Almost every contact center has to develop a strategy to deal with spikes in call volume. For some, spikes are a regular part of their traffic pattern. For others, spikes are unpredictable. Either way, the approach you take to deal with having more calls than you can handle says a lot about your company and – more importantly – sends a strong message to your customers.
We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the best way to deal with spikes (hint: automated call-backs). That’s not the only solution though! You can, for example, increase your staff, or divert more calls to self-service options. However, with all the different strategies you can consider, one that is always wrong is sending callers to voicemail.
What’s the Difference Between Voicemails and an Automated Call-Back?
One might think that allowing callers to leave a message and then calling them back is an acceptable form of a “call-back solution”. But the main difference is that a proper call-back system keeps the customer’s place in line (aka “virtual queuing”) and automatically connects the customer and the agent at the right time. The voicemail approach has a number of flaws that make it more damaging than you might think. In fact, you’re better off just to leave callers on hold! Here are five reasons you’re “gonna regret” sending callers to voicemail.
Flaw #1: You’re Gonna Mess-Up Your Scheduling
If callers are going to leave messages in a voicemail system, someone has to take the time to listen to those messages and call the customer back. How is this going to fit into your workforce management system? Some call centers make it part of an outbound calling campaign and “blend” it in with inbound traffic. The flaw there is that the priority of outbound campaigns is usually lower than handling inbound calls, and that priority can vary over time. A caller who requested a call-back should have the same priority level as any other inbound caller. If callers worry that the call-back option will not get them the same treatment they simply won’t use it.
Flaw #2: You’re Gonna Get Multiple Calls From the Same Person
What happens when a frustrated customer calls in multiple times and leaves multiple voicemails? There is no easy way to reconcile these messages into one “case”. So you might have more than one agent who will end up wasting time with duplicate effort. Even worse, that customer may have called in later, spoken to an agent, and had the issue resolved. Yet the voicemail is still sitting on your system. If that call-back is made, you’re wasting both the agent’s and the customer’s time!
Flaw #3: You’re Gonna Leave Your Callers in the Dark
Callers tell us sometimes that they are reluctant to accept offers of a call-back because they are skeptical that their wait time will really be the same as if they had stayed on hold. Hearing a prompt for a voicemail sends exactly the wrong message because people will associate this with the experience in their personal life. For example, “They’ll return my call when they get around to it.” Instead, your call center should strive to instill confidence that call-backs are honored and that the caller’s place in line really is held in the queue.
Flaw #4: You’re Gonna Mess Up Your Metrics
How will voicemails impact your key metrics? For example, what is the proper ASA for such a call? How does this two-piece interaction impact the First Call Resolution (FCR) average? A proper call-back system will keep your metrics “true” by combining the original call with its associated outbound call so that they are seen as one transaction.
Flaw #5: You’re Gonna Mess Up Your Call-Attached Data
Sending a caller to voicemail does an “end-run” around any CTI system that you may have installed. Agents will not have the context for the call or the screen-pop. So not only did the customer have to wait for a delayed call, the call performance was sub-par when it did happen. If you have invested in a CTI system, don’t sabotage it in this way.
In Conclusion – Just Say No!
It may seem like an “easy out” to simply divert excess traffic to voicemail, but this is ultimately detrimental to your brand, customer satisfaction, and call center performance. Even the best service providers experience periods of peak volume in their call center. When that happens, hold times inevitably go up which leads to lower customer satisfaction (CSAT), higher abandon rates, and higher telecom costs. If long hold-times become a big problem, contact centers basically have two choices: increase staff or offer call-backs.