4 Call Deflection Strategies (and the One You Should Use)

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Nonstop customer calls can quickly strain your customer support resources and leave your customers feeling underserved and underappreciated. That’s why you need to have a call deflection strategy that ensures all your customer calls are being routed to the right place. 

Call deflection is the practice of redirecting would-be callers to self-service options instead of live agents. Not only does this help bring overwhelmed call centers back from the brink of collapse, but it also helps customers get their support questions answered quickly.

In practice, there are several viable call deflection strategies to choose from, and many companies will implement more than one at a time for added impact. Nevertheless, there’s only one approach that consistently delivers the right blend of customer experience and operational efficiency.

The Risks of Not Having a Call Deflection Strategy in Place

Allowing increasing call volumes to jam up your customer support capabilities without diverting the traffic properly can have pretty severe consequences across many areas of your business.

Your Customers Will Grow Frustrated

If your customers are calling your support line in droves, then it’s safe to assume that they’re not gonna be in a good mood—and being redirected to voicemail may only irritate them more. 

At the same time, if your support agents are overwhelmed with nonstop calls, then your customers will undoubtedly end up getting put on hold or sent to voicemail. This is less than ideal, as customers can only be expected to wait on hold for two minutes before hanging up. 

Increased Workloads Across Your Support Teams

Even though customer support agents are trained to handle complex issues, most live agents spend the bulk of their time on basic inquiries like order statuses, balance checks, and updates to personal account information.

Answering these repetitive questions over and over again is tiring and limits your agents’ capacities to respond to support requests that require nuance, critical thinking, and creativity. Not only can an increase in call volumes frustrate your support agents, but it can quickly lead to increased employee turnover rates if you’re not careful.

Negative Reviews of Your Company’s Support Lines

The longer you wait to deflect big fat waves of incoming calls, the more frustrated your customer base will become. Eventually, this frustration has the ability to affect the public perception of your company. 

For example, customers may start to leave negative reviews online, and your NPS scores could take a serious nosedive. Furthermore, if you continue to ignore these issues, your revenue can start to take a hit and your customer loyalty can start to drop as well.

Company Operations Will Start to Break Down

If you wait to implement an effective call deflection strategy, your customer support operations may start to break down. 

This can be doubly problematic because, as the performance of your customer support teams starts to decline, it can also become more difficult to convince senior leadership to invest in the resources needed to improve your customer support function. Ultimately, this can lead to a downward spiral in which both your customer experience and brand reputation erode.

The best way to avoid this situation is to take early, preventative action. 

For instance, by making small, consistent investments into self-service and automation for your customer support processes, you can reduce the strain on your support agents and systems. At the same time, it’s probably way easier to streamline your customer contacts than it is to overhaul your entire customer support systems overnight.

Call Deflection Strategies You Shouldn’t Spend Your Time On

Not all call deflection strategies are created equal, so if you’re serious about optimizing your customer support functions, you can’t afford to waste time on strategies that won’t leave a lasting impact. 

That said, there are three call deflection strategies that probably aren’t worth your time or investment.

Strategy One: Pre-Recorded Messages on Your Customer Service Line

One common knee-jerk reaction a company might have when its call volume spikes is to throw together some pre-recorded phone messages. Sure, it sounds like a good idea in theory, but pre-recorded messages and voicemails are worth mere peanuts in this day and age. If you want to improve your customer support function, you need to do more—like setting up an IVR script to direct customers to an appropriate customer support agent.

The reason why pre-recorded messages perform poorly on their own is that they don’t redirect the caller in any meaningful way. In other words, once someone calls in needing assistance, they have already committed time to resolving their issue—so generic voicemails and messages that redirect customers to your company website or chatbot are unlikely to provide them with the level of support they came for. The phone call they’re trying to make is already their channel of choice, so making them sit through recordings about alternatives they had already opted not to use will do little to resolve their support issues.

Strategy Two: Passive Marketing For Your Communication Channels

Some companies try to indirectly reduce their call volumes by conducting passive marketing of self-service options like their company chatbots and help sites. This means occasionally sending reminder emails and texts about these channels or using pop-ups and notifications to advertise their availability. 

In theory, these moves are meant to keep these options at the forefront of people’s minds so that they will use them instead of picking up the phone.

Unfortunately, this kind of channel promotion tends to be hit-or-miss at best. People deal with so many communications and prompts on a daily basis that these reminders are easily ignored and quickly forgotten. At the same time, even the people who recall the availability of your chatbot or virtual agent might still default to calling out of habit or personal preference anyway. 

So, although raising awareness about your company’s support channels can provide some value, it rarely works well enough for it to be worthwhile. 

Strategy Three: Stuffing Knowledge Base and Self-Service Options on Your Website’s Contact Page

Some companies try to curb incoming calls by cramming their contact page full of self-service options to bury their phone numbers. This includes embedding a knowledge base search bar, a chatbot widget, and other support shortcuts on the same pages where people can schedule demos and make company calls. The hope of this move is to make these channels so visible that they encourage visitors to help themselves instead of calling a dedicated customer support line.

It often backfires. 

Typically, offering a cluttered and confusing experience for visitors can make them even more desperate for help from a human. Sure, some of your website visitors may find these options to be helpful, but many will bypass these self-service channels entirely. After all, they visited the contact page with the intent of calling a live agent—not to scroll through your company knowledge base.

The One You Should Use: Stack Your IVR With Relevant Info and the Ability to Execute

While the other support methods certainly have flaws, there is one reliable way to divert calls that deserves your attention—implementing an intelligent IVR (interactive voice response) system. 

More than just a phone tree, an intelligent IVR allows callers to accomplish self-service tasks purely through voice prompts. This means customers can access tailored information on the most commonly answered support requests and execute actions like making payments without ever needing a live agent to facilitate the transaction over the phone.

Some of the most common ways that your IVR can help callers serve themselves include checking account balance details, looking up due dates, and accepting payments. Thus, by creating dynamic support scripts that address these common reasons for calling, you can reduce the workload for your live support agents while still providing a personalized experience to your customers

Furthermore, this can also result in higher containment rates and shorter hold times for customers placed in your support queue.

Nextiva Has Advanced IVR With Conversational AI

Setting up dynamic phone trees is one way to deflect incoming support calls. However, leveraging dedicated IVR software with conversational AI can do an even better job of supplementing your customer support.

For example, Nextiva offers a conversational AI platform that can give your customers the option to have their questions answered automatically and their calls routed to the appropriate support agent or resource. 

For example, a caller that leads with “I need to book reservations” or “I want to enroll in travel insurance” could automatically be directed to the reservation line or an insurance sales agent without having to navigate through multiple options. This kind of conversational capability allows for flexible, efficient self-service with minimal menu prompts. 

The beauty here is two-fold. On the one hand, your live agents won’t be as overwhelmed by high call volumes, and on the other hand, your customers won’t have to wait on hold, speak to multiple agents, or repeat their questions ever again. 

Thus, if you truly want to automate your customer support functions and satisfy your customer needs, invest in IVR technology—and conversational AI while you’re at it.

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