with customers over live chat proved to be more productive as they could work on various queries simultaneously and resolve multiple issues at the same time. Therefore by encouraging customers to move to live chat when things get busy, might help you resolve their issues better. This will enable you to ease out the stress on your phone lines while also helping you to provide speedy solutions to customer inquiries. 

3. Direct customers to self-serve 

Source: slideshare

It’s common for support representatives to receive the same questions over and over again during a call volume surge. Rather than fielding each query and spending time conversing with each customer, direct them to self-service resources like a knowledge base or a chatbot. These resources can contribute to customer satisfaction as the customer would not have had to stay on hold or wait for too long to attain a resolution. While the customer may be contacting you, all they really want is their issue addressed and solved. So the faster you direct them to available self-serving solutions, the faster their concerns and complaints are rectified. 

Source: superoffice.com

4. Work to improve average handling time and first call resolution rate
While there are certain metrics on the basis of which customer support professionals’ productivity and performance are measured by, the most important metrics such as Average Handling Time and First Call Resolution play a significant role in handling high volume calls efficiently. 

Source: Servetel

The purpose of AHT is to calculate the average time customers spend on a call, including conversation time and hold time. As an agent, if you focus on providing high quality and speedy responses and resolution, it results in an increase in customer satisfaction. But on the other hand, quick responses that lack quality can sabotage the entire process and strategy resulting in negative customer satisfaction. Consciously work on lowering the average handling time even when you do have the time to spare. Doing so will prepare you for when things get complicated and call volumes begin to surge. Reduced average handling time will indicate that you are capable of handling more customers, therefore resolving more complaints faster. 

Source: manage engine

Sure, the call volume is high but the customer only wants to contact you once to get his/her issue resolved or query answered. FCR is a metric that tracks the number of customers whose problems have been addressed and solved in the first interaction itself. By looking at the graph, you might be able to figure out that there is a strong cause-and-effect relationship between First call resolution and the customer’s satisfaction. Make sure to take the effort to establish a well-defined process that focuses on the continuous improvement of your FCR. This will prepare you for when you have to handle unanticipated call volume surges. 

Summing up
The spike in incoming customer calls must be seen as an opportunity to learn and handle such situations as it brings the probability of increased rates in lead conversion in the least amount of time. Despite various challenges, a high call volume scenario can put the agent’s skills to test making you a better customer support representative as such challenges can prepare the agent for every type of customer interaction. This spike can be viewed as an extended practical training lesson that helps the agent develop speed and provide quality. services.

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