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Overloaded and Overwhelmed: A Design in Failure?

Overloaded and Overwhelmed: A Design in Failure?

There are always going to be hurdles to any business – business is, in and of itself, a risk. After all, what reward can come without risk? Can a business, however, set out to fail without even being aware? That's where this story begins.

Unforeseen Circumstances

Our client, TAFE College, initiated a student services call centre to better service their academic campus and members - a kind of one-stop-shop to meet the needs of their students. This included enrolments, sales, marketing, new course, general questions, and more. Due to the nature of the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic throughout the world, our client, in partnership with the local government, developed many free and subsidized courses. These courses were released during this time without fully considering what that would entail.

With such an opportunity for free and subsidized courses available, our clients saw a drastic increase in call volumes to their contact centre. Before the release of these new courses, our client’s contact centre used to receive an average of 350 calls a day. With these new programs, the call volume jumped to over 1400 calls a day – a whopping 400% increase.

As a result, the wait times for incoming calls, as well as abandoned call rates exponentially increased. We received a notification, logged as a fault via a customer regarding the extremely long wait times. Our client, TAFE, also confirmed the issues brought up concerns of high rates of abandoned calls and massive call-back queues.

Identifying the Problem

To address the concerns brought up by our client – we went with our standard approach to any open ticket/faults logged. We conducted a detailed investigation into the issues our client raised to verify if their system was operating optimally.

Additionally, we also clarified and reassessed the details of the call-in customer's reasons for contacting the centre. This was to confirm why they had been on hold for two hours or more.

We conducted all these investigations to help us better understand if the concerns raised by our client were legitimate or just outliers that fell outside the daily median.

Upon review of all the issues brought to light, we confirmed there was no fault or problem within our system and routing strategies for the calls. As such, we shifted the focus of our approach from detection and troubleshooting to consulting our client, TAFE, and providing guidance.

Bureaucratic Setbacks

After consulting with TAFE, we initiated a plan to address their ongoing capacity issues. We advised it was inevitable that from the start of the day, they would start from the red. With a backlog of calls from the day previously – their operation was extended far beyond what they could handle in one day, even without a brand-new queue of calls coming in.

Their initial design was based on a 'no call will be lost' approach. This was, however, a bad overall design choice unless their volume of calls stayed under a certain capacity limit. Any call that was waiting for 10 minutes or longer would create a call-back and that customer would then keep their place in the call queue. With a smaller call volume, initially, this plan was very achievable. Once the latest free and subsidized programs began, however, their call volume increased to a limit far beyond the extensions of such a plan.

It was clear that the reason customers saw extensive wait times and eventually abandoned their attempts to call in was due to TAFE staff being overwhelmed. Thus, one clear recommendation was for TAFE to bring in more staff to take on the added calls whilst redirecting existing staff members to also take calls.

This, however, isn't always possible – especially with the speed by which the partnered government introduced the changes due to the ongoing pandemic. Given this, we had to flesh out a solution that would see calls answered as effectively and efficiently as possible with minimum disruption to callers. We also needed to consider the people answering the calls. After all, they were only human, and even with as much effort as they put in, there were only so many calls they could handle in a day.

Our Bespoke Solution

In the end, we advised our client to calculate the maximum number of calls that can be answered in an hour. Once calculated, introduce a 'doorman' that would only allot that number of calls per hour. We then advised updating the messaging system to advise callers of longer wait times. In addition, we removed the ability for callers to leave a call-back. This would manage and clear the backlog and allow for the TAFE management, and staff, to mobilize and retrain adequately to be more efficient and considerate with customers and the long wait times.

No One-Size Fits All Solution

At the end of the day, we seek to provide our clients support through decision-making regarding what to do when call volumes within their centres far exceed their planned working capacity. With over 25 years of OpenScape Contact Centre experience – our continuing goal is to guide our clients and provide both experience and knowledge in mitigating the hurdles facing their call centre operations. Nonetheless, there truly is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to contact centres, and every problem requires a bespoke solution which our team is always more than eager to provide.


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