How to Reduce Hold Time in a Call Center Through the COVID-19 Crisis

By Monica Kohn   |   April 20, 2020
How to Reduce Hold Time in a Call Center Through the Coronavirus Crisis
No one likes to wait, and nowhere is that more true than when it comes to hold time during a customer service call. During the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis, healthcare call centers play a more crucial role than ever, striving to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information as possible.

For hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities looking for ways to reduce hold time in a call center while also working to improve agent efficiency, a centralized healthcare knowledge management (KM) system can be the solution.

How to Reduce Hold Time in a Call Center

There are two primary reasons agents put customers on hold:

  1. They must complete a lot of back-end processes; and
  2. They don’t have the required knowledge to adequately resolve an issue.

If there could be only one word to sum up how to reduce customer service response times it would be “data.” And the best way to gather, sort, and store that data is by creating a knowledge base. Not only does it benefit your customers, but it also helps agents be more productive which, in turn, boosts the employee experience. How?

When customers help themselves, it decreases the volume of calls call center agents must handle. And those customers that do need to speak one-to-one with an agent get a personalized experience that speaks to their problem.

Other proven approaches that help your organization succeed at reducing average handling time include:

  • Use KM software to monitor call performance so you can figure out which methods are and aren’t working. It’s also a terrific tool for training new agents, improving first call resolutions, and decreasing call transfers.
  • Embrace AI solutions like chatbots that enhance customer experience and improve performance measurement.
  • Use customer surveys and analytics to rigorously evaluate how customers feel about your organization’s call center strategy.

Knowledge management plays a life-saving role in the best of circumstances and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important that organizations ensure call center agents have the relevant information and technology tools to meet customer expectations. Agents should also be empowered to make certain decisions without the need to escalate calls. This not only makes for a better customer experience, but it also increases employee morale as it shows your organization’s willingness to place trust in their skills.

Don’t Keep People Waiting

Jeanne Bliss, president and pioneer of the chief customer officer role at CustomerBliss, says organizations should never “make customers play the service waiting game.” Otherwise, she says, you’re saying to them, “We put our needs ahead of yours.”

In these uncertain times, everyone should be paying more attention to hold times and how they can affect the customer experience. Businesses must ensure that they have the right technology solutions to get the job done right. Tools that offer reliable, secure, cloud-based solutions help improve the call center customer service experience and give your agents all the information they need upfront and during their calls.

Of course, there will be times a customer must be put on hold, but there are ways to improve the hold experience as well.

  • Stop using the same canned, repetitive on-hold message. It increases customer frustration.
  • Stop apologizing for the wait. The more you repeat “we’re sorry for keeping you on hold,” the less authentic it starts to sound. Instead, set an initial expected wait time and only come back to update it if the hold goes past it.
  • Don’t play music that may annoy or offend some customers. Some forward-looking call centers offer customers a selection of music to choose from.

Remember, the true definition of hold time is the friction point between the call center agent and the customer. Since customers primarily call customer support for help with serious issues, they are already frustrated. Short hold times may seem longer to them and the more they wait, the more stressed they become. There’s simply no more efficient way to decrease hold times and your customer’s stress levels than with an accurate, updated knowledge base that gives your agents the information they need up front.