When managing call center operations, you might find it hard to monitor the various relevant key performance indicators and making the decisions accordingly even with the use of handy tools such as the best call center software for small business to help you out.
Optimization of those performance indicators can get overwhelming as well. One of those KPIs is the average on-hold time and, like all KPIs, it must be optimized.
As the name suggests, on-hold time is the amount of time which your customers will have to spend on-hold before the agent can attend to their call.
The time starts right from the moment the customer joins the call center queue and ends only when your agent answers the call. As such, it is a vital KPI for call centers.
When running a call center, you must always put in effort to decrease the average on-hold time. After all, this metric has a direct impact on customer satisfaction.
After all, nobody likes to waste time stuck in a queue especially when they are on a call. Moreover, customers are calling up because they need answers to their queries and support for their issues immediately.
The on-hold time also has a direct association with the call abandonment rates. Customers can certainly get impatient or lose hope about the call.
As such, they disconnect the call before they get in touch with the agent. You should take note of this because a significant portion of customers who abandon their calls will never call back.
Long waiting times can also affect the first call resolution rates. After all, the customers can get angry about the waiting times and become uncooperative with the agents.
Typically, a lengthy on-hold time is linked to staffing issues. This means your call center must be understaffed as compared to the call volume.
In other words, you do not have enough agents to handle the calls. Long handle times can also be a reason for a longer on-hold time.
This is usually linked with untrained agents. The on-hold time can also be greatly affected by the call center management software that you are using. Outdated software can cause more issues than just longer wait times.
As you can see, high on-hold times can be a major roadblock to the success of your customer service. Therefore, you need to discover ways by which you can minimize it as much as possible.
That it not impossible but will take some effort. We have done the research required and found that the following methods can be of help. So, let us now take a look at the top tips for decreasing on-hold times.
1. Instead of letting your callers remain on hold, it is a good idea to make use of queue callback. In fact, it is a popular solution.
Queue callback allows you to call back your customers instead of letting them remain on hold. Of course, the calls will be placed on the order that the initial call came in from the customer.
This feature can decrease the on-hold times. After all, your customers are not going to wait for an agent to become available.
Customer experience can also be improved as the customers are free to continue with their work instead of waiting on a call.
2. An automatic call distributor can also be used for the same purpose. This feature will likely be present in the best call center software.
With it, all the incoming calls can be distributed as per criteria that you have defined beforehand. Some of the factors which can be used for the distribution of the calls include the time of the day the call has been placed, the geographical location of the customer or even what kind of assistance is being sought by the customer.
In short, the feature can help your customers get the help they need as soon as possible.
3. Schedule adherence is another important KPI that you must implement when you are running a call center. This is the process of analysis of the workload that each agent has been assigned.
You will be monitoring the time that has been scheduled for their work and then make a call center solutions comparison with their call time. This helps you find out their efficiency.
By placing importance on this particular key performance indicator, it is possible to prioritize the on-hold time.
4. You should also be paying attention to the call scripts being used by the agents. After all, the interactions between the customer and the agent can also result in unusually high on-hold times.
It is possible that your agents are going off the given script. Alternatively, they might be having difficulties in helping out the customers with the scripts they have been given.
In such situations, the calls are certain to take a longer period of time to conclude, resulting in higher on-hold times. You may have to edit the scripts or provide further training to the agents.
5. Issues with the software solution can be a cause for the high on-hold times. It is quite possible that are inefficiencies in the configuration of the interactive voice response system.
As such, test the system to discover the issues and solve them. Set it up properly so that the callers can complete the prompts as quickly as possible. They should be able to get into the queue as soon as possible.
You can also create specialized queues for each team so as to decrease the waiting time for the customers. As such, consider the features and not the call center software pricing when buying one.
6. There are several features in any call center software. As such, there can be features which can help in optimizing the on-hold times and reducing the queues. Queue callback is, in fact, one of these features.
There are several other options such as queue to voicemail. With it, customers can leave a voicemail instead of remaining in the queue. It might even be possible for you to implement a maximum queue size.
This feature will allow the customers to leave voicemails or schedule a call back once a certain queue limit has been reached. Its main purpose is to eliminate excessive on-hold times.
7. You should make sure that your agents are keeping tabs on the total number of calls present in their queues. They should also monitor the average on-hold times.
Empower them so that they can adjust their interactions with the customers so as to bring about improvements in their KPIs. For example, they can reduce the time spent on the calls if they notice that the average on-hold time is beyond a specified threshold.
8. As we have seen earlier, the size of the staff can affect the on-hold times. As such, you should be modifying the team size based on the call volume predicted. Make use of historical data to determine call volume. Use workforce management to improve staffing issues.
9. Due to the importance of the call center software solutions, you should make sure that you have the best possible one.
If required, make an investment by getting a modern solution that gives you access to the latest technologies and features required by a call center. You may have to perform a comparison to get the best one.
With it, you can help your agents provide the resolutions to the customers in a shorter period of time.
10. Spend some in creating a robust knowledge base. Put it online so that the agents can access the knowledge base faster and more easily.
As a result, your agents will require less time to provide resolutions to the customer. This enables to conclude each call faster. In turn, this reduces the on-hold times for the customers in the queue.
To improve the features of the knowledge base, ask your agents for their input. After all, they will be the ones using it. You can use cloud call center software solutions to simplify access.
11. Simply creating a knowledge base is not enough. You should take the time and effort required to update the information presented in the knowledge base.
It will not be possible for agents to use the knowledge base properly if they are unable to get the right information from it. They might even lose trust as to the accuracy of the information present in it.
12. There is another thing which can be implemented to increase the usage of the knowledge base. You can make it necessary for your agents to have a working knowledge of this resource as a part of their job.
Ensure that they are provided with the training and guidance necessary. After all, they should be able to make effective use of the knowledge base.
13. There are several call control techniques which can be used for reducing the times spent on calls. As such, get your agents trained on these techniques.
This will help them manage their interactions with the customer in a more effective manner. As mentioned earlier, the faster your agents are able to solve issues, the shorter the next customer has to wait on hold.
14. Learning on the job can be beneficial for many industries and jobs. However, this is rarely applicable to a call center.
By making the new agents learn on the job, you are increasing the average call times. After all, these new agents tend to be guided by their supervisors to provide the right answers all the time.
15. You should have a zero tolerance policy for agents who intentionally put the customers on hold simply to take a break. This is quite a common problem. As such, a strict implementation of this policy is advisable.
16. You should certainly be running customer satisfaction surveys. If the results show that there is a rise in the complaints about long on-hold times, it is time to get into the details. You have to find the root causes of this issue and implement the right solution.
17. Your supervisors and managers should understand the urgency while handling calls so as to inspire the agents under them. They should show that it is possible to handle an escalated call and provide a resolution in a short period of time.
18. You can train the agents so that they provide the customers with the option between a call back and holding the call always. This can help the customers feel that they are in control of the situation. At the same time, it improves the customer satisfaction.
19. When reviewing the call quality of the agents, consider the ability to manage on-hold times is a criteria. This will help the agents understand the importance of keeping on-hold times low and they will take the steps necessary to ensure this. After all, it affects their performance appraisal.
20. Sometimes, the agents cannot be blamed for the on-hold times alone. It is quite possible that they had to contact another department for the resolution.
That department might not have been quick or responsive enough in providing the resolution. As such, you should oversee the other departments to ensure that they are more responsive.
The Case Study
You have already seen the tips on reducing the on-hold times. However, you have yet to see the benefits possible. That is why we present you with a case study on the reduction of on-hold times. This will give you a better idea on how customer services can be improved by the reduction of on-hold times.
The organization in this case study is Genesis. This housing association owns or is the manager or approximately 36,000 homes spread across London and eastern England.
The portfolio of this organization is made up with a range of residential properties. Some of them include rented homes, supported housing, homes for sale and even temporary housing.
The main aim for this housing association was to bring about an improvement in the satisfaction levels of the residents. A new team was assembled for customer insight. On doing so, it was realized that there was a lack of a few fundamental metrics for the operational performance.
Additionally, the team had an incomplete picture of how the housing association was viewed by the residents. They had little idea of how the customer satisfaction levels in their organization were in comparison to other similar organizations.
As such, a strategy was essential for ensuring that the residents were being given an improved level of service.
As such, the team tried to gain an overall view of the entire operation on customer services. They identified which internal measures could bring about a major impact on the satisfaction of the customers.
They used systems for monitoring the opinion of their customers on the delivery of their services. It helped them get actionable insight.
The team also took steps to ensure that the agents were confident when it came to improving the satisfaction of the residents.
The results were certainly impressive. The customer satisfaction level increased, by a margin of 10%. At the same time, there was an improvement in the performance of the majority of customer service measures.
There was also a reduction of on-hold call times to 80 seconds from the previous 100 seconds.