Customers often cite long wait times as one of the primary reasons for having had a bad experience with a business. This includes time spent on hold and time spent being passed from agent to agent, trying to get a problem solved or a question answered.
Creating a positive customer experience is vital to the health of your company. While attracting new customers is important, customer retention should always be your top priority. Repeat customers who love your products and services are the customers who are most likely to leave positive reviews or recommend you to a friend.
Reducing long customer wait times benefits both the business and the customers.
What Are The Causes of Long Wait Times?
When you don’t have enough staff to take customer calls, answer emails, or respond to social media inquiries, your overall level of customer service will suffer. Hold times increase, and so does customer frustration. This problem plagues many businesses and finding a solution that works for both you and your customers may seem like an insurmountable challenge. Fortunately, there are solutions.
High call volumes
There could be a number of reasons that your company is experiencing higher than normal call volumes. High call volumes may cause long customer wait times due to seasonal traffic, new product or service rollouts, product defects, outages, etc. Whatever the reason, high call volumes lead to long wait times. Long wait times will often result in customer dissatisfaction.
Inefficient call routing systems
If you are working with an inefficient call routing system and it’s taking longer for the customer to reach the right person to help them, that can cause increased frustration for everyone. Navigating a time-consuming and inefficient phone system followed by the experience of being passed around to the wrong person before being put on hold to wait for the right person can leave customers with a seriously negative impression of your business.
Technical issues or system downtime
Technical issues are another frequent cause of long customer wait times. System downtime and tech issues do happen, but the more they happen the more likely it will be for a business to lose customers, see negative reviews online, and receive complaints about their service. A system that runs smoothly with as little downtime as possible results in happier customers.
What Strategies Can Resolve the Issue of Long Wait Times?
Using data, organizations can begin to piece together the story of why customer calls are spending so much time on hold.
Increasing Staffing Levels
Staff shortages can certainly result in longer customer wait times. While the idea that you might need to hire additional staff probably has you panicking, it’s important to take an honest look at what unhappy customers might be costing your business. Customers who never return, customers who blast you on social media or review sites chip away at your revenue. You might not be able to quantify it, but the reality is that people do look at reviews and listen to friends and family when making buying decisions.
Aside from hiring new staff, there are other strategies that can help you keep your customers happy during their interactions with your business.
Conduct workload analysis to determine optimal staffing requirements
The first step is to analyze your workload using data. Does your current method work? Are you sure? Is there a way to redistribute your staffing load to maximize customer satisfaction? What can you adjust to accommodate overwhelmed customer service agents?
Hire and train additional customer care representatives
Hiring and training more customer care agents is an obvious solution to shortages. When customers are cared for, they will be happier with your product or service. When they are happy you tend to do more business. How relaxing would it be to know that your staff can handle not only the current volume but also an increase in call volume?
What happens when your already stretched team gets an influx of new customers? How long are you going to keep those new customers if you don’t have enough team members to keep them happy? When something unexpected happens that impacts your business and suddenly, your call volume spikes drastically in response, how will an understaffed call center handle a sudden increase in call volume?
This is exactly why it is essential to have enough customer service representatives to handle the current workload. Sometimes this means hiring new employees. Another solution may be to train existing employees to take calls or perform other customer service functions. The more employees that can function as customer care representatives, the better. Having adequate coverage should always be a priority.
Implement flexible scheduling to accommodate peak call volumes
Another solution that doesn’t involve hiring new staff is creating an efficient scheduling system that allows for maximum coverage during peak call times.
Let’s look at a day in the life of a call center rep. Reps may come in for their shift and find a million emails that require their response, calls to return, and follow-up tasks left over from the previous day. While they are trying to play catch up, the phone is ringing because most people make their phone calls early in the day to get them out of the way. Mornings tend to be a high-volume time of day for some businesses, and reps will be working frantically to put out fires while catching up on their work from the previous day.
Fast forward a few hours and calls have slowed and won’t pick up again until later in the afternoon or evening. It depends on the type of business, of course. Why not implement flexible schedules so that you have more people answering phones during those peak times, and fewer people sitting around during off-peak hours?
Improve Call Routing Systems
Implement intelligent call routing algorithms based on customer preferences and agent availability.
Wouldn’t it be great if your call routing system intuitively sent customers where they needed to go? As a strategy to reduce long customer waiting times, intelligent call routing will send your customer to an agent who is available and has the skills and authority required to resolve your customer’s call efficiently.
Utilize interactive voice response (IVR) systems to categorize and prioritize calls
IVR systems can help organize calls and route them to the right person, as well as reduce call volume by answering easy questions for customers. The voice response system helps people get the solutions they need quickly and easily, reducing the number of calls coming in to live agents. This alleviates the stress on agents while helping customers by answering their frequently asked questions.
Of course, talking to a live person should always be an option, but many customers are happy to just have their problems solved quickly so they can move on with their day.
Integrate live chat and chatbots to divert non-urgent queries from phone lines
For easily solved issues like making payments, live chat systems and chatbots can do a lot of the heavy lifting while making your customer’s life easier. These technologies can reduce long customer wait times by allowing customers to perform simple customer service tasks in a self-serve manner. While there will always be those who prefer to speak to a live agent, many people are happy enough to quickly pay their bill, update information, or access a simple selection of FAQs or other information. They would prefer not to wait for an agent and just get things done.
Chatbots are ideal for handling many of your day-to-day customer issues so that your staff can focus their attention on the more complex customer service issues.
Provide Self-Service Options
Develop a comprehensive knowledge base or FAQ section on the company website
Any business website should have a detailed and easy-to-access base of knowledge. This goes under the category of self-serve options, services that empower customers and prospective customers to get answers and solutions without having to pick up the phone or compose an email. This not only reduces time-consuming phone calls and repetitive questions but also gives people access to pertinent information any time of day or night, at their leisure.
Encourage customers to utilize self-service options through proactive communication and education.
One way to do this is to make sure your website is easy to navigate. Make sure information is laid out in a way that makes sense. Encourage customers to use these options in lieu of calling by making it an easy first choice. Make sure they don’t have to dig around your website or phone tree to get this information.
Enhance Agent Efficiency and Effectiveness
Provide comprehensive training to agents on problem-solving, communication, and customer service skills
Of all the tips here, this is the most important. Staff should be thoroughly trained and empowered to solve problems, communicate effectively, and approach customer inquiries with compassion. A desire to please is also a huge asset. Reducing long customer wait times is easier when your agents know how to help customers. No customer should be passed off to three different people to solve a simple billing problem. Customers shouldn’t have to repeat their inquiry multiple times. This doesn’t help the customers and it doesn’t help the agents, either.
Use call scripts and templates for common issues to streamline responses
Efficiency comes from consistency. While there are times you will need to problem solve on the fly, there are far more occasions where a predictable, uniform template or script can handle calls in a way that saves time and leaves the customer satisfied.
Invest in advanced customer relationship management (CRM) systems to provide agents with access to relevant customer information
Advanced CRM systems allow for improved customer care, reduced wait times and fewer duplicative exchanges of information. Customers get frustrated when they don’t feel heard, are forced to repeat themselves, and don’t feel valued. When agents have access to pertinent customer data, they can help customers faster and engage the customers in a more personal manner.
Offer Alternative Communication Channels
Live chat services and instant messaging are both necessities. Some people prefer them to phone calls. When a customer is on your website and needs answers, live chat can provide those answers.
Don’t Forget Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool for you and your customers. Encourage them to reach out to you with questions, comments, and feedback, and make sure you are responding quickly. In today’s world, more and more customers naturally reach out to businesses and brands on social media, so it’s essential to have social media as a piece of your customer service strategy. An unanswered tweet can create a poor customer experience, whereas a rapid answer or resolution becomes social proof.
Provide email or ticket-based support for non-urgent or complex inquiries
Email and ticket support systems can help resolve non-urgent issues for your customers. This can free up the phones, and customers are generally happy with email correspondence. Done well, it will help your customers, keep them happy, and give your agents the freedom to address more pressing inquiries.
Monitoring and Continuous Improvement
Regularly monitor and analyze call metrics and customer feedback
The best way to avoid long customer wait times is to constantly monitor your metrics and customer feedback, then use that information to improve. Consistent improvement reduces wait times and increases customer satisfaction. Both are great for any business. Analyze your data frequently to see where you can tweak things to increase efficiency. For example, shifting scheduling to cover a fluctuation in call traffic.
Conduct surveys or post-call feedback to gather customer insights
The best data you can collect to help improve your customer service is data gathered directly from your customers. Offer incentives to complete short surveys so you can gather feedback right after they have engaged with customer service. Study this feedback and use it to improve.
Seek continuous feedback from customer care representatives for process enhancements
Feedback from your staff is just as important as feedback from customers. Your representatives are on the front lines and know what customers talk about the most. What questions and problems come up repeatedly, and how can they be addressed?
Long Wait Time Remedy
Long customer wait times will hurt your business by hurting your customers. When customers have to wait for answers to simple questions or quick solutions to common problems, they are less likely to engage with your business. You want the opposite. You want them to hang up the phone and tell their friends and family how amazing you are. Don’t risk losing them because of insufficient staff or outdated customer service technology.
If long customer wait times are a problem for your business, don’t worry. You can fix it. Implement the strategies outlined above to get those wait times down. Everyone wins when that happens. Your customers and staff win, and your bottom line wins.
When it’s time for your business to implement customer service solutions, Millennial Services can help. We offer tools that will help you reduce customer wait times and improve your customer experience and grow your business. If you would like to learn more about our services, reach out! We’d love to hear from you. Contact us here to learn more.