Simply put, people like options. They want service their way, on their terms. According to a Forrester survey on customer service, 73% say valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to provide them with good customer service. And 60% of consumers feel that more than a minute of hold time is just too long!
Even the best call centers do not have a live person pick up every time the phone rings. They mitigate hold times with advanced call routing, fine-tune scripting and automate information to increase customer satisfaction. How else can customer service managers meet service “option” expectations from customers and balance the needs of their business? The answer may be as simple as virtual hold.
Virtual hold, also known as “the call back option” allows your customers to choose whether to remain on hold or to receive a call back at a later time. It demonstrates to your customers that you value their time. And it puts your customer service representatives in position to reach a higher rate of first call resolution.
- Decrease call abandonment rate. As the “go to metric” for call centers, call abandonment rate is often the most misunderstood key performance indicator (KPI). In the age of multi-tasking, everything is competing for customer attention. Navigating a phone tree or waiting on hold for an unspecified period of time is not something every customer has the time or inclination for. In a recent poll, 63% of respondents said they would prefer a call back vs. waiting on hold. Removing the hold obstacle can decrease the number of calls dropped.
- Reduce repeat calling. Taking the call abandonment metric a step further, if a business offers a call back from a representative within a specified period, it can also reduce the number of customers who abandon a call and then call back. Reducing callbacks decreases the overall number of calls into the contact center and increases efficiency. It will also decrease hold times which betters the customer’s overall experience with a company.
- Smooth out peak call periods. If you have peak call hours or are prone to sudden call spikes on occasion, then you likely also have longer overall hold time during peak periods. The call back option can defer calls until call volumes are back to standard levels. Overall this can make a contact center more productive and reduce the need to hire additional resources for peak periods. Decreasing hold times during peak hours improves the customer’s journey.
- Capture new customer contact info. When a new or potential customer abandons a call before talking to an agent, their contact information is either lost or not recorded in a place for sales/customer service to easily retrieve it. Opting for a call back, their information is recorded for the next available agent/sales person to follow up. You’ve satisfied potential customer by enabling choice and demonstrating that you value their time. In addition, you now have the customer’s information for future communication/marketing.
- Improve agent productivity. When a customer opts for call back, all their information is saved. When an agent is available, they will be prompted to call back and presented with information in a “click to dial” format. Customer account information – if it is tied to their phone number or is asked for at time of call back request – can also be provided. This improves productivity in two ways: First, it gives the representative time to review the customer’s account and information before speaking with the customer instead of juggling speaking to the customer while reviewing an account. It, therefore, accelerates the agent’s ability to digest the information. Second, when the agent is given the ability to review and digest the information, they are better prepared for the call which increases first call resolution and allowing them to move onto the next customer faster. Customers are more satisfied with their interaction as well.
- Lower hold times reduces costs. The fewer the minutes on the phone, the lower the costs. It doesn’t get much more straight forward than that. Virtual hold not only reduces the overall number of minutes (often on a premium toll free line) but also reduces the trunk costs by freeing up lines. Reinvest the budget saved into other areas of the service center to help improve the customers over all experience.
Virtual Hold – Best Practices
Ultimately, enabling a virtual hold/call back feature will give your customers the option to be served their preferred way. When implementing call backs, here are 4 best practices that will help ensure your customer has the best experience possible:
- Determine best time to offer a call back. Look at your contact center’s call interval abandon rate (abandon rate by when in the hold process the line is disconnected) to determine when an offer to call back would be most effective. For example, if a high percentage of calls are abandoned in the first 60 seconds, offer a call back at 45 seconds.
- Call back within the given time frame. Set your customer’s expectations by specifying a call back period and following through to call the customer back within that time period. It shows respect for their time and their business. When asked how soon they would want a call back, the same recent poll cited almost 45% said they expected a call back within 30 mins. Yet, more interesting is that almost 30% said it didn’t matter when the call back happened – just that it did happen!
- Continue to put the customer first. When a call back is occurring, have the representative on the line immediately when the customer answers. Although it may take 10-15 seconds of the agent’s time to wait, a customer should not wait for an agent to come on the line.
- Prep the rep. Make sure the rep has the customer account information and/or any pertinent information that the customer left when requesting the call back. This will put the representative in the best position to succeed and not frustrate the customer by having them repeat information they already shared with the company.
The Key to Contact Center Success
Is call back right for every call center? Probably not. The real question is – is it right for your call center? The key to contact center success is understanding your customer’s needs and identifying the KPIs that closely model those needs. If your customers are frustrated with your hold times, if you see a high abandon call rate, and/or if your business has peak hours, take a closer look at whether virtual hold can improve processes before investing in more human capital. Taking the time to discover the options your contact center solution and deploying those features has the potential to save costs and improve the customer experience.