mach4um

Hi everyone!
I wonder if anyone can offer me some insights into how call centres typically handle after hours and overflow calls. Voicemail? Answer services (outsourced)?, 24/7 staffing?, 
And what is considered best practice?
Our company is developing a product in this area, but we are really trying to understand if there is any pain there, any problem to solve?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this :-)
Many thanks
Julia Forsyth
@bigears (twitter)

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I think its prudent to investigate a few options and start with the easiest.

Plan to implement a voicemail/callback system.

If that does not meet your needs (or your customers'), then you'll want to have an answering service ready to go. This process can take some time, depending on what the service will be expected to do, so I woulfd advocate looking into this option right away.

24x7 is a great selling point, but its costly form an operationsl/labor point of view. So it must work with your business model AND be something that you feel you cannot live without.

In my tech support call center, we are staffed 24x7 to manage various critical issues. I have also managed a sales call center that was staffed 24x7 in order to ensure we don't miss any potential sales calls. In the 3end, it works where we need it (critical support) and is marginally valuable where we didn't (sales).
The best way to tackle this is to figure out what the volume might be. Hopefully, your current phone system can report on this for you. You should be able to see "missed call" hourly and this could help guide you. Typically, depending on your business, I would recommend a recording that tells your customer base your normal working hours and asks them to call back but it really depends on the business.

My order of preference:

1- Have them call back during normal business hours (it could be a challenge calling people back once the normal day begins).

2- Setup a voicemail (with an option to get someone live in an emergency). This live option can ring one of your people or an answering service (who would page your on call person).

3- Use an answering service (domestic preferred).

4- Hire staff if the volume dictates it.

Hope this helps! Good luck!
Hi Julia,

The key issue for this is for the contact centre to truly understand the customer needs. If you are not a 24 hour operation you will always have callers that call whilst you are closed and the question is what is the value of those calls and how can you deal with them? For example callers to a claims line will have differing requirements dependant upon the industry sector and seriousness of the incident

Personally I am an advocate of not using voice mail, it generates work to call people back and if you haven't managed to clear them in about 30 minutes then they may well have called back and then you have wasted the effort. What I do champion is the use of other channels, web is a great tool to deposit information and a basic IVR system can be configured to provide some basic information.

All too often there is a believe that you have to provide some sort of service, but I have continually found that most customers are reasonable and would rather have a contact centre that is open 12/16/18 hours a day giving great service, as opposed to 24hrs a day with a degraded service / basic message taking facility.

Hope this gives you food for thought.
John, I agree with you about the voice mail generating work - most of the time burnt is listening to the voicemail and then hearing the same thing again when you contact the caller. The time to listen to the call eats up twice the time and it is difficult to understand the productivity level of staff that do it.
Hi Guys,
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my questions!
To tell you a little more about what we are doing...we are working on developing a product which is an automated way of handling after hours and overflow calls to call centres. Our system would replace voicemail, ask callers a series of very short structured questions to ascertain the reason for the call and gather key information - name, address, contact details, best time to call back, reason for call etc etc. We would then record, store, log, and transcribe (human transcribers) all the answers, send all the call data in an email (or feed directly to an existing CRM system, spreadsheet...etc) ready to be dealt with when the call centre opened. We could also trigger a text alert system if the call met certain criteria - so that the relevant person in the company was informed immediatly that the call had come in and could deal with immediatly if necessary.
I guess it would save the double dipping John and Bill referred to as the call centre staff would not have to listen to a lengthy voice mail, could see all the customer details already logged into the system, read the transcript of the call/click to listen to some of the audio files and possibly even resolve the call without having to call the customer back - ie sending a letter and voucher, or emailing a response. Our system would ensure all the critical information was gathered not giving customers the chance to leave out important contact details.
What I am trying to understand though is whether or not a product like this would actually solve any problems for call centres....
Is this something you guys would be likely to think was a great idea?
I am trying really hard not to come across as a sales pitch, because I am genuinely just trying to understand if we are flogging a dead horse, or if we really have something of value.
I would really appreciate any thoughts you might have on this. And please ask me more questions if I have not explained things very clearly!!!
Thanks again!
Julia
It might be something that would work but not for us for we need to man the calls 24/7. I would think there would be value to other centers. I would go to www.contactcenterworld.com and ask more call centers what they think.
Thanks Mark, that's really helpful. Will check out that link!
Cheers
Julia
I think it depends on what your customer needs. We have several options. For smaller customers who pay us less, they leave voicemail. For big dollar customers that are paying for 7/24 support, we are using an on-call service who contact our staff via a cell phone. The volume of these after hour calls is not significant enough for us to have staff directly accessible so using a middle man (the on-call service) is much more cost effective. If volume were to rise, we would move to an in-house model and we would staff for after hours directly.

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