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Managing Customer Expectations To Control Call Center Volume

By Trindent Consulting Staff

stockfresh 8245621 female customer services agent in call center sizeS 1 - Managing Customer Expectations To Control Call Center Volume

A common KPI for financial industry contact centers is the Service Level, whose targets can be found in the Service Level Agreement (SLA) committed to customers.  The SLA aims to maintain a certain level of service, and its targets are expressed as a percentage of inbound calls answered within a given timeframe (e.g. 80% of questions will be answered within 20 seconds).

Industry standards vary depending on the type of business, the type of callers it draws, and what the calls are about.   Nonetheless, Service Levels allow organizations to ensure their call centers are maintaining an optimal level of service to keep client satisfaction sufficiently high.  They also create an opportunity for companies to measure themselves against their competitors and give them ongoing motivation to strive for Service Level improvements. 

There are numerous variables that affect the Service Level, including Average Talk Time (how long each call lasts), After-Call Work (how long it takes an agent to complete necessary tasks after each call) and Scheduled Adherence (the percentage of a scheduled shift that an agent is available for calls).  These variables, among others, are ones that call center representatives are often coached to improve.

However, there is one other simple but often overlooked idea that can be a quick win for call centers to consistently stay within their Service Level targets.

Controlling the Controllable Volume of Inbound Calls

Incoming call volume is commonly perceived as an impossible variable to control since it is driven by external factors.  However, throughout its various engagements with financial industry clients, Trindent has found a recurring pattern of excess customer repeat calls that invariably led to a failure of call centers to stay within acceptable Service Levels.  For contact centers that do not have an active repeat call reduction program, for example, we have typically seen approximately 20-30% of total calls are repeat calls.

Although there were a number of reasons for the repeat calls, the majority were follow-ups from customers whose expectations were not properly managed on the original call.  Customers were not told, for example, how long it would take to get a certain request processed, so they would call back to check on the status.  Or, in cases where a customer request touched multiple departments, there would be a lack of coordination or miscommunication between them as to who is responsible for answering queries, leaving callers to cycle through different call centers in confusion. 

In both cases, the volume of repeat calls could have been avoided by setting proper expectations with the caller at the outset.

“One and Done” – Managing Expectations

Managing client expectations should be an organization-wide effort to ensure that all customer communication –written and verbal – set out a reasonable expectation of how long a customer can assume a process to take.  For larger companies with multiple call centers, it’s also important to give customers clear guidelines on what department they should be reaching out to.  

Simply put, in order to help call centers stay within Service Level targets, customer interaction needs to have a “one and done” approach.  Properly messaged communications take care of customer needs in one call, which avoids the repeat calls that put pressure on contact centers and their ability to meet SLA.

Click here to read more about Trindent’s wholistic approach to improving call center processes by finding and remedying inefficiencies like excess incoming call volume.