Nowadays, we have countless ways to get in touch with friends, family, businesses, and even total strangers. Naturally, you’d think that the humble telephone should have faded into obsolescence in the face of modern business communications technologies. How can the telephone, which has barely changed in decades, stand up against increasingly sophisticated solutions such as web chat, social media, email, instant messaging, and web conferencing?

Surprisingly, the telephone is still going strong as the most preferred mode of business communications. In fact, its dominance in the telecom industry is only growing. Hiya’s State of the Call Report shows a significant increase in voice traffic over the last year. Also, customers and businesses across various industries prefer making and receiving calls over other communications methods, particularly when resolving customer issues, closing deals, and scheduling appointments.

The problem with phone calls

But despite their popularity, phone calls have a dark side. Nearly half of businesses reported to Hiya that they had suffered financial losses from being unable to connect with customers via phone. Sales, productivity, customer satisfaction, and customer retention were the most negatively affected areas by the disconnect.

But the biggest problem with business phone calls is that they can be notoriously tricky to manage. A phone call happens in real-time, so every call must be answered the moment it comes in. But answering calls is not always easy since you can’t predict a call’s duration, and some calls require close follow-up that can span days or even months. It’s easy to see how keeping up with calls can quickly overwhelm a business with a low call handling capacity.

Call overflow is a crippling problem, especially for businesses that rely on the phone to make sales or chase leads. Let’s look at the strategies that entrepreneurs commonly use to manage high call volume, beginning with those that don’t really work.

How NOT to handle call overflow

Managing calls can be difficult. But no matter how hard it gets, try not to resort to these habits:

Just letting the phone ring

The easiest but most destructive way to handle an influx of incoming calls is to simply bury your head in the sand and literally let the phone ring off the hook. If everyone at the office is busy, the best you can do is answer the few calls you can manage and just let the others ring away. Unfortunately, ignoring business calls is a recipe for disaster.

Every missed call is a missed opportunity. The caller could be a valuable lead, a buying customer, or even a potential strategic business partner. And if a call goes answered, there’s very little chance that the caller will call back. On top of that, missing calls can frustrate customers, ruining your brand’s customer experience and satisfaction. You can quickly lose customers simply by not picking up their calls.

Sending calls straight to voicemail

After letting the phone ring, the next “best” thing is sending calls straight to voicemail. Unlike a missed call, voicemail offers some form of response to the caller, who may be kind enough to leave you a message on the machine. But let’s face it; if you were unable to answer a call when it first rang, you probably wouldn’t find the time to respond to the voicemail either.

Additionally, voicemail is a somewhat archaic solution to missed calls. Although today’s voicemail is retrofitted with modern technologies such as voicemail-to-email integration and automatic call-back, it’s not so different from the traditional answering machine.

Putting caller on hold

Another way that many organizations manage call overflow is by putting callers on hold. Hitting the hold button often seems like a practical way to queue calls in the hopes that you can get to every customer waiting on the line. But the truth is, even with an auto-attendant feature keeping callers vaguely engaged, nobody likes to be kept on hold.

As RingCentral points out, hold time can be frustrating to customers and costly to the business. And the longer callers wait on hold, the more frustrated they become. By the time a waiting caller manages to get through, they’ll likely be short-tempered, irritable, non-cooperative, and unwilling to tolerate any more delays. Keeping callers on hold for long periods is enough to completely break down productive communications and drive customers away.

Diverting callers to other contact channels

Have you ever been on hold with a company and a random hold message harmlessly suggests that you try contacting the company using other means, maybe via Twitter, SMS, or live chat? It often comes off as a bit insulting. The intentions may be good, but callers can take such a message the wrong way.

There are many good reasons why most customers prefer to call rather than text or email. In a nutshell, customers trust phone calls and believe that a short live conversation is a more expressive and direct way to be heard. So, you shouldn’t try to convert callers into texters or emailers; they may give up contacting your business altogether.

Letting just anyone answer the phone

If your receptionist has their hands full, what’s wrong with transferring incoming new calls to the rest of the workforce? Here are the main reasons you shouldn’t let just anyone respond to customer calls:

  • They may lack the etiquette to converse with clients.
  • They may not be able to answer the caller’s questions or assist in any way.
  • A regular caller may get frustrated having to talk to different people every time.
  • Answering calls can distract workers from their more important duties.

Answering business calls on a personal line

You might end up sharing your personal number with customers in a desperate effort to try and catch as many calls as possible. Although that would be a good demonstration of commitment, it’s not always a good idea to mix business and personal affairs. For instance, what’s to stop customers calling you during odd off-business hours or when you’re enjoying a relaxing weekend or vacation. This certainly isn’t a sustainable, professional, or healthy way of coping with call overflow.

How to effectively manage call overflow

We’ve discussed all the wrong ways to manage a high call volume in your business. Now, what should you do to ensure you never miss a call, put customers on hold, send calls to voicemail, or share your personal contact with customers? You have two options: set up an in-house call center or outsource call management to an answering service. Let’s see which of these fares better:

Setting up a call center

An in-house call center is an ideal solution to call overflow. You can have your own team of call agents screening, answering, and transferring calls on behalf of the entire company. However, there are a couple of important things you should know about building a private call center:

  • Buying equipment and calling plans

A call management facility must be sufficiently equipped with the hardware and software to handle colossal call traffic. On top of that, you have to sign up for a calling plan that can accommodate multiple users simultaneously. A VoIP business phone system is the most efficient setup you can use for this.

  • Hiring and training call agents

Next, you need to hire and train call agents. Fully staffing a call center is no easy task. For one, you need professional customer service agents with extensive experience in the field. Such professionals are hard to come by, and neither are they cheap.

  • Ensuring security and compliance

Information security in a call center is paramount. This is a critical area where customers share sensitive information with call agents and the company. So, you must put in place security systems, policies, and responsibilities to protect your customers’ privacy and meet data security compliance standards.

  • Enforcing calling policies and quality standards

Finally, you must also consider the call center’s performance in upholding and enhancing customer satisfaction. This means enforcing calling policies and standards that align with your customer experience goals. You must also be able to measure your call center’s success using various performance metrics.

Outsourcing call answering

The problem with building a private call center is the investment, commitment, time, and effort that goes into the project. The sheer cost of equipping and staffing a call center alone can be prohibitively high for most organizations — not to mention the cost of maintaining the facility. Establishing and running a dedicated call center would be economically unfeasible, impractical, and wasteful, especially for small businesses.

But what if you could leverage an already existing call center instead of building your own from scratch? Doing so would save you all that hassle, time, and money. That’s exactly what call management outsourcing does. It gives you access to professional call agents working remotely — for only a mere fraction of what a call center would otherwise cost. In addition to cost savings, outsourced call answering solutions have the following benefits:

  • 24/7 availability
  • No training required
  • Access to multilingual call agents
  • Professional customer service
  • Compliance-ready call services
  • Liberates your staff from unproductive call duties

And what better way to outsource call answering than with AnswerAide? Quality customer service is our mantra and top priority. Our highly trained live receptionists and call agents will ensure that you never miss a call and none of your customers walks away in frustration. That’s because answering calls and attending to customers is what we do best.

Our process is pretty simple too. All you have to do is sign up for our service, send us your calls, and we’ll do the rest. AnswerAide agents will handle every call down to your last instruction and relay screened messages from callers to your business, including insightful analytical data.

But enough about us; we’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your organization and its call answering needs. We’re here to help.