Call centers should always have open lines - that's obvious. But all too often customers hear busy signals when they call in, frustrating them and tarnishing your reputation. The simplest way to avoid this issue without taking on more staff is to employ an IVR, an interactive voice response system. Most large companies use them, but they are effective tools for small and medium-sized operations as well. Although many consumer questions can be addressed without reaching agents, you need to make certain that your system allows customers a way to easily reach a real person when necessary.
Outgoing call issues can be a bigger concern. Your company may be suffering from an excess of blocked outgoing calls because your carrier or another third party is blocking them or flagging them as spam. This action handicaps your efforts and labels you as an undesirable business. Your best defense from being unfairly blocked is to monitor your call numbers and register a complaint with the FCC if you are being wrongly targeted.
Queue Wait Time
Consumers almost universally complain about phone queue wait times, particularly when it comes to a government agency like the IRS, but any extended wait will put them in the wrong mood for a successful transaction. Research shows that the average person will spend 43 days of their life on hold. Wait time should be one of your most important call center KPI benchmarks. Consumers do grow impatient and hang up when they are kept waiting for too long, something you never want to happen.
Again, an IVR is one of the best tools you can use to combat excessive wait times. A superior system will route each customer to the right agent to handle their inquiry instead of letting them get lost in the "press one," "press two," "press pound" confusion that results when your IVR is less than adequate.
Your business success depends to some degree on your abandonment rate. Callers who are left waiting too long for an agent or who are shuffled around to various people grow weary and hang up. Once they abandon their call, your relationship with them may be at an end. In fact, more than one in three customers will never call back after hanging up due to a long queue wait time. And to customers, a long wait time is anything longer than one minute. Research shows that approximately 60% of those kept waiting for sixty seconds will hang up.
An IVR allows your callers to be active and not simply wait when they call. They get to make choices that should quickly lead them to the right agent or message. A good system should get them to the right place quickly, although not always under a minute.
Keeping track of your abandonment rate allows you to address peak calling times so you can add more agents during high demand and offer other training that will help reduce the number of abandoned calls.
Once a caller reaches the right agent, they expect quick, decisive action. That's why you should monitor the amount of time each agent spends on the phone with customers. Most call centers routinely record their representatives and then go over these calls with them to help improve service. Some calls will necessarily be long, but an agent's average call time should be relatively short although determined by the nature of the call. Each industry will set its own standards, but usually, the average call should only be a few minutes in duration.
When you spot issues that are slowing down calls, you can provide more training to agents or address issues that are causing a high number of customer complaints. For instance, the insurance industry is slammed with calls at the beginning of every year due to new customers and changes in policy terms. They routinely provide more training and add staff during this time. They can also spot problems such as incorrect deductibles on new insurance cards and alert management.
First Call Resolution
You cannot overemphasize the importance of first call resolution. Customers expect that their issue will be handled the first time they contact you. If they are asked to call back or wait for a return call from you, they will not be satisfied. And if more than two contacts are necessary, your customer may well stop using your services.
Complex calls sometimes lead to customers being transferred to other departments or agents. If they receive different answers from these agents, they will definitely be unhappy.
To prevent this situation, train your employees on how to resolve most issues with one call. Make certain that each department follows the same phone protocol and gives your agents the resources they need to get your customers the right answers. Create a follow-up procedure for calls that were not resolved after the first contact so that they are promptly addressed.
After Call Work
Your agent's after call work is as important as the actual phone call. Proper documentation is key to preserving your brand's reputation. If a customer calls back, the agent who gets that call must be able to quickly get information from previous call records. Customers do not want to explain their issues over and over again. Also, agents need to provide resolution details.
This type of documentation does take time and keeps agents from answering new calls. That is why you need advanced CRM software. With the right program, your agents can quickly enter the necessary after call information and then return to their call queue. Your customers get better service, and your agents are more productive.
Your agents' occupancy rate is determined by handle time plus after call time. It's simply the total time your agent spends on one phone call. As with the other two metrics, you need to work to keep the average occupancy rate as low as possible. Keep tabs on the call center's occupancy rate as well as the occupancy rate of individuals. If the number is too high or is increasing, consider adding new software as well as providing non-threatening coaching to your employees on ways to reduce their occupancy number.
If customers think your service is poor, your business is in trouble, no matter how excellent your products are. They will punish your failing in this area by canceling your services, returning products, etc. Your brand can easily be ruined if you provide inferior customer service.
Your customer service efforts include all of the above call center KPI benchmarks and also some intangibles such as agent attitude. There is no one way to determine customer satisfaction, but surveys delivered right after the call can be effective. You should also monitor your complaint calls and look at online reviews and social media comments. By being vigilant, you can notice negative trends before the situation becomes critical. Again, providing your agents with the right tools and training is key to your success.
Industry KPI Benchmark Stats
Each industry has its own set of challenges and areas where they excel. These are some standard statistics for how industries vary in KPI measurements.
Software and Internet
- 15% Abandonment Rate
- 4.27s Queue Times
- 4.50s Answer Speed
- 12% Abandonment Rate
- 3.50s Queue Times
- 4.48s Answer Speed
- 10% Abandonment Rate
- 2.49s Queue Times
- 4.95s Answer Speed
Healthcare, Pharma and Biotech
- 13% Abandonment Rate
- 2.25s Queue Times
- 3.22s Answer Speed
16% Abandonment Rate
3.24s Queue Times
3.50s Answer Speed
As you can see, each industry has its more vulnerable areas, but all can benefit from improved IVR and CRM software and enhanced training. Analyzing your call center KPI benchmarks is the first step to finding solutions for your business.
You won't find magic solutions to your KPI weaknesses, but simply tracking and addressing them makes a huge difference. Once you are aware of specific issues, you can acquire the right tools to improve your customer service and strengthen your brand.