5 Call Queue Management Tips For Under A Minute Hold Times

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Nobody likes being put on hold. In fact, research shows that the chances of someone hanging up increase dramatically after just one minute. 

Of course, some people aren’t willing to wait on hold at all. 

In any case, no matter how patient your callers may be, any amount of hold time can threaten a positive customer service experience by starting the interaction out on the wrong foot. Plus, if you’re tracking customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores and call abandonment rates, you may already know that lengthy hold times are the enemy.    

Ideally, your callers should not have to wait on hold longer than 60 seconds because that often marks the difference between a good and bad customer experience. At the end of the day, decreasing hold times is all about building the highest level of efficiency in your call queue so that your customers can get the help they need as quickly as possible—and top managers make that happen in five key ways.  

1. Offer a Callback Option

You can ensure lower hold times by removing the need to wait in the first place. Today, automatic callback options come standard in most top-rated call center software, allowing customers to hang up and receive a call from the next available agent rather than waiting on hold. 

This approach not only reduces wait times, but it also boosts customer satisfaction by respecting the caller’s time and allowing them to engage in other tasks without sitting on a frustrating hold. Giving customers a choice between continuing to wait or receiving a callback even gives them a certain degree of control over their experience. In other words, they can engage with the process however they see fit. 

Today’s callback features are advanced enough to identify a customer’s phone number automatically. This means that callers don’t even have to waste time inputting their contact information, as their numbers get added to the agent queue just like a regular call. 

When an agent is ready to help, they simply ring the next number on their list and reach a customer who is likely to be in a much better mood than if they were forced to wait on hold. This can have a trickle-down effect on agents as well, because they may feel less pressure when they know that customers aren’t waiting impatiently on the other end of the line. 

2. Use Cyclic Ring or Simultaneous Ring Patterns in Call Groups 

When a call comes in, your system can react in several ways. For example, it could simply ring whichever line happens to be free. Callers will get the help they need, but this approach carries the potential to overburden certain agents more than others. Some may spend all day dealing with long, complex challenges while others manage the same tedious issues multiple times. 

Software solutions like Nextiva and RingCentral typically include automatic call distribution. This technology routes calls more efficiently and supports better experiences for agents and callers alike. 

Screenshot of RingCentral Automatic Call Distribution webpage

One of the approaches you can take is to set up a cyclic ring pattern that checks for available agents in an ordered cycle until it finds one that is free. For example, an incoming call would ring up agents A, B, C, and D, then cycle back to A if nobody is free. This gives each team member a chance to field incoming traffic without overburdening a single agent. 

Another method you can establish is a simultaneous ring pattern, which attempts to connect with all agents in a particular call group until one of them picks up. This is good for when you want to lump your agents into specific categories based on things like experience level, skill set, or expected availability. 

As calls come in, your pre-set IVR (Interactive Virtual Response) menu gathers caller data and filters customers into their appropriate categories. When it rings through, any agent in the group can pick up the call, ensuring a faster answer time. 

3. Set Call Routing Rules Based On the Day of the Week AND Time of Day

From a financial and productivity standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to use the same call-answer approach at all times. Call volumes fluctuate throughout the day and week according to customer schedules and needs. Software analytics can easily track this data and identify a predictable pattern, gaining a better understanding of when you need more or less agent coverage. 

If you already know when call volumes are likely to be at their peak, you can set up an agent work schedule and call pattern that will work best. Remember that ring pattern preferences can also be set in advance according to your call-handling needs, so you can choose to have them kick in at certain times of the day or according to other parameters. 

Lastly, the point here is to take an approach that works well and doesn’t require a lot of time to optimize each week. With the right amount of available agents at the right times, you’ll have enough coverage to keep your call queue flowing smoothly. 

4. Cross-Train Agents in Several Key Areas of Contact Center Service 

Long hold times can also be the result of under-informed or underskilled agents. In other words, if you have agents who aren’t prepared to serve customers quickly and effectively, they may waste a lot of time and effort searching for answers. Of course, this doesn’t directly affect how quickly your available agents pick up calls, but it does affect how quickly your busy agents become available again. 

Furthermore, if certain agents only know how to manage a handful of customer needs, they may have to transfer callers to a more experienced team member for anything outside of their understanding—leading to longer wait times and potential frustration for the caller.

To rectify this, you can cross-train agents in several core areas of call center functionality, thus preparing them to handle more things that come their way. If more of your agents know the ins and outs of your products, how to address returns and exchanges, and how to process purchases and sales, then more of your agents will be able to make quick work of the majority of calls. 

Additionally, you should also train your agents to become effective at de-escalating complaints according to business protocol. Of course, all of this requires more time and effort on the front end to ensure that your agents are adequately prepared, but they will be ultimately able to address a wider range of issues faster and more efficiently—meaning there will be fewer instances when a customer needs to be transferred to a more experienced agent. 

Lastly, keep in mind that today’s leading software options offer customizable, gamified training strategies that can help identify and address any knowledge gaps your agents may have. 

5. Support Self-Service Beyond IVR 

Setting up IVR call menus is an important step in establishing an efficient call flow. By using this automated solution, customers can achieve several self-service outcomes without the need for agent intervention. For instance, customers can use IVRs to make payments, find answers to common questions, look up account information, and get order statuses. 

Plus, once your basic menus are in place, you can explore more advanced self-service options to optimize the caller experience even further—usually leading to a reduction in average wait times.

In conjunction with your IVR, you should also build an online knowledge base that’s connected to your website and filled with in-depth answers to complex customer inquiries. If you need help getting started, there are many online models and methods to crowdsource a database until you have something viable. Once it’s established, you can point your customers toward the online resource, thus reducing the need for direct contact and keeping call queues reasonable. 

When you’re ready to take the next steps, go ahead and set up an AI-powered chatbot and establish an active social media presence to meet customers where they’re at. Both of these elements can give your audiences yet another way to find help that doesn’t involve making a phone call and bogging down your call center. Not only do these self-service channels take some of the call burden off your call center, but they also support your company’s efforts to provide a more satisfactory level of customer service.

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