Call centres play a crucial customer support role for countless companies and brands in the UK, and it can be a high pressure, stressful environment for staff dealing with frustrated callers. This has never been more true, with the pandemic limiting or completely shutting down access to in-person customer services.
To facilitate a motivated, healthy team, as well as good customer satisfaction rates, call centre efficiency needs to be part of your business planning. But how do you make sure that your teams have the tools and technology they need to manage call volumes and keep customers happy? Explore our business productivity tips on how to improve call centre and agent efficiency – from metrics and KPIs to using Facebook for customer services, or even giving your call centre a complete digital transformation.
Key call centre efficiency metrics
Let’s start with a quick overview of productivity and efficiency metrics for call centres and their agents. What key performance indicators (KPIs) should you consider using to measure how well (or not) your call centre is meeting your customers’ needs, as well as your business needs?
How you go about calculating your call centre and agent efficiency will depend a bit on the nature and objectives of your company. Make sure you think about your business goals and pick KPIs that correspond to these. However, there are some more general call centre metrics that you might want to consider, including:
- Average wait time: The average time callers have to wait in a queue.
- Average answer speed: The average time it takes for an agent to answer a customer call.
- Average handling time: The average amount of time an agent spends on the phone with a caller.
- Missed and declined calls: Calls that were either refused by an agent, or not picked up.
- Transfer rate: The number of calls that an agent transfers to other teams or departments.
- Abandoned in the queue: The number of customers who hang up while waiting in the queue.
Once you’ve decided on the most relevant metrics and made sure you have the tools to record them accurately, you’ll be able to measure your team’s performance over time and identify where improvements are needed.
How COVID-19 has impacted call centre efficiency
With many more staff members working remotely and the sudden need to handle high call volumes with fewer resources, the pandemic has put contact centre agents under pressure they’ve likely never experienced before.
For many businesses, agent efficiency in call centres has taken a beating, while wait times have ballooned as customers are calling in with problems that frontline team members can’t answer. Add to that, people getting annoyed when they’re put on hold for long periods of time – especially if they’re paying for the call – and you’ve got a recipe for high stress levels all around.
AI company Tethr studied one million customer service calls made to 20 large companies in various industries at the start of the pandemic. They found that difficult interactions had more than doubled compared to before the crisis – accounting for a hefty 20% of all calls.
Cut costs and reduce staff pressure with an effective call deflection strategy
Since the COVID-19 crisis disrupted just about all walks of life, many companies that have traditionally relied on telephone lines as their primary customer support channels are now considering digital call deflection strategies and techniques to boost their call centre efficiency statistics.
What does call deflection mean and what is a call deflection strategy?
Put simply, call deflection is when you decrease your call volume by offering your customers an alternative digital channel, either before or during a call. The goal is to provide more options, improved service, and a better customer experience – not avoid interaction with callers.
Your call deflection strategy is your plan for achieving this and should include which new tools you intend to use. These alternative call deflection channels are generally digital live chat, messaging or email. But it could include anything from companies using helpdesk software with WhatsApp and Facebook integration to Amazon customer service chatbots.
Aside from customer convenience, call deflection techniques can help you manage customer engagement more effectively – saving you time and money – by encouraging interactions that don’t need an instant response.
Call deflection vs call forwarding
Implementing call deflection solutions can be an effective strategy to improve the customer experience and better manage a high volume of incoming calls. Rather than putting customers on hold, or forwarding calls to other teams without having a clear picture of what the customer needs, call deflection techniques can help you funnel a portion of the calls to more efficient, digital channels.
Call deflection measurement
When considering call deflection rates and your definition of success, you’ll also want to think about the specific measurements and calculations you use to assess the impact of any new customer support channels.
While a reduction in call volume might be one of your targets, this doesn’t necessarily mean your call deflection strategy is working. Key questions to ask could include:
- Did the customer get the option to speak to someone?
- Was the enquiry properly addressed, or the issue resolved?
- Was the customer happy with the outcome?
- Is any follow-up action needed to clarify or complement the information offered?
Give your call centre a digital transformation and reap the rewards
The use of online channels like email, messaging, and social media accounts for call centres provides many advantages. Some of the more prominent among these are time-saving, alignment with customer habits, and access to the history of interactions.
Digital-first, always-on communication is now a reality, with younger consumers being mostly positive about digital as their preferred way of interacting. As this demographic becomes the dominant consumer group, businesses need to be able to respond to their preferences.
The pandemic has further accelerated the move towards digital business channels, so continuously exploring new ways to use technology in customer services – from the WhatsApp Business API to Google’s Business Messages – has never been more topical.
Offer more choice by using tools like WhatApp and Facebook for customer services
With more consumer interactions taking place on digital channels, offering choices – like easy access to social media call centre communications – will help you capitalise on this trend. Opening your call centre up to digital dialogues with your target audiences could pay off significantly, both in terms of customer satisfaction and sales or conversions.
People choose a channel based on their habits and convenience. Perhaps they are active on WhatsApp but not Facebook. Or they prefer texts to emails. Some people might feel more comfortable using Facebook Messenger for sensitive customer service data than they would giving it to you over the phone.
Companies that only offer phone and email support can also run into problems very quickly during peak times, as we know customers don’t like long queues or slow responses. Rather than trying to deal with busy periods by hiring more call centre staff and adjusting your schedule efficiency formula, adopt new technologies that offer smarter ways to resolve issues faster.
Thankfully, tech giants are making it easy for businesses to interact with customers digitally. Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, Google’s Business Messages, and Twitter offer additional opportunities to engage customers. As tech firms double down on building better consumer-to-business chat solutions, the importance of digital support is only set to grow.
Research your target audience to find out which social media platforms and apps they like to use, then consider how your business can use these channels to improve your call centre efficiency as well as your customer services.
Stay on top of customer interaction history and reduce repetition with a digital call centre
Forgetting previous interactions and asking a customer to repeat information often translates to a bad experience. One of the benefits of a digital call centre deflection strategy is that it can provide your agents with context, helping them resolve issues faster, without customers having to go over things again and again.
The context represents all the user’s information and history with your brand and can include user identities, previously visited pages, and contact reasons. This type of information is often stored in your CRM. When switching between channels, the context can be taken into account and sent to the agent via a secure token.
In addition, the agent (or chatbot) who manages the contact on the new channel can respond to the request in a more relevant way because they know that the user has already been deflected from a call. In this way, a digital call centre can help minimise the risk of annoying or frustrating customers.
Achieve a higher level of call centre efficiency at a lower cost
Agents can only talk to one person at a time over the phone, putting other customers on hold. On the other hand, in call centres that use social media and messaging apps, agents can deal with multiple queries simultaneously. As such, digital channels offer far greater efficiency and can help cut costs.
Of course, there are some issues where your customers are more likely to want help from a real person on the phone, such as payment disputes or missed deliveries. In those instances, it’s important they’re able to talk to an agent to escalate issues that frustrate them. Investing in technology that combines traditional channels with digital call centre solutions can help you cater more effectively to all of your customers’ needs.
With RingCentral, you can easily connect with consumers on the channels that work best for both your business and the people you want to engage. So, if you’re ready to give your customer services a digital overhaul and implement a call deflection strategy that boosts your efficiency metrics, have a look at our product demos – or get in touch and let’s see how we can help.
Originally published Oct 14, 2020, updated Jan 16, 2023