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In a recent poll, approximately 60% of people indicated that being on hold for too long is the primary reason for a negative experience with a customer service department. That percentage also rings true with buyers calling into a sales department. A sales team will lose over 60% of potential sales or new customers if they do not answer the phone in less than a minute!
net2phone's call queue software automatically distributes calls between available team members. Thresholds can be set so that if the wait time exceeds a certain amount or a certain number of people are waiting in the queue, the call will route to another queue or destination, ensuring all calls are answered in a timely manner.
So, how do you make the best use of call queues? In this guide, we’ll share 12 best practices for call queue management that enable you to capture more incoming calls, increase your customer satisfaction, and boost conversion rates. But first, let’s start with the basics!
What is Call Queue Management?
If you’re not already familiar, a call queue is basically a line of callers waiting to speak to someone in your organization. Remember the last time you lined up at the bank to talk to a teller or at the deli counter to order your groceries? You took a number and waited until your number was called. Well, a call queue is kind of like that. Without this line, (or queue) you would show up to the bank, the teller would be busy and ask you come back later, or you'd be left standing around not sure what to do. Not ideal.
As calls come into your main phone number, call center queue management software routes them based on a variety of rules that you specify depending on your business requirements and department set up.
These rules, aka real time queue management, determine how those calls are routed. When done well, call queue management results in an improved, more efficient call flow which, in turn, reduces wait times. Those 60% of potentially frustrated customers or sales leads are now handled with care, leave with a better experience, and are more likely to engage with your sales team or recommend your service to others.
So just how long can you keep callers on hold? Well as mentioned earlier, sales teams will lose 60% of calls after one minute, and will lose another 15% as two minutes approaches. Its worth to note (and even a bit more dramatic) that 13% of people say that they’re not willing to wait on hold at all. While having a zero wait time only exists in a utopian world, the key target that organizations should strive for is 20 seconds of hold time, with a maximum of 45 seconds. Anything above 45 seconds and sales/ customer satisfaction begins to be impacted.
Call Queue Management: 12 Best Practices
Ideally, you'd answer all your callers immediately, but everyone understands that sometimes this isn't possible.
When your lines are busy, you can take some steps to provide your customers with as positive an experience as possible.
1. Create scheduling rules
When a call comes in, you should be sensitive to the time of day and day of the week and when you have appropriate staff. The first thing your system should do is specify an action or path based on the day of the week or time of day.
For example, you might want to have different greetings or routing rules for business hours and weekdays versus weekends, evenings, and holidays. By matching a greeting or agent availability with the appropriate time of day, you can set the stage for a positive customer experience.
2. Provide informative greetings and announcements
It’s kind of obvious, but still needs to be stated, that you should have a friendly greeting that identifies the name of your business, but your greeting should also aim to delight callers and make them comfortable with your organization.
A nice way to greet callers is to wish them a good morning, afternoon, or evening with a custom greeting for each.. "Good Morning, you have reached Acme Industries, we look forward to speaking with you. To talk to our sales department, please press 1.”
And let's use the call queue greeting to inform the callers with basic information or common inquires, so that maybe you will answer their question or concern without the need of talking to a team member. These greetings and announcement could include your business hours, address, or other information that people tend to ask for when they call.
3. Include language preferences
In today’s global, multicultural and multilingual society, it might not be fair to assume that all of your callers speak the same language.
If you have multilingual staff, create a queue for a specific language that will run to different language centered queues, and instead of encountering a frustrating language barrier, you can give callers the option to be connected to agent who speaks their language.
4. Implement routing options
Remember that bank analogy? You have one line with ropes that snake through the bank lobby, as you near the tellers stations to address your needs. Although more recently, some banks (and some retail establishments) offer a kiosk where you can specify what you need, and they “route” you to a teller that specializes in what you need. That kiosk is our routing option.
For instance, you could specify rules that route different types of inquiries to separate departments. Or, you could institute a skills-based system that routes more advanced calls to senior employees. If your business spans the world, you could also have calls go to different agents working from various time zones.
Another option is to route calls based on round robin. In this scenario, the system attempts each agent one at a time, until it finds someone who is available to speak to the caller.
Yet another option is Ring All, and as the name implies, will ring several (or all) phones at once. This situation can be ideal if it doesn’t matter who picks up the phone, but you want the call answered as quickly as possible. Here, the first person who reaches the phone gets the call.
There are several ways to make rules that make your call queue management system more efficient, and software is continuously adding new capabilities and strategies to help you answer your callers better.
5. Take advantage of IVR
An abbreviation for Interactive Voice Response, IVR gives your callers the opportunity to interact with your phone system. The overall idea is that callers are presented with options to get answers to their questions, input data, or select specific types of help. Using our bank analogy, this is like the bank kiosk that has you select why you are in the bank in the first place.
6. Don’t forget the hold music
If you put callers on hold and give them silence, it can give the impression that more time is passing - or make them feel like they've been abandoned.
Having upbeat or relaxing music on hold can be a pleasant way to distract callers while they wait. Make sure your music on hold sounds clear and crisp. There's nothing worse than washed out music or tunes with static.
7. Offer automated callbacks
Let’s go back to that bank analogy, if you see the line is too long, some will find it better to leave and perhaps try back at a later time. When a caller finds out that there’s an extended hold period, they might prefer to receive a call back when someone is free as opposed to waiting in a long queue. Selecting this option does not cause them to lose their place in line, and can be an ideal option for many callers.
8. Update callers on their queue position
Now let's go to that line in the bank with a blind fold. Without seeing how many people are in line, you have no idea when you will be attended to next. This is the scenario when calling into a number, as you have no idea who else in the world has also called in, or is already on the line. Being on hold with no end in sight or no idea on how long you'll be there can be incredibly frustrating. Using a queue position announcement removes the blind fold and informs callers of exactly where they are in the queue. If they’ve been on hold for a couple of minutes and are losing patience, you can potentially save the call by being able to have the system inform them that they are next in line.
9. Set maximum hold times
No matter how carefully you plan your staff's schedule to ensure that someone is always available to take calls, the unexpected can - and often does - happen. If you're inundated with calls and don't have enough staff to answer inquiries in a timely manner, a maximum hold time can route callers to voicemail or possibly to another office location.
While it’s not ideal to keep callers on hold for a long time, it’s better than keeping them on hold indefinitely.
10. Allow remote access
It can be very helpful if employees can take incoming calls from outside the office. This is especially true if your on-site team is bombarded with calls and needs assistance. This option also enables you to expand your workforce by having agents working from the comfort of their own home.
11. Determine a “max in queue”
To avoid unreasonably long wait times, you can limit the number of callers waiting in your queue at any given time. When the maximum number of waiting people is reached, you can specify a method to handle the call overflow. For example, the caller can leave a voicemail message and be called back when an employee is available, or they can be transferred to another location or destination where employees are standing by.
12. Learn from analytics
Call queue management contains reports and analytics that give you insights into wait times, call duration, agent activity and more. Don't ignore this information. Instead, use it to improve customer service by optimizing agent rosters, adjusting call routing rules and identifying opportunities for training.
With net2phone's call queues and following these best practices, you can ensure your business has a competitive advantage, delight your customers with every interaction, and ultimately boost your bottom line.
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