Making sure that your customers can reach you when they need to is one of the most important aspects of delivering excellent customer service. If customers have a problem, your business should have channels for them to reach out to you. Phone channels are a way to provide customer service immediately.
What are inbound calls?
An inbound call is when a customer calls in. These are customer-initiated calls received by call centers. Most of the calls that come into the call center are from customers who need help with customer service or technical support issues.
Help desks answer inbound calls too. However, these calls may come from employees.
Three common inbound call types.
The inbound call center commonly receives customer service-related phone calls. These include:
- Orders and payments. Despite the popularity of e-commerce, many shoppers still prefer to place their orders over the phone. Inbound calls facilitate customer transactions via phone. Shoppers also might contact a company with billing questions or to find answers for a payment issue.
- Product and tech support. Customers call for help to solve a wide array of issues, from returning damaged products or changing account information and passwords to complaining about product malfunctions.
- Upgrade, renewal, and cancellation of products and services. The popularity of subscription-based businesses (monthly clothing deliveries, online streaming services, and more) for both consumers and the enterprise, such as software as a service (SaaS) and cloud storage, has increased the number of calls related to the upgrade, renewal, and cancellation of products.
An inbound call center can be versatile and handle many of a company’s sales, marketing, and customer service needs. If run correctly, inbound call centers can make money.
Today’s call centers provide customer service not only through telephone calls but also through email, chat, and more.
Three best practices to handle inbound calls.
There are many different factors that can affect the performance of an inbound call center. Call center volumes can increase suddenly for a variety of reasons, such as natural disasters, new service launches, and product recalls. Here are three best practices for inbound call centers to implement:
- Focus on customer experience. Consumers no longer rely simply on price and product; today, it’s all about the customer experience. Inbound call centers can play a central role in delivering customer experience—everything from how agents answer calls to training processes needs to be developed in a customer-centric manner.
- Cultivate engaged agents. The idea that happy employees make for happy customers might be trite, but there is a certain truth to it. Engaged employees that feel an emotional commitment toward the company become invested in helping the company succeed. Reward your best agents and inspire others with recognition, whether during a regular staff meeting or via gamification dashboards incorporated into your call center platform.
- Focus on the right KPIs. With so many variables to measure, it’s easy to assume each metric is equally important. Such an overwhelming volume of data can lead to analysis paralysis, and the important metrics can get lost. Inbound call centers should look at 10 crucial KPIs to measure the success of the operation. These should include operational (i.e., number of calls answered) and customer-related metrics.
Ten metrics for inbound call centers.
The performance of inbound call center agents is measured according to several metrics, including first call resolution (FCR), average handle time (AHT), and average speed to answer (ASA). Inbound call centers agree to certain service goals in a service-level agreement (SLA) in order to improve their level of service.
For any new inbound call center agent or manager wondering what to make of the metrics they see in their report, below are the top 10 metrics call center agents should track:
- Agent status. Agent status allows call center agents to mark their availability, so it’s visible across the team. Typical agent statuses are “Available,” “On a call,” “After-call work,” “Offline,” and “Away.” Agent status can be used to determine if agents are using their time effectively.
- Average abandonment rate. The average abandonment rate is the percentage of calls terminated by callers after being added to a queue.
- Average handle time (AHT). The sum total of talk time, hold time, and after-call work an agent engages in, divided by the number of calls handled. Average handle time can be used to easily determine agent efficiency.
- Average hold time. The average hold time is the amount of time customers were put on hold when on a call with an agent. Hold time should not be confused with wait time, which is defined as the time a customer had to wait before an agent answered the call.
- Average speed to answer (ASA). The average speed of answer is the amount of time it takes for the agent to answer an inbound call, including the time when the agent’s phone rings, but excluding the time the caller spent in IVR or queuing.
- Average talk time (ATT). The average talk time is the amount of time an agent spends talking with customers. Excludes other activities an agent might need to complete the interaction.
- Call disposition codes. Call disposition codes allow call center agents to assign a tag to each call after it has ended. These tags can describe the call type, reason, outcome, and desired after-call action. Analyzing the percentage of different disposition codes an agent has recorded is a quick way to quantify the success of their calls.
- First call resolution. Examples of first call resolution definitions are: The total number of calls resolved correctly on the first attempt divided by the total number of calls in a given period of time; or, the total number of calls resolved correctly on the first attempt divided by the total number of first calls.
- Service level. The service level is the percentage of calls answered and missed within a predefined threshold, e.g. 20 sec. Measures the availability of the contact center to its customers.
- Total calls. The total number of calls handled by the agent in a given time period.
Inbound Call Strategy
These four tips will help ensure you’re getting the most out of your inbound call channel.
1) Reserve the voice channel for those who need it most.
If you want to get to know your customers, the best way to do it is to talk to them directly. Though it may be a challenge, the average cost of a phone call to a company, taking into account the cost of labor, falls between $9 and $15. Some people prefer to call companies when doing business, while others prefer to use live chat or email.
If you want your customer service team to be talking to valuable customers, make sure to tailor your communication channels to the different stages of the customer lifecycle. This is true whether or not you have a state-of-the-art call center. You should only call customers when it is beneficial for them and profitable for you, so that you can make the most of the phone call. This means that if a product is complicated or important, the voice channel will be more important. The easier the task or decision is, the more likely customers are to want to do it themselves.
Make sure there is a toll-free number that clients can use to call you, but be strategic about where it is placed. If you put the number at the top of your homepage, you will end up getting more calls, but they will be of lower value, especially for mid-sized companies. It may be beneficial to place the number at the bottom of your product or pricing pages, or directly below your calls-to-action.
If people are looking to buy something, LivePerson and SnapEngage are websites that can help them. This system lets customers know that they will always have someone to talk to when they need it, while also reducing the overall volume of phone calls. You can use these tools to target a specific group of visitors with invitations for live chat or live calls. If you are a HubSpot customer, you can integrate SnapEngage directly with your HubSpot account. For more information, please click here.
2) Follow through with your promise to be available.
The next step after ensuring you are only getting profitable phone calls is to ensure that there is someone on your end who is qualified to answer them. Don’t let the call go to voicemail or to an administrative assistant; you need to be speaking with the right person immediately. One way to ensure that customers are always directed to the right person is to use a cloud-hosted communications system like Voxox. This system can be configured to route calls based on the customer’s interest or profile. It might also be a good idea to set up an on-call system for your company, especially if you have a small enough team that it would be reasonable for one team member to handle a shift by themselves.
Each person who answers the phone should give the customer their full attention and make them feel like they are the most important person at that moment. The success of companies such as Zappos or American Express can be largely attributed to the quality of their inbound voice channel and the attention they give to every call. This may require a lot of resources, but keep in mind that companies like Zappos and American Express were once small businesses too.
3) Track and analyze your inbound calls.
It might be a good idea to give your business different phone numbers to help keep track of how well your call channel is performing. There are vendors that offer call analytics services, like Ifbyphone, Invoca, and Century Interactive, which can help categorize incoming calls based on interest and quality. You can provide a Yelp listing, a Yellow Pages listing, or a Zagat listing.
This is the place from which you will be able to monitor your advertising costs while still being able to attend to individual customers. Use specific numbers on your business cards and in your email signature to show different categories of potential clients that you mean business.
You should consider separating your inbound call channel into different levels of service. You can for example assign Gold, Silver, and Bronze categories to your clientele. If a Gold-level client calls, you should take the call no matter the time or inconvenience it may cause. If you are a silver level customer, you can designate extended hours that you’ll make sure the call goes through. Make sure that you are available to answer the phone when you are free.
Tracking the performance of your telephone numbers, improving your advertising spend, and providing better customer service are all helped by stratification. Improving retention and customer loyalty can be helped by taking these measures. This will also help you get the most out of your marketing budget.
4) Make your customer data work for you.
Although it is great to receive calls, it is even better to know what to do with them once you have them. If employees have access to data from a CRM system while on a call, they are 15% more productive, according to studies. Accessing recorded information on-the-go can help improve the performance of your inbound call channel, especially when routing calls to field or technical personnel.
Make sure you can access your CRM data whenever and wherever you get a call. If you want to personalize your CRM data, you can combine it with social media information. For example, if you get a call from an existing lead or prospect, you can use contract values, close dates, or social media updates from Facebook and Twitter to tailor your conversation.
See if you can improve your CRM system by connecting it to your phone using a Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) adaptor like AMC, or by using a big data solution like Klink. This means that the call will be logged after the conversation is finished and that the salesperson will be prompted to change the record. Not only will this improve the performance of your inbound efforts, but it will also significantly reduce average handle times and increase customer satisfaction.
As smartphones increasingly become more than just a device for making calls, and consumers increasingly look for digital, one-to-one experiences, it can be easy to forget how important the voice channel is for growing your business. If you want to stay ahead of your competition, you should focus on providing great customer service through inbound calls. Many companies rely too heavily on self-service and automation, which can lead to a decline in customer satisfaction. Advertise your telephone number on your website or product as it will be beneficial to your business. Be sure to place it in a visible spot.
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