You know how it is; you’ve done your research, you’ve got all your paperwork together, you’ve cleared some space in your diary and now you’re ready to call. When you do, the phone rings and rings and rings.
That’s the scenario at HM Revenue and Customs according to a report by Citizens Advice. Their report reveals 11,500 people took to Twitter in the last year to complain about average HMRC waiting times of 47 minutes. These findings support information gleaned by the National Audit Office earlier this year which revealed that just 39% of calls were being answered within five minutes with 27.5% of calls being terminated before being answered.
Admittedly, those who became so frustrated that they turned to Twitter are likely to be those who were kept waiting the longest. In mitigation, HMRC say that the figures are historical and that they have recently recruited 3000 extra staff to answer calls and have invested in new telephone systems which are designed to reduce waiting times. But unanswered calls are not solely the preserve of HMRC. Any organisation from sole traders up to multinational corporations could potentially find themselves facing the same problem unless they take robust steps to plan for high call volumes.
For the larger organisation planning may cover areas such as the creation of hunt groups or even widening the core answering pathways to include other departments in times of need. Smaller organisations may not have the same luxury but options here could include bringing in a virtual assistant service, offering callers call-back options, providing access to an information line, or even posting more information online in a bid to cut down on the number of calls.
Whatever the size of organisation, the key to successful call handling is to look at the caller experience from the point of view of those who are likely to contact the business. Analysing who is likely to call, the reasons for the call and the expected duration of the call can help businesses to not only take steps in advance to provide information upfront and thus cut call volume but also to put in place call handling pathways which will speed up the caller experience.
Whilst larger businesses may be able to invest in a bespoke call analysis system, there are still plenty of options open to smaller businesses. For example, the call reporting service provided by Callagenix enables companies to track and monitor inbound calls by time and duration. This will help businesses to ensure that greater numbers of employees are available at peak call times. Then something as simple as asking call handlers to note down a single word or phrase which sums up the reason for the call can help businesses to analyse and act to reduce call volumes.
Despite the ever-growing presence of the internet in our lives, for some people the telephone may be the only contact which they will have with businesses. The better the caller experience, the better the opinion of the business and the more likely that repeat custom will follow. Analysing and optimising the telephone answering experience is one way to boost perception of the business and its brand.