5 min read
What is Call Handling? Benefits, How It Works, and Best Practices
Customers don’t want to spend more than a few minutes on the phone waiting for a service agent to answer their questions. The longer they wait, the more likely they will drop the call—and you won’t know whether they plan to call back.
Fortunately, an excellent call-handling strategy ensures customers get their questions answered—and quickly. Plus, it can spell the difference between a desirable and abysmal customer experience.
As customer service becomes an ever-desired selling point for modern customers, it’s imperative to understand how call handling works and how to use it.
What is Call Handling?
Call handling refers to the process of managing and processing telephone calls within a communication system. It involves tasks such as answering incoming calls, transferring calls to appropriate departments or individuals, placing callers on hold, and handling voicemail messages.
Efficient call handling is essential for businesses to ensure effective communication with customers and clients, ultimately leading to better customer service and satisfaction.
Modern call handling systems often incorporate technology like automated attendants and call queues to streamline the process.
How Does Call Handling Work?
Call handling begins with an incoming call. Upon receiving a call, an automated system or receptionist may greet the caller and present options through an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. This system allows the caller to select from a menu of choices using their keypad or voice commands, directing them to the appropriate department or service.
If the caller chooses to speak with a live agent, the system may place the call in a queue with hold music or messages while waiting for an available agent. When an agent becomes available, the call is routed to them for assistance.
Throughout the call, the agent may have access to call scripts, customer information from a CRM system, and other tools to provide effective service. After the call concludes, call handling systems may log the interaction for record-keeping, analysis, and quality assurance purposes.
The Importance of Effective Call Handling
Effective call handling is paramount for businesses and organizations across various industries. It is critical in shaping customer perceptions, ensuring operational efficiency, and ultimately impacting an organization’s success.
If you’re wondering whether you need to implement a call-handling system in your business, consider the following:
- Are you looking for a faster way to resolve customer queries?
- Is a well-rounded customer experience important to you?
- Do you need to save time on your call processes through automation?
- Are you handling more customer problems than you can handle?
Call handling is likely critical to your business’ success if you answered yes to these questions.
Inbound vs. Outbound Call Handling
Inbound call handling manages incoming calls initiated by customers or other parties seeking information, assistance, or support. It typically includes answering customer inquiries, providing technical support, processing orders, and addressing customer complaints.
In contrast, outbound call handling focuses on initiating calls to customers or leads for various purposes, including sales, customer follow-ups, appointment reminders, surveys, and market research.
Inbound calls are reactive, responding to customer needs, while outbound calls are proactive, aiming to engage customers or prospects for specific business goals.
Here are two examples that outline the difference between inbound and outbound call handling:
- Example 1 (Inbound): A customer calls a clothing store’s customer service line to inquire about their online order status. The call handler provides information on the order’s shipping status and estimated delivery date.
- Example 2 (Outbound): A telemarketing agent from a telecommunications company makes outbound calls to potential customers to promote a new internet service package, offering discounts and explaining the benefits of switching providers.
Benefits of Effective Call Handling
Call handling has dozens of undeniable benefits, including the following:
- It increases customer satisfaction. Exceptional call handling is often the first point of contact between a customer and a business. A well-handled call can significantly influence the customer’s perception of the company. Politeness, responsiveness, and the ability to resolve issues quickly contribute to positive customer experiences, leading to customer loyalty and repeat business.
- It improves brand reputation. Poor call handling, such as long wait times, frequent call transfers, or unhelpful agents, can tarnish a company’s image. Conversely, efficient and courteous call handling can enhance a brand’s reputation and foster customer trust.
- It enhances operational efficiency. Calls must be routed to the proper departments or agents to reduce call transfer rates and minimize customer frustration. Streamlining call-handling processes can also lead to cost savings and improved resource utilization.
- It provides valuable insights. Call-handling systems often collect valuable data, including call volume, duration, and customer feedback. Analyzing this data provides insights into customer behavior, service quality, and areas for improvement. It can inform strategic decisions and help businesses understand their customers’ needs better.
- It helps meet compliance and legal considerations. In some industries, regulatory compliance and legal requirements necessitate the recording and proper handling of calls. Effective call-handling systems can help organizations meet these obligations, avoiding potential legal issues and penalties.
- It generates sales and revenue. Sales teams can use call-handling systems to reach potential customers, follow up on leads, and close deals. Properly trained agents equipped with the right tools can boost sales and profitability.
- It gives your business a competitive advantage. Providing superior customer service over the phone can set a company apart from its rivals, leading to customer preference and market differentiation.
- It improves employee productivity and satisfaction. Well-designed call-handling systems can simplify work by automating routine tasks, providing access to customer information, and offering script guidance.
Risks of Call Handling
Effective call handling is essential, but organizations should be aware of the risks associated with this process.
- Poor customer experiences. Inadequate call handling, such as long wait times, unhelpful agents, or frequent call transfers, can result in negative customer experiences, leading to dissatisfaction and potential loss of business.
- Mishandled data privacy and security. Mishandling sensitive customer information during calls can result in data breaches or privacy violations, exposing the organization to legal and reputational risks.
- Compliance violations. Failure to adhere to industry regulations or legal requirements for call recording, disclosure, or customer consent can lead to compliance violations and potential penalties.
- Inefficient resource allocation. Inefficient call routing or excessive staff allocation can lead to wasted resources and increased operational costs.
- Ineffective training. Insufficient training for call agents may result in inconsistent service quality, miscommunication, and missed sales or support opportunities.
Call Handling Best Practices
Ensuring the best outcomes with your new call-handling system involves regular audits and updates. Consider these call-handing etiquette points.
- Promptly answer calls. Aim to answer incoming calls promptly, ideally within the first few rings. Quick response times show respect for the caller’s time and create a positive impression.
- Listen actively. Allow customers to express their concerns or questions fully. Avoid interrupting and show empathy towards their needs.
- Communicate simply. Ensure agents communicate clearly and concisely. Use simple language and avoid jargon that the caller may not understand. Verify that the caller comprehends the information provided.
- Make it personal. Whenever possible, address the caller by name and tailor responses to their specific needs—access customer data from CRM systems to provide a personalized experience.
- Route efficiently. Implement an efficient call routing system to quickly direct callers to the appropriate department or agent. Minimize the need for call transfers to prevent caller frustration.
- Use call scripts. Develop well-crafted call scripts that guide agents through common scenarios, ensuring response consistency and company policy adherence. Encourage agents to personalize scripts as needed.
- Provide continuous training and improvement. Monitor call performance, collect customer feedback, and use data-driven insights to identify areas for improvement and enhance call-handling skills.
An excellent call-handling system can make dissatisfied customers happy. By implementing best practices for inbound and outbound calling, like using well-curated scripts, answering calls promptly, minimizing transfers, and providing training, your business can grow its consumer base sustainably.
The first step to improving your call-handling system is to work with a reliable service provider. At ULTATEL, we tailor-make plans for your business to ensure you’re always connected and available when your customers need you.
Konstantine is the Head of Digital Marketing at ULTATEL. With a decade of experience in leading marketing strategy, he understands the importance of consistently adapting to the ever-changing digital landscape.