How to Manage Overflow in the Inbound Call Center

Inbound call centers sometimes experience busy periods when it is impossible to respond to each incoming contact in a timely manner. At these times, the call center may experience call overflow. Call center overflow handling is essential to making sure customers receive the attention they need while keeping agents calm and efficient. Overflow strategies may be scheduled in advance to better handle anticipated peak periods, or they may be used to manage unexpected high call volume.

In this article, discover our solutions to manage call overflow in your inbound contact center:

What is call center overflow?

Call center overflow happens when inbound calls cannot be taken by agents for various reasons. It may be that all agents are occupied with calls at once, so call handling capacity has been reached. A maximum queue size or maximum wait time may be reached just before overflow happens. Agents may also decline calls if they are occupied, for example, with outbound calls. They may also be offline or simply miss inbound calls for one reason or another. In all situations, overflow only happens in the context of inbound call centers and typically when the call center has less specialized telephony functions.

When overflow happens, an automatic call distribution system, or ACD, may route a call toward another target group—such as another call center department or outsourcer—or resource, such as an answering machine. However, call center overflow can lead to missed calls and higher wait queue times. For these reasons, customers and prospects may quickly become frustrated if they are unable to reach a company.

What technological solutions should be implemented according to the call overflow?

Call center overflow can be managed in different ways depending on the context of the situation. When there is an inbound call overflow, there are a few technological solutions to consider.

An automated message

In case of call overflow, your call center may offer an automated message that informs the customer that agents are unavailable. For example, the message may state, “All agents are currently busy…please call back at a later time.” After the message has been played, the call center would then hang up on the customer. Generally speaking, this method is the least favorable one as it is a very abrupt way of handling the customer and leaves him or her with no immediate assistance.

So, when should such a message be used? This method works best when the customer’s demand is not urgent and can possibly be handled using self-service. It may also be used when the call center is managing an internal problem and needs an emergency method for handling inbound calls.

Call re-routing

In call overflow situations, calls may also be re-routed to another call center phone number that can handle more calls. Your call center may also wish to route overflow calls to another wait queue that is handled by agents with less specialized skills (such as language or technical skills). This method is preferable when your call center wants to respond to each customer request but does not feel that these requests require special expertise for proper handling.

A callback option

Another activity peaks management method is to offer customers a callback option. Your call center’s IVR menu may ask customers if they wish to be called back at another time. You may even ask customers if they have a preferred contact time so that they may expect the call at a time that is most convenient for them. This method is ideal for situations in which the customer typically needs human support for his or her issue. In this manner, the customer will not feel neglected and will get the quality support needed.

A voicemail message

Lastly, call overflow can be managed with a message that invites customers to leave their own voicemail message. As soon as a previously occupied agent has completed his or her call, the agent can listen to the message and even call back the customer if more information is needed. Like the callback option, this method works well for situations in which the customer needs human assistance to resolve a problem.

Can overflow be managed on non-voice channels?

It is important to note that overflow may also occur on non-voice channels such as chat and email. However, these channels may also be managed efficiently and in a similar manner. For example, if an inbound contact takes place over email or chat, the contact may be re-routed toward another wait queue for that particular channel. The new wait queue may be managed by less specialized agents who do not require specific training in areas such as language or technical skills. Once again, this option works well when you wish to respond to every customer but do not insist upon using specialized agents in every case.

Call overflow strategies allow call center agents to better focus on their current calls and other inbound contacts and handle each customer case with greater efficiency. Similarly, customers who cannot connect immediately with an agent will not feel ignored and be reassured that the company will respond appropriately at a later time. Overflow strategies are an ideal way to ensure both agent efficiency and customer satisfaction.

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