Call centre waiting times seem to be getting longer and longer, and Australian consumers are getting more and more fed up with it.
An investigation by reporter Nat Wallace on Channel 9 earlier this year revealed the following wait times:
- The ATO had a wait time of 8 minutes (against an average wait time of 84 seconds)
- Transport and Main Roads – 2 minutes (on target)
- Medicare – 8 Minutes
- Centrelink – 1 hour 5 minutes (claiming an average wait time of 15 minutes). Last financial year there were 28 million “busy signals” experienced by Centrelink callers, and 4.1 million calls abandoned.
In Adelaide, figures released by the SA Government showed the longest wait time to reach the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL) in 2015-16 was 7 hours, and over half of the 43,161 calls made to CARL were abandoned before being answered.
We’ve also seen a number of gripes on review forums and social media about long wait times with some airlines, insurance centres and telco’s.
Obviously there are many reasons for long wait times, including:
- Insufficient staffing during peak periods
- An increase in customers needing help
- Contact Centre staff reductions
- Inadequate technology
Seven Tips for Reducing Call Wait Times
There are a number of things beyond the obvious “hire more staff” solution to reducing call wait times. The following is a list of some of the cheapest and most effective strategies.
1. Create processes for predictable requests
Retailer Billy Bauer of Royce Leather regularly reviews stats to identify basic technical questions and regular requests, and creates processes for proactively guiding customers while they are still at the POS or on the website. This strategy improves the customer experience and increases customer satisfaction, while achieving the goal of reducing avoidable calls.
This approach is also being implemented by insurers and other service organisations for routine activities like lodging claims, providing supporting information and receiving technical information.
2. Offer chat on your website
These days consumers respond well to web chat – and have come to expect it. A chat session can take half the time of a call, can be managed by an agent located anywhere, and unlike phone calls – multiple chats can be undertaken simultaneously. Read Webchat in contact centres for more information.
3. Increase your self-help options
Offer customers a range of self-help options so they’re not waiting and waiting. These can include:
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR): Our IVR software enables you to play pre-recorded instructions or questions to your customers, respond to speech answers or telephone keypad entries, and move them to the queue or self-service option they need, quickly and easily. It also shares data with our Active Call Distribution (ACD) software so your agents have all the information they need, when they answer the call, which reduces average handling time.
- Mobility Service: As most people these days use their mobile phone to call, mobile customer experience service reduces call abandonment rates, increases self-service usage and improves the customer experience by displaying options whilst they’re waiting in a queue – directly to their phone. You could notify them of expected wait time, ask for customer identification details, provide self-service suggestions, or enable them to request a callback whilst retaining their place in the queue.
4. Implement overflow queueing
Manage unexpected call spikes by overflowing calls based on static or dynamic thresholds; calls can be redirected to other queues, recorded messages, voicemail, or external destinations. Proactive communication and setting expectations is the key to reducing frustration and anger. Explain that you have a high level of activity at present, and give people an indication of wait times and the option to wait, request a call back or seek self-help on your website.
5. Have a Business Continuity Plan ready
Create a Business Continuity plan which can be implemented within minutes during an ‘emergency’ period – like weather events, and technical outages, accidents, etc. The plan needs to have been developed with input from Contact Centre team leaders and Communications executives, and all customer facing staff given detailed training in how to implement, with clear directions on who does what, and when. This could include recording an event related message that can be first played to callers upon connection, updating the website and social media assets with details of the event and expected delays, and giving customers a course of action – like request a call back, check your site for updates, etc. People are much more empathetic and patient if you are proactive with your communications.
6. Use plain english
Make sure all your documents are written in clear unambiguous English (and other languages). This includes FAQs, technical manuals, forms, conditions, instructions and emails.
Communications specialist Jessica Ordonez reports that not only does this improve the customer experience, but significantly reduces costs. She cites the case of General Electric adopting plain English for its software manual, and seeing the number of support calls for each customer decrease by 125, and savings ranged between $22,000 and $375,000 per customer.
One of the best ways to do this is to give a new employee the task of reading all important documentation and highlighting everything they don’t understand. Alternatively it could be a task for a writer to do – one who has little knowledge of your company or your industry.
7. Match peaks and troughs
Rostering teams to meet peaks and troughs in contact centre traffic is hard work and can involve many hours of analysis and juggling. If you use a well-designed Workforce Optimisation solution you can balance contact volumes, skilled staff availability, rosters, performance KPIs and budgets whilst consistently delivering optimal customer experience levels. Overall, it saves a lot of time and money.
Call Centre waiting times summary
The objective should be to have systems and processes in place, so that calling your contact centre is the last option for customers – the option they resort to when they can’t get fast resolution another way.