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8 proven ways to prevent high call volume

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

High volume times are stressful. But they’re also expected in customer service and it’s crucial your team can handle these surges. When volume’s high, customers tend to wait longer to get help and some may get lost in the shuffle or receive rushed, inaccurate resolutions. From there, CSAT can decline, customers may lose trust in your business, share their negative experiences with their network, and even leave your company for a competitor. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that you can prepare for high volume by creating a solid strategy that empowers agents and leaves your reputation intact. First, let’s define high volume:

What is high call volume? - When the number of inbound calls is more than what your team can accommodate.

The industry standard for high call volume is 10% above the normal level, but if your team struggles before the 10% mark, you’re experiencing high volume as well.

What causes high volume?

High volume occurs for a few reasons and companies can’t always foresee when they’ll experience a surge. In some cases though, businesses can expect more volume, especially during:

  • Holidays or season changes (pool maintenance companies will see more business from Labor Day to Memorial Day)

  • Service outages (calls will increase if a service temporarily goes down)

  • Marketing campaigns (a big initiative or campaign could increase call volume as more people are interested in your product/service and have more questions

  • Organizational pain points (extended training times, new agents, kinks within support team can increase handle times and cause backlogs)

How to prevent high call volume:

Just because some customers need support, doesn’t mean they should have to wait patiently (or impatiently) on the line for the next available person. Many strategies today empower customers to choose how and when they receive help. Others let support teams utilize their resources on the spot so the entire team stays organized and aligned. From self-service to automated actions, check out these 8 ways to prevent high call volume.

1. Self-service

During high volume times, support departments may need to answer the same questions over and over again, potentially causing friction for both agents and customers. When agents are busy repeating solutions to common problems, they can’t focus on more technical or complex questions in a timely manner. Customers who need to repeat their issues multiple times may feel the company isn’t efficiently solving their problem.

Prevent this scenario by giving customers ways to answer their questions on their own through up-to-date content. This powerful approach, commonly known as self-service, can help deflect calls. Through an external knowledge base (that functions as part of your knowledge management strategy) customers can look up their problem and find the solution on their own, minimizing the need to contact your team.

Instead of seeing a queue full of customers calling about the same easy-to-solve questions, businesses can clean up their queues, using a KB to deflect calls. Support teams can make their self-service strategy even stronger by analyzing knowledge base searches.

After looking into the keywords customers use, teams can create or edit existing content that addresses their issue, ensuring customers get the information they need. The more in-depth your knowledge base articles, the better you’ll be able to deflect tickets and free agents to resolve other tickets.

2. Offer callbacks to customers waiting in queues

Customers do not enjoy being left on hold, and if left waiting too long, they may feel less loyal to your business. Agents—feeling pressure to answer every call during surges— may rush through a resolution and compromise the customer experience or forget your company’s guidelines for answering calls.

A callback option offers a way to manage high volume by assuring customers you’ll address their issue without them needing to wait on hold. Companies can use callbacks when the waiting audio message has played a certain amount of times or if there are a few calls in the queue ahead of the caller. Callbacks reduce the number of calls coming in, give agents more time to address more crucial tickets, and provide a more personalized CX.

3. See agent’s capacity and move them around to where they’re needed in real-time to manage increasing demand

While you’re developing a great game plan for high-volume surges, you may want to account for times you’ll need to pivot on the spot. When agents are reaching capacity, leaders need a window into which agents are handling what tickets, what their status is, and which channels they’re assigned to. If a leader sees that 4 agents are handling fewer urgent tickets during a surge, how can they utilize support’s resources and put them where they’re needed most?

In the One Inbox, agents can see all their assigned tickets and updates; there’s no confusion about priority. During slower periods, agents can choose which tickets to solve first and on which channels. When there’s unexpected high volume, support team leaders can manage prioritization by ensuring that agents always see the most urgent tickets at the top of their queue.

Specifically, leaders can use a real-time dashboard to see agent capacity and assign them to channels/tickets to help handle surges. By moving more agents around to meet incoming requests, leaders can continuously improve support performance. Agents know exactly where they’re needed and customers receive help faster, increasing customer loyalty.

A real-time agent activity dashboard isn’t only useful in the midst of high ticket volume though; it’s also helpful for support leaders to anticipate a spike. If your company is running a big marketing campaign on certain days, managers can prepare ahead of time and set agents queues as needed.

This guarantees the right agents take the right calls when more customers call in. If leaders need more agents to handle calls, they can react on the spot to meet demand.

4. Outsourcing your customer service call center

When businesses can predict peak or growth times, they may choose to hire another company to handle part of their operations and meet demand. This is called Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). Many support organizations hire a BPO supplier to free up resources and handle customer queries that come via email, phone, social media, chat, and other channels.

Though not physically working beside your team, BPO providers represent your company and contribute to the business’s overall success. BPO support providers are specially trained to handle high volume times, which means you can feel rest assured customers will get the service they need to remain loyal.

BPO also helps companies manage high call volume by taking some of the load off your in-house talent. If a company’s customers are spread out all over the world, a BPO provider can focus on specific regions, giving your team more time for urgent calls.

One quick note about BPO: Be sure to thoroughly vet your provider and understand how they’ll help you meet your goals and deliver the same standard of customer service. Support leaders may also want to set up weekly or monthly meetings to manage providers’ performance and track their progress. If customers don’t receive the service they expect, they’ll take their business elsewhere.

5. Automate actions to stay on top of issues

It’s not easy to create a well-oiled customer support operation that can prevent and/or put out fires immediately. As we’ve seen above, customer support operations need to react as soon as a problem occurs—whether it’s identifying a bug late or not spotting a trend in time.

Instead of reacting late to an escalating issue (such as long wait times) or having someone manually perform certain tasks (keeping an eye on KPIs), support leaders can act on the spot with automatic actions. When certain conditions are met, automatic actions can send notifications to relevant stakeholders and perform operational changes automatically.

Here’s an example: Leaders can set up a rule where Spotter identifies any negative CSAT survey results and assigns those customers to agents who have a proven track record for creating positive CXs.

These actions free up members of the support team from constantly needing to manually manage and refresh your dashboards that take time away from more time-sensitive tasks.

Leaders can use automatic actions to set a rule:

If an agent handles fewer than X# of calls for Y period of time, support leaders will receive a notification and can alert the agent, assign someone else to the call, change ticket status, or notify the customer that someone will get to them soon. These actions can also keep leaders in the loop while automatically reassigning a ticket.

By immediately directing customers to where they’re needed, automatic actions can drastically help agents solve more tickets and stay on top of high call volume.

6. If real-time capabilities aren’t an option, use existing data to your advantage

If your team doesn’t have access to a real-time agent activity dashboard, you can use your existing call center data to get a sense for when spikes occur and how your team performs during busy times. Create reports that track key call center KPI’s over time, such as:

  • Total Completed Calls: Calls that have been successfully completed

  • Average Wait Time: The duration customers waited in queues before their calls were answered

  • Average Handle Time: The amount of time it took agents to handle calls from start to finish

  • Call Abandon Rate: The percentage of calls abandoned by customers before speaking to an agent, or in the first 10 seconds of talking to an agent

Once you familiarize yourself with the data, look at the context surrounding the above metrics:

  • Did an especially high abandon rate coincide with a new product release?

  • Were the high wait times due to a big company sale?

  • Was there a complex bug in the product that impacted your customers? This may account for increased handle times

Knowing when and why your team experienced high call volume will help you prepare for the next surge.

7. Invest in other channels

Customers use a variety of channels to engage with your brand from email to phone, social media, and live chat. Invest time in understanding which channels your customers are using and most comfortable operating. Then, build support operations into these channels, giving customers several options for contacting you. By having multiple channels, you can ensure customers continue contacting support while preventing high call volume.

Pro tip: Ensure all channels ‘speak to each other,’ meaning that if a customer reaches out to support multiple times about an issue (calls and also uses a chatbox), every interaction appears in the same place. This makes it easier for agents to quickly grasp a customer’s history and effectively support their needs.

8. Consider using a collaborative-friendly tool

When customers call in and get transferred to another agent, that agent may need to spend time looking for the customers’ history or information, especially if it’s housed in different places. This is where collaborative tools shine. A help desk software with One Inbox shows the full customer timeline for each ticket, important customer information, an agent’s entire ticket list, and queues that teammates are working on or are unassigned.

During surges, agents waste time and energy jumping from tab to tab to get the whole picture. It can also impact their concentration, creating more confusion. Let’s say a customer emails an agent asking for help. The customer then calls about the same issue, but speaks to another agent.

This may create two different tickets assigned to two different agents; crucial information can easily get lost. Chances are, this customer will have to repeat their issue multiple times—a frustrating scenario for all involved.

Empower agents to better handle high volume times by giving them all the information they need in one place, no matter when they were assigned the ticket. One Inbox allows multiple agents working together on a ticket to easily communicate with one another inside the inbox, leave internal notes, change ticket status, and access all the customer’s interactions and important details in one place.

Not only does this make for a more collaborative process, but it keeps customers from having to repeat themselves, saving them time as well. If only one agent is assigned to a ticket, this feature quickly gives them the full context so they can help the customer, and move onto the next call.

You don’t need to increase headcount to handle high call volume...

High call volumes can add extra stress to your team and compromise your quality of support. Or, surges could be a great opportunity for you to empower agents and show customers that even during busy times, their needs are looked after. From self-service to optimizing your existing data, use the above strategies to successfully handle or prepare for a rush ahead of time.

Discover other killer CS strategies below:


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