Call spikes, or high call volume, can be caused by any number of different reasons. Some may be unexpected and event or incident driven, such as weather related calls or service outages. While other may even be more predictable, such as with peak holiday season or marketing campaigns.

Whatever the reason for the call spike, one thing is certain - Customer Experience suffers and agents get burned out quickly. Sometimes, there is even lost revenue opportunity because potential sales calls abandon or callers hang-up before speaking with an agent.

I recently spoke with a call center director who experienced a call volume spike because a change was made to her company's mobile app and customers were calling in with questions and complaints. This prevented calls from prospective customers being handled and sales targets suffered as a result.

Until recently, options for handling call volume spikes were limited. Depending on the amount of notice and preparation your call center might have, you either would need to proactively recruit and hire new agents or ask existing agents to work longer shifts and overtime. Unfortunately, adding more staff is expensive and often too late.

What's even worse is when call volume spikes are unpredictable or volatile in nature, making it near impossible to properly staff to manage the high call volume.

Cognitive IVR to the Rescue

Recent advancements with cloud telephony and Conversational AI now make it possible to leverage a hosted IVR to address call volume spikes with self-service. And you might be surprised to learn that Conversation AI IVRs can handle a wider range of customer interactions than their touchtone or speech recognition based predecessors. Today, a Cognitive IVR can easily automate simple transactions, such as checking an order status or reporting an outage. They can even handle more complex calls that would normally require an agent to reference a knowledge base, frequently asked questions, or guide a customer through standard troubleshooting steps.

The City of Kansas City, MO recently experienced unexpected high call volume into their 311 Call Center from citizens reporting missed trash pickups. The issue was caused by poor performance by the City's Waste Management Contractor, however the 311 agents were taking the brunt of citizen frustration. The call volume spikes were also creating wait times in excess of five minutes.

The City came to Xaqt for help. Our team worked with their call center manager to design a new call-flow using Xaqt's Cognitive Voice Automation Suite, which is a hosted Conversational IVR. The City simply inserted a new prompt in their existing Cisco IPPC IVR that stated "If you are calling to report missed trash or recycle pick-up, press 1 to use our automated system". When a caller presses 1, the call seamlessly transfers to Xaqt's hosted Cognitive IVR, where the caller answers a few questions and the results are automatically logged to the City's work order management system.

The impact was immediate. Queue times dropped, abandon rates decreased, callers were happier with the experience, and agents were no longer overwhelmed with calls. It also improved caller experience for everyone else, as agents were free to handle those calls more efficiently. And even better, the average cost-per-call when handled by an agent is over $5.00, whereas with Xaqt's Cognitive Voice Automation Portal, the cost to the City is less than $.50 per call with no additional expense.

Preparing for High Call Volume

The best way to prepare for call spikes is to have an automation plan in place. In some cases, such as with service outages, notifications can be proactively sent to customers by SMS or automatically generated outbound calls, which eliminate the need for a customer to call you.

For automating voice interactions, the first step is to determine what call types you can send to the IVR for self service. Often times these are non-sales calls, such as checking order status or product related questions. By allowing these calls to be handled by the IVR, you are freeing-up your agents to handle revenue generating or higher priority customer interactions.

Xaqt's team of Customer Experience Analysts and Conversational AI experts can work with you to complete a complimentary opportunity assessment to determine the potential impact that implementing a Cognitive IVR and Call Center Automation can have on your business.

From there, we will work together to create a roadmap and readiness plan so that you're prepared for the next call spike. Best of all, with Xaqt's Cognitive Voice Automation Services, you only pay for what you use. So, you're not paying for idle capacity when the system is not in use, like you would for an on premise IVR.

Responding to the Unexpected

Sometimes, the unexpected happens and you need to ramp-up or deal with a call spike immediately.

Xaqt's Cloud based Conversational IVR can be often be deployed within a few hours and provide immediate support for most call centers. Our cloud hosted telephony platform works with whatever phone system you have in place today and can scale from one concurrent call to thousands on-demand.