If you think that hold times are harmless, think again because customers think that they’re being ignored and this makes them think less of your business. Now more than ever, the customer is in control and wants your business to be at their beck-and-call at the moment they call. But when it comes to your virtual call center, you’re in control and you need to manage your staff and support to respond to callers needs.
While it’s virtually impossible for a virtual call center to answer every call immediately, a recent study by IfbyPhone revealed some surprising statistics that showed wait times were way too long, callers were sent to voicemail too often, and hang-ups were much too high. The study analyzed call data from Q1 of 2013 for companies with a wide range of call volume.
Yet while the results were far from a ringing endorsement, consider them a wakeup call about the need to improve your phone support. But how do you know how to respond?
Fortunately, we’ve provided answers to your call for guidance by analyzing the hang-ups in this report along with other recent research to help you better connect with callers.
- Hang-Up #1: According to the IfbyPhone study, 60% of incoming calls were answered in just over a minute. Well, that was way too long for callers and 15% of study participants hung up, with most hanging up right after 40 seconds.Answer: This is a lesson that calls must be answered in less than 40 seconds. Remember, every hang-up is an unhappy customer, so pick up your customer satisfaction by quickly picking up the phone.
- Hang-Up #2: The IfbyPhone study also showed that the average time a caller waited on hold was 56 seconds. Companies with the smallest call volume (less than 500 calls during Q1) averaged a hold time of 1 minute and 47 seconds, while companies with medium-sized call volumes (500 to 1,500 calls during Q1) averaged 39-second hold times. Companies with large call volumes (1,500 to 10,000 calls in Q1) had holds of 45 seconds, while the hold times averaged 52 seconds for extra-large companies (more than 10,000 calls in Q1.)Answer: Callers hate to wait and most callers in the study hung up after waiting 40 seconds for their calls to be answered. Use that 40 seconds as a benchmark and realize that every second more means less business and satisfaction. Impart that lesson into your training so your staff knows not to keep callers waiting for more than 40 seconds or they run the risk of racking up hang ups.
- Hang-Up #3: Now dial back to the fact that companies with the smallest call volume had the longest hold times, averaging 1 minute and 47 seconds. This is likely due to limited resources. And even though callers were willing to wait longer perhaps due to their awareness of the company’s smaller size, the message is clear that even small companies need sufficient phone support.Answer: While there’s no magic number for staff, call center managers must ensure that they have enough staff to rapidly and responsibly handle their call volume. Even though callers were willing to wait a bit longer for smaller companies, those waits still make a big impression and they could cause callers to seek out bigger brands with smaller waits next time.
- Hang-Up #4: Speaking of the need to actually speak to callers, a recent report on enhancing the customer’s call center experience revealed that one of the biggest trends driving call centers is the need to invest in better and brighter staff. The report by call center leader Avaya explained that customers who want human help generally have more complex issues that call for agents with specialized knowledge. But traditionally, and still today, most call center staff have been entry-level workers earning minimum wage with very basic training. This results in frustrated customers who either call back multiple times in search of answers (which only increases call volume and hold times) or completely unsatisfied customers who take their business to brands that answer their needs and their calls.Answer: Before you get hung up over hiring costs, understand that your phone support staff represents your company and they are often the only direct contact that customers have with you. They are also a source of additional sales since agents are increasingly asked to upsell and cross-sell to customers who call with questions. Most importantly, customers who call now expect your phone support staff to be well versed on the company and its products. As a result, all of these factors are driving the trend toward hiring more-educated and experienced agents for a proportionally higher wage. Now it’s your call… either invest in higher-quality phone support or pay the price for the sake of savings.
- Hang-Up #5: Let’s talk about voicemail and how the IfbyPhone study found that 22% of callers were sent to voicemail. Hold the phone… that means that almost one-quarter of callers were veered to voicemail, with 13% of them sent straight to voicemail when agents were unavailable, plus 5% when the wait time surpassed the maximum limit, and 4% when there were too many callers in the queue.Answer: Realize that when customers call your company, they want to talk to a person or at least have their call answered. Being forced to leave a voicemail message will most likely leave a bad taste in their mouths and probably leave a bad impression of your business. Once again, the answer comes down to staffing and the need to have enough phone support to truly support the call volume. Of course, you want to run your virtual call center efficiently, but cutting costs by cutting staff will also cut your sales and satisfaction levels.
- Hang-Up #6: Speaking of satisfaction, another call center trend is the focus on the quality of customer interactions rather than quantity-centric metrics. The Avaya report explained that many call centers still base their agent performance on basic metrics like call duration and call volume per hour. Today, these metrics have become less relevant as the emphasis has shifted to customer satisfaction and resolution efficiency.Answer: No one is saying to abandon standard operational metrics, but companies should reassess what is important to their business both today and tomorrow. Then, they need to connect those priorities to their call center processes and make their metrics respond to those goals.
Now that you have a hold on ways to greatly improve your call center, don’t wait to make the changes that can lead to real results. Numbers don’t lie and trends ring true, so use the recent research to enhance your operation and stay in touch with callers’ needs.
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Written by Michael Del Gigante