Overflow Calls

How to manage overflow calls in the call centre

Overflow calls are defined as customer calls that cannot be initially handled by the primary call centre workforce.

This is usually due to more calls coming in than your call centre can currently handle and more than you expected through workforce planning.  This can be caused by a random event (e.g. COVID-19) or seasonal variations like holidays, special events etc.

Best Practice options for managing overflow calls

There is a range of options to manage overflow calls in a call centre including:

  • Offering the customers an automated callback or intelligent callback service.
  • Have a recall alert where any staff on breaks need to come back immediately.
  • Have a secondary queue with staff trained to answer calls in ‘reception mode’ i.e. just taking a message.
  • Route the calls to voicemail.
  • Using an outsourcer to handle additional volumes.
  • Reduce the number of queue slots so customers get an engaged signal rather than getting stuck in a queue.
  • Applying Workforce Management principles to avoid large peaks and troughs.

<If you are struggling to handle your call volumes due to COVID-19 read our hints on tips on how to best manage your contact centre through the crisis>

1. Offering a callback service

Even the best WFM practices will experience occasions when there simply isn’t enough staff to handle call volumes.

Callback technology now enables you to either call back customers when you have cleared through the rush (automated callback) or it enables the customer to retain their position in the queue (intelligent callback).

Search a list of call centre technology providers on the free CX Directory >>>

2. Have a recall alert where any staff on breaks need to come back immediately

It may not be suitable for all workplaces however it can be an effective strategy if you need to get the queues cleared quickly.

I’ve seen it work well in an emergency services call centre where once certain thresholds are met, all available staff are required to log in immediately.

3. Have a secondary queue

If you’ve got an offline team (e.g. one handling Social Media, Emails, Live Chat etc) you can set up overflow calls thresholds that automatically start routing calls into their groups when triggered.

This does require those teams to be logged in to a secondary queue however it’s one of the simplest ways to keep on top of things.

4. Route the overflow calls to voicemail

Rather than have customers on hold for endless hours, sometimes you may need to just provide customers with an option to leave a message and you will return the call at the next available opportunity.

5. Use an outsourcer to handle the overflow calls

There are a range of call centre outsourcers out there who are specialists in handling overflow calls for businesses based in both Australia and overseas.

They can either offer a full service where they are trained to handle all overflow call types, only certain types of calls (normally the easier/transaction-based calls) or you can have them take reception calls only where they just take a name, number and brief message.

Search a list of local or offshore call centres on the free CX Directory >>>

6. Reduce the number of queue slots

Queue slots determine the total number of calls you can handle in the queue.

When the threshold is exceeded and there are no more slots available, customers trying to contact your business will receive an engaged signal.

It’s not ideal, but if the alternative is being forced to wait in a queue for hours it might be the lesser of two evils.

7. Applying Workforce Management principles

Nothing will substitute for having the correct amount of resources for the expected workload.

For call centres, there are some very powerful formulas called Erlang C that help you calculate the number of staff you need to meet your defined service levels (E.g. 80% of calls answered in 30 seconds).

Helpful resources to manage overflow calls:

Find a list of contact centre specialists including consultants, BPOs and Contact Centre Outsourcers, technology suppliers, trainers, recruiters and more on the free CX Directory > 


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