Backlogs are an inevitable part of running a customer service call center. No matter how well prepared you are or how well trained your agents are, things happen that will stretch your waiting times and increase the number of customers in the queue so much that your agents start to sweat. The good news: If you take the proper steps to calmly and efficiently handle a backlog, you can keep agents from becoming overwhelmed and quickly work through the lengthening queue. Here are the three steps you need.

  1. Determine the Cause


Backlogs can be surprising and unexpected in the moment, but oftentimes there is a common reason behind them. Did you recently push an update or release a new product? Was there a product failure, or did an announcement that required taking action accidentally get sent to more customers than intended? Determining the cause of the backlog will help you figure out the best path forward to eliminate it quickly.

One of the easiest ways to determine the cause of the backlog is by using your Interactive Voice Responder to your advantage. For example, if you know there was a product launch or an accidental email that you suspect to be the cause, you can add an option to your IVR that will direct all customers who are calling about that specific topic to the same place. If the majority of callers are selecting that option, you know that is likely the cause of the increased call volume.

But say none of these things are going on. The day should be business as usual, yet you’re dealing with a huge volume of calls that is drowning your agents. If this is the case, especially if it happens with regularity, you may need to consider if the backlog is being caused by a staffing problem and you need to add more agents to the schedule.


  1. Identify Common Problems and Solutions


Once you’ve determined the cause of your backlog you can set out to uncover the problems it has created. Going back to the examples above, say that you’ve determined that a new product release is causing the backlog. The next step is to see what exactly about the new product customers are calling about. Are they having trouble with set up? Is there a piece or a component missing that should be there? Identifying these problems is a critical next step for two reasons.

First, identifying common problems will tell you who is best equipped to handle the inquiries. If it’s a set up issue, you’ll want to send callers to agents who can help walk them through the set up and/or schedule a visit from a technician to help them. If there’s something missing, callers might need to go to order processing to get the missing part ordered, or to shipping to confirm that it is on the way. Eliminating the need to transfer callers from one department to another will help you work through the backlog faster.

Second, identifying common problems will also help you identify common solutions. Say the issue is set up difficulty and you already have a video that can help customers with set up—directing them to that video from the IVR or your website before they even reach a live agent can help you speed through the queue faster, leaving any more complicated inquiries for your agents to deal with. Or if these sorts of resources don’t exist, agents can have the proper solutions available and ready to relay to customers, which will also help calls move faster.


  1. Create New Self-Service Tools


Once the backlog has been dealt with, it’s never a good idea to simply forget about it and hope it doesn’t happen again. Depending on the cause and the problems it presented, you may discover an opportunity to create new self-service tools such as articles, videos and how-to guides that will help customers handle similar issues on their own in the future, reducing the likelihood of future backlogs.

An easy-to-edit IVR, like the one included with CallShaper, plays a central role in handling customer service backlogs quickly and efficiently. To learn more about it, as well as the other features of CallShaper that will support your inbound call center, request a demo today