Contact Centre Queuing Strategies

As a nation, we’re known the world over for our ability to form an orderly queue and wait patiently in line.

Just look at any supermarket, post office, bank or museum and you’ll find people doing what we do best queuing!

When it comes to speaking to a contact centre agent, we’re much less likely to be as patient but this depends on the kind of experience we have whilst waiting in the call queue.

There are positive and negative call queue experiences…

Positive call queue experience

A positive call queue experience will have a number of elements all of which have been carefully considered:

Custom In Queue Music - will be on brand and high quality

In Queue Messaging - will be relevant to the caller’s enquiry and offer useful information or alternative methods of contact

Call Back Option - offer the caller the option of requesting a call back so they don’t have to hold the line

Negative call queue experience

A negative call queue experience will have had little or no thought:

Default Queue Music - using the standard system on hold music is bound to frustrate your callers

Repetitive Messages - playing the same single message apologising for the wait every 20 seconds soon gets very irritating

Long waiting times - callers have better things to do than wait to speak to an agent so offer them the option of a call back or at least let them know how long they might be waiting.

IVR Recordings can help bring your Contact Centre Queuing Experience up to scratch and Contact Centre Helper has an interesting blog on 19 Contact Centre Queuing Strategies

Is your IVR driving people away?

Have you ever taken 5 minutes out of your busy day to ring your own company and navigate through your IVR from the point of view of your customers?  Have you got any idea of how your calls are being handled by your phone system and agents?  If you answered ‘no’ to either or both of those questions then it’s time you put yourself in the position of one of your callers…

Make a coffee, sit down and go through your system to see how efficient (or not) it is.

We all know how quickly things can change within a company with staff turnover, different departments, different services, different contacts…but what about the IVR?

For many business owners, once the IVR is in place it gets taken for granted – sits there doing its job quite happily, but starts to feel a little stale and unloved after a while.  To give your valued customers the service they deserve, your IVR needs to be all-encompassing but not exhaustive, informative but not monotonous. 

And that’s exactly what we can help you with.

IVR Menus should be kept to a minimum of options, ideally no more than 4 or 5 per level; nobody likes sitting on the end of a phone listening to a list of menu options for 2-minutes or more– they glaze over and just press # or 0 to speak to a human.

Speak to your agents and ask them about the demeanour of callers once they’re speaking to them.  If your call handlers are regularly faced with disgruntled, fed up callers, is there something your IVR menu can do to improve their journey through your customer service?

Self-service options are brilliant – but are yours efficient, and, more importantly, accurate?  There’s nothing more frustrating than surviving an automated Spanish Inquisition to then hear, ‘I’m sorry, there has been a problem processing your information at this time, please call back’.  They most certainly will not want to call back…so don’t even go there!

Look at your call data and act on it – it will give you vital information about caller abandonment rates, such as at what stage in the system they hung up and how long they waited before they did so.  This will help to produce a tailor-made IVR system and stop mistakes being made either from the callers’ behalf, or from your end – nobody likes to admit it, but we all make mistakes occasionally.

Would you like a second opinion?

Request your Free IVR Review…

Request your no obligation FREE Pre Agent IVR Experience Review below.

Please enter the phone number for your main IVR

Not got an IVR system in place, no worries we can help you design the perfect caller experience call us on 0161 850 3033.

A little empathy goes a long way...

‘Your call is very important to us…’

‘Is it?  Really? I’m pretty sure if it was that important to you, you’d answer it now’, she sighs and mutters under her breath whilst listening to yet another impersonal, mildly patronising on hold message for the zillionth time this week.

So what is it that irritates us so much about being on hold or sometimes seemingly lost in the depths of an IVR system?  These messages sublimate – and quite often infuriate – us, and all because they are missing one vital trick: empathy.

Empathy is not the same as sympathy – nobody ‘holding the line’ or waiting to hear what feels like an endless list of options needs sympathy.  But a little empathy goes a long way.

Empathy, in dictionary definition terms, ‘is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’; the requirement for this from either a system of messages, or from a call handler, is self-explanatory really; know who you’re talking to, and gauge the messages or conversation accordingly.

Pre-recorded messages can only go so far to creating an empathetic tone; because of their nature they are not tailored to each individual caller, they have to ‘cover all bases’.  But if you’re operating a call centre, having empathetic call handlers could just be your key to success.  Your call handlers are talking to your customers in real-time, and if they have received comprehensive training, should be able to tailor the art of their conversation to correctly match the nature of the call.

If you really want your callers to believe their call is important to you, all you need is some investment in training and understanding how to convey empathy; often the opening few seconds after a call is answered are the most vital – get the callers’ back up, and you’ve lost them.

Empathy Statements

Take, for example, the following three statements:

  • ‘A member of our team will look into this for you’

  • ‘I will ask a member of the team to look into this for you as soon as possible’

  • ‘I will look into this for you today and let you know the outcome’

Adding that personal touch makes a huge difference; the first statement is completely anonymous, conveying the message that someone somewhere might get around to looking into the problem at some point – it doesn’t give a huge amount of faith to your customer that the issue will ever be resolved.

The second statement adds a little bit of a personal touch with ‘I’, however there is no immediacy in what’s being said – the ball is just getting passed into someone else’s court.

However the third statement has a personal guarantee that your call handler will be addressing the issue themselves, whether this be immediately whilst the caller is on the line, or as soon as the call has ended, and they will re-contact the caller with their findings.

The caller will feel at ease that their issue (however trivial it may seem to your company) is resolved by the actual human being they are speaking to, and will be resolved as soon as possible.

Think about the language used by your call handling team, and by the pre-recorded messages you have installed on your phone system…you may well find there is a more empathetic way to operate your company’s phone system.

For any advice, why not give us a call on 0161 850 3033 and we’ll see what we can do to help.

Battle of the Bots

When it comes to man vs robot we’re a little torn. On the one hand, there is a slight ‘threat’ to some jobs potentially, such as the self-service checkout replacing cashier or the ATM machine replacing bank tellers. However, there are plenty of reasons we’re on board with the idea of automation and technology making everyone’s lives that little bit easier.

Consumer spending has slowed to around 1.6% this year and is due to drop further in 2018, this is partly due to uncertainty relating to the UK’s departure from the EU, however, the UK economy is expected to grow around 2% after we have left.

It’s estimated that around 30% of existing UK jobs could be at risk of automation by 2030, industries that could potentially be affected range from wholesale and retail to manufacturing and transport and storage. Whilst these sectors have already introduced certain features that use machines in place of employees, this could see humans replaced by robots and sophisticated technology.

What changes have we seen in recent years?

  • Self service checkouts

  • ATM Machines

  • Amazon drones

  • Self service or order points at coffee shops and fast food restaurants

  • Telephone systems using IVR to direct calls rather than a receptionist

A recent report from the PWC has noted that the Government needs to respond to the changes, by addressing them in education and training to ensure that employees can adapt to these technological advancements.

New technology shouldn’t be seen as a threat, one way to look at it would be to see how productivity can be improved, there are already plenty of tools that businesses use to increase productivity and technology has provided many of them.

Next time you hear someone claim that “machines steal jobs” it’s worth pointing out how they could actually have improved someone’s work prospects. Take a receptionist’s role, for example, handling telephone calls for several departments, completing office admin tasks, taking the minutes at meetings, the list of duties goes on.

How could technology help in the workplace?

As you’re aware, we know a thing or two about phones. Introduce a simple IVR menu to greet your customers when they call and then present them with all the different departments that the receptionist would previously had to transfer the caller to. This means the customer can choose the specific department or service that they need and get through without being transferred, saving time for both customer and employee. You wouldn’t want your website to confuse or deter your customers so your phone system shouldn’t either!

AEI supports the introduction of new technology in the workplace, highlighting the benefits “We see a whole number of occupations where you might think that technology is going to destroy jobs because it’s taking over tasks; and the reverse happens.”

Telephone systems have improved drastically in the last few years as well, meaning not only can you improve your customer’s experience by providing them with a quick and simple way to navigate but you can ensure employee productivity is at its peak too with VoIP providers offering plenty of functions to help. 

“How machines can complement what humans do and create increased demand should not be overlooked when evaluating the rise of the robots.”

To find out how you could join the winning side in the battle of the bots give us a call today!

How Is Your Customer Experience?

At the weekend, I visited a local shop. There was a counter assistant I’d not seen before and in the two minutes that she served me she made so many mistakes, none of them were to do with the till or scanning the products but they were all relating to customer service.

Here’s what didn’t happen:

  • She didn’t say hello

  • She didn’t tell me how much I owed

  • She didn’t offer me a bag

  • She didn’t tell me how much change I was due

  • She didn’t say thank you or goodbye, which in turn made me not say thank you or goodbye

Instead, once I left I told three people how rude I thought she was and how I was surprised that she’d been offered a job there. They were very small things but it was the amount of small things that were not done that frustrated me, those aspects in isolation could be forgiven if forgotten, however all contribute to an experience overall.

How you make a customer feel is one of, if not the most important factor for a customer when they choose to buy from a brand.

A recently study by JitBit has identified just how much poor customer service and experience is damaging your profits.

Angry customers – like me – are ‘silent assassins’ with a reported 95% of us sharing a story about a bad experience with a company, with 48% of us telling ten or more people about it. Now, had the lady in the shop realised what she’d not done I’m sure she would have done everything to put it right but as Business Training Works CEO Kate Zabriskie says:

“the customer’s perception is your reality”.

What else did the report discover about how detrimental bad customer service is? Get ready for some hard-hitting stats that will make you want to call an emergency review of your customer service pronto.

It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for a negative one. I need to visit that shop a further 12 times and have positive experiences each time to make up for two minutes of poor customer service. You can see how difficult it’d be to retain a customer if this happened repeatedly.

86% of people will not purchase from a business which has negative reviews.

Why are your customers going elsewhere?

There’s a few reasons but a lot are to do with staff incompetency, demeanour or waiting times.

  • 42% switched to a competitor because staff were rude

  • 29% switched because of poorly trained staff

  • 25% were kept on hold for too long – we can help with Call Queuing Messages

These next few show just how little time you have, to impress a customer or put a bad experience right.

  • 51% of customers will only try to reach support once

  • 78% will bail on a transaction because of a poor experience, whether that be a website issue or poorly handled sales call.

We hate to break it to you but the customer is always right, as a business, you probably think the service you provide is top notch. 80% of companies believe that they deliver superior customer service, however in the customer’s eyes they are way off, with a meagre 8% of customers believing that companies DO deliver superior customer service and only 1% of customers believing that this is consistent.

What do you need to do?

Well you’ve got just over three years (according to the study) until customer experience “overtakes price and product as the key brand differentiator” and retaining your existing customers is a good place to begin, since it’s nearly 7 times more expensive to replace a customer than it is to keep a current one.

Why not get in touch with us to see if there’s anything we can do to advise on your customer service?

Mind your Ps and Qs

When was the last time you had a really memorable conversation with someone on the phone, from a company you had called?

There’s a saying that we love at iNarrator because it really captures what we do, Mary Angelou once said that people will forget what you said but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.


However, the way you make someone feel is often down to what you say to them or a gesture you make. So both the language you use with your customers and the overall impact on how that makes them feel, go hand in hand when it comes to delivering great customer service.

There’s a lot of dos and don’ts when it comes to customer service and it can be hard to decide what’s right. A recent survey from Call Centre Helper has identified the phrases our customers love to hear and those they’d rather call agents avoided using.

What you said…

Manners cost nothing – Such an obvious statement but one that really is vital to adhere to during conversations with your customers, maintaining the rapport and mutual respect so make sure the please and thank yous are flowing!

Taking responsibility – sometimes things go wrong, agents will undoubtedly have to deal with frustrated customers or complaints from time to time. Situations can be defused by acknowledging the customer’s feelings with ‘I understand’. Where necessary apologising can go a long way to help resolve a customer qualm. The same applies for situations where the customer’s query isn’t quite as detailed as it needs to be and more information needs requesting, phrases like ‘Forgive me, please can you clarify…’ can be used.

Greetings – A recent survey found that callers prefer to be greeted with ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Afternoon’ rather than Hi or Hello. Don’t forget the importance of an introduction on a call with your customers, the likelihood is you’ll need to know their name and that works both ways. Introduce yourself to the customer, this makes the call a little more personal.

Let’s get personal – using words such as ‘I’ and ‘you’ rather than ‘we’ ensure that the customer feels you have a personal interest in them, building a connection and avoiding coming across as too corporate.

How it made them feel…

Smile while you dial – The way in which you say something is just as important as what you say. Smiling whilst talking to someone over the phone might not be seen by your customers but they can certainly hear it! We call it the smiling tone, it affects how you speak in a positive way and of course that affects your customers too.

Let’s get physical - Believe it or not there’s more than just language or tone that can affect how a customer feels, your physical demeanour can get across more than you realise when you’re on the phone to someone. Posture has also been shown to improve the mood of a call, with a sloucher coming across as grumpy but someone sitting up being more upbeat, probably because they don’t have back ache too…

Don’t be robotic – Whilst structure is important, don’t be too formal with your conversation and use guidelines for a call rather than a full script. And remember, don’t say something over the phone you wouldn’t say to someone’s face!

Move around – Get your energy levels boosted by walking around on a call (if appropriate of course) and similarly to smiling on the phone, convey a better mood through your voice.

How do you greet your customers? Are there any tips that you’ll be urging your agents to implement? Make your customers remember you for all the right reasons. If you’re not sure where to start, get in touch to speak to us about On Hold Marketing and Telephone Messages or our consultancy service for really in depth look at how to improve the customer journey.

Personalisation is the key to an exceptional customer experience

We all know that happy customers are an important ingredient in the recipe for a successful business. Enviable customer service has been proven to lead to improved customer retention, loyalty and of course revenue. There’s something to be said for the standout employee who is always receiving high praise, but consistency is key and should be reflected across the board no matter who handles your call.

So how do you ensure that all your customers leave a call feeling like they’ve just spoken to your best employee?

The ‘Six Pillars’ of customer experience excellence, discussed in a recent report are;

  • Personalisation

  • Integrity

  • Time and effort

  • Expectations

  • Resolution

  • Empathy

All of these factors combined create one unique ‘story’ for a specific customer relating to their experiences with your company. The key is personalisation, it might seem like a small factor but wishing a customer a Happy Birthday if they call around that time and you have that information or providing your own recommendations about a product or service that your company offers makes a customer feel you’ve gone the extra mile.

There’s nothing worse than having to repeatedly call a company for the same reason only to find that none of the previous conversations you’ve had with other agents are recorded in any way. Is there a way that your agents can record and access this information?

  • Know your customer

  • What did they purchase or what are they interested in based on past interaction?

  • Know why this customer may be contacting you

  • Know what the customer may want based on previous interactions

All of this information can be used by your agent to better interpret or assist with the customer’s needs, create a better B2C relationship, help shape future interactions with the customer for other agents, increase the likelihood that your customer will leave the call feeling positive about the level of personalisation and thus be more likely to recommend you.

Like it or not we’re all suckers for a compliment, make your customers feel special, respected, that their time is like gold dust and you are a heaven-sent customer service angel ready to wow them with your professional, yet approachable nature. It’s human nature to feel just a little self-obsessed from time to time so why shouldn’t we indulge ourselves with a bit of flattery every now and again?

KMPG Nunwood found in their report that personalisation had “the most significant impact on advocacy and loyalty.”

The report looks at how as business you will likely have looked at metrics and targeted customers based on their individual behaviour yet when we put ourselves into the customer’s shoes this changes your whole strategy, your focus should be on how your agents and company respond to your customer’s needs as this is a crucial element in developing and improving their experience.

How can you include personalisation in your customer service?

  • Friendly and warm greetings

  • Use of the customer’s name

  • Know your customer’s history

  • Patience and empathy with the customer

  • Personalising and recommending products and services

  • Listen to your customer and ask questions

If you’re ready to start making customers feel that their relationship with your company is one worth maintaining, then you need to ensure that there’s consistency, this means putting in the time and effort! If you’re not quite sure where to start why not speak to us about how we can help improve your customer experience, we know our stuff!

Are you investing enough in your customer service?

It might be time to take a leaf out of the big gun’s book, after earlier in the week Vodafone pledged to invest £2 Billion into their customer service over the next two years. OK, so maybe it’s not feasible for your company to do this on the same scale but it’s time to think about how you look after your customers and those you employ to carry out that role.

In Vodafone’s case, the refreshed outlook on customer service follows a damning report by Ofcom in 2016, highlighting issues with the company’s billing system and the way they handed customer’s complaints. The company previously routed a substantial amount of its calls to centres based in South Africa and India, increasing customers’ frustrations but since the report they have looked at re-shoring their contact centres.

Vodafone are increasing their in-shore call centre roles, with 2,100 new jobs in locations around the UK including areas of Wales, the Midlands and Scotland as well as almost half the new roles being allocated to the company’s Manchester call centre.

Mobile network EE was supposedly the first operator to bring their calls back to the UK in 2014 after previously using off-shore call centres. Other giants are following suit, with EE’s parent company BT also choosing to reduce outsourced call centre roles and bring these back to the UK and Ireland, hiring around 1500 new call centre employees.

With this in mind, why is it so important to a customer that the support they speak to someone UK based? A survey carried out by Which? found that call centres, in particular those not based in the UK were the nation’s biggest pet peeve in 2015. This all boils down to customer service, a dislike of automated phone systems, being passed around from person to person and likely feeling that your call isn’t as important if it’s been directed to the other side of the world.

“Overseas call centres soon sparked a consumer backlash spurred on by difficulties associated with language barriers and the concern that jobs were being taken away from the UK.”

The cost of operating a call centre overseas is comparably cheaper to employing UK based contact centre operators, it seems some companies are prepared to save money at whatever cost, even if this means reduced customer satisfaction. Yet as we’ve discussed, the importance of customer satisfaction is being recognised and having UK based staff to deal with customer queries and support is almost a marketing tool now!

A 2016 consumer survey found that:

86% of customers would pay up to 25% more for better customer service

Are you focusing enough on training agents to handle calls?

Could your customers be better directed through your automated system?

Are you investing enough in your customer service?

If you’re unsure about any of those questions then it’s time to see how IVR-Recordings can help!



What you can learn from the Zappos company culture

Online retailer Zappos has long been the beacons of customer service excellence. It was the highest ranking newcomer in Fortune magazine's 'Best Companies to Work For' the company goes to great lengths to make sure both customers and employees are happy. 

Take a look at the video below to see if there's anything you could implement with your teams.