15. June 2022 Blog

Handle Inbound Calls Like a Pro: 7 Best Practices for Agents and Call Center Managers

Illustration inbound calls MAIN

In an era of new communication methods popping up like mushrooms, one might think that no one calls businesses anymore. However, the data tells a different story. 76% of customers prefer calling companies to using other contact methods. And while chatbots and other AI tools are growing in popularity, 75% of customers would still choose human interactions (e.g., via the phone) over anything else. 

The bottom line is that businesses need to continue providing phone contact options and improving their customer support standards in this area. 

Today, we’ll show you how to handle inbound calls so that both your agents and customers are happy with your company’s service. We’ve also included handy checklists for your team to follow.

What Are Inbound Calls?

In the simplest terms possible, inbound calls are made TO your business. In other words, customers are the ones calling your company. Usually, these calls relate to customer service, but they may also be driving factors for product management or sales. Initiated by customers, they can contain a whole range of requests. 

The Most Common Types of Inbound Calls:

  • simple quote requests 
  • complaints
  • technical questions
  • non-standard client feedback
  • scheduling appointments
  • order-taking services

And these are just a few of the types of requests you might encounter. The truth is that with inbound calls, you never know when or why your callers will reach out to you. So, you have to be always ready for any situation.

Who Usually Handles Inbound Calls? 

Agents are not all equally suited to handle every type of call. Hence, who picks up the phone depends on several variables, including

  • Request type – depending on the issue, the calls are routed to appropriate teams. For example, a business development team can handle all sales-related issues, while IT support can help with technical issues and set-ups.
  • Company size – larger companies usually have teams to deal with various types of requests. Smaller businesses are typically down to just one or two people handling phone call communication.
  • The complexity of the request – an inbound call handler may be able to help, advise, and resolve the issue on the first call (did someone say First Call Resolution?). In some cases, though, more advanced requests should be referred to a different department and handled by multiple or more experienced people.

There is no “right” way – it all comes down to the structure of your business. 

If you’re a one-person-army, you’re likely to take all incoming calls yourself. In the long run, you’ll inevitably have to divide these efforts as your business grows.

Why Are Inbound Calls Important?

Though it’s outbound calls that are usually associated with making profit, inbound calls can also have a huge impact on your business operations as well.

#1 Inbound Calls are a Direct Way to Get in Touch with Your Company 

Building better relationships with your clients begins with providing a direct and noninvasive contact form. By offering this option, you’re going the extra mile for the clients who prefer calls.

#2 Inbound Calls can Increase Sales

Inbound calls are often the most useful and direct source of feedback.

Clients who experience quick and easy problem resolution on your support line are more likely to return. In a Zendesk survey, 81% of consumers said a positive customer service experience increased their likelihood of making another purchase. Handling inbound calls right takes you one step closer to success.

#3 Inbound Calls are Customer-Focused

Inbound calls are all about the customer. This may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating. With inbound calls, you can get to know them and their needs so that you can design the perfect customer journey for each caller. 

That’s why every step of the call, from the initial greeting to the final goodbye, should be designed with the customer in mind.

Our Top 7 Tips for Handling Inbound Calls

Now that you know just how much depends on how you answer every call, let’s talk about how you can deliver an amazing experience to your customers in practice.

#1 Choose the Right Call Center Software

With an “all-in-one” call center solution, many tasks (e.g., handling peak hours) become simpler. There are a lot of call center software tools available, so it’s worth doing your own research, trying a few, and selecting the right one.

Here are some features of call center software you should look for:

  • Intuitive dashboard – you and your agents will spend a lot of time using this solution, so you want to make sure it’s user-friendly and quick to grasp. 
  • IVR with automatic call distribution – with interactive voice response, you can set up callbacks, voicemails, and call routing. If you’re looking to facilitate inbound call center management, this is probably the feature you may look forward to the most. 
  • Automatic call recording and storing – so you can analyze your previous calls and continuously improve the quality of your inbound call management.

What other pro calling tools you’ll get with CloudTalk?

Furthermore, ensure that your have chosen platform will work well with other software you are already using (like your CRM or help desk). That way, you won’t need to add, move, or update data manually.

CloudTalk has dozens of direct integrations with other software – if your favorite tool is not on the list yet, you can simply use Zapier to hook it up. These added features will make it more convenient to manage calls that you would otherwise miss and automate some of the other tasks you have on your plate.

Checklist for call center agents and managers:

identify bottlenecks that could be solved with the right softwaremake a list of features that would make your work easier pick a few tools to test out with your team (Cloudtalk offers a free trial or you can also schedule a demo) decide on a tool and implement it throughout the organization or designated departments streamline your workflow.

Get inspired: 

Features to Research when Choosing your Call Center Software [ebook]

#2 Answer Calls Promptly with IVR and ACD

Customers are often impatient because they can feel as though they are waiting forever. This is why you should strive to shorten your wait times and make them more effective for your customers.

An IVR can handle many calls simultaneously and route them all to the right agent or department, eliminating the need to transfer calls. This can help a lot if your support queue is regularly filled with basic questions. 

Implement an automatic call distribution (ACD) system for routing based on the availability of each agent. Ensuring an even distribution of calls to whoever is least busy can prevent agents from being overwhelmed with calls.

Checklist for call center agents and managers:

verify whether or not your current system already offers IVR and ACD (built-in or as add-ons) evaluate if there’s a business need for implementing such a solutionconsider a switch if this could be a game-changer for your organizationcreate journeys and workflows for both IVR and ACD within your department

Get inspired: 7 Signs You Need ACD

#3 Stay Polite Regardless of the Situation

Call center agents often have to deal with upset or angry customers. Although it may be difficult, you must remain calm and polite to help defuse stressful situations.

Often a caller will not be courteous. They might be irritated, disappointed, angry, or simply having a bad day – but that doesn’t mean you can behave the same way. 

Providing excellent customer service requires professionalism and friendliness at the same time. The numbers support this claim: 68% of consumers say that a pleasant representative is key to having a positive customer service experience.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should allow a caller to throw insults or threats at you. If that happens, you should immediately escalate the call to a manager.

Checklist for agents and call center managers:

Smile while you are talking – a caller can sense the tone of your voice even if they can’t see you, and this can calm them downlisten to the customer and let them vent if they need to – once they realize they have your full attention, they may be more likely to work with you to resolve the issueask questions and be empathetic – this shows you understand the situation and want to helpdon’t get carried away – never be angry with a client or yell at them

Get inspired: How to Stay Polite with Tough Customers on the Phone

#4 Aim for First Call Resolution (But Not By All Means)

FCR (First Call Resolution) is the icing on the customer excellence cake for many businesses. A proverbial cherry on top.

FCR means that the customer receives the desired help from you the very first time they make contact.

Naturally, you should always strive to resolve issues promptly as a business. However, even if you believe you are qualified and knowledgeable enough to handle every single problem in the world, you can’t possibly know all the answers.

And that’s fine. Certain things are simply beyond your control, so you can’t solve every problem and satisfy every customer.

Be honest with the caller by telling them that you cannot answer their question, but you will help them in some other way – for example, by directing them to a different agent. Callers might not like speaking with another person, but it’s better than wasting time on someone who can’t help (in this case, you).

Checklist for call center agents and managers:

make sure you have a defined workflow for assigning and taking over callsidentify strengths and weaknesses in your team, and work on continuous improvementoffer your customers helpful resources, so they only call when really necessaryhave a few call scripts on hand to use and follow

Get inspired: Using Call Routing to Improve Agents’ Efficiency

#5 Set Your Business Hours

Even if you have fixed working hours, that won’t stop your customers from calling once you clock out. They can still have questions or issues, and an unanswered call is the last thing you want them to experience – that’s why solid call center tools have a feature for business hours when you’re not around.

CloudTalk lets you determine several actions you can take outside of your opening hours – direct inbound calls to different numbers or voicemail when no one is available, or (dis)play a custom message. As a result, your call center can operate around the clock without agents working 24/7.

Checklist for call center agents and managers:

make sure that your business hours are clearcommunicate any changes in your business scheduleset up a flow of actions to take when nobody is workingcheck if your software handles a business hours set-up

Get inspired: Setting Business Hours with CloudTalk

#6 Choose Preferred Agents For Your Callers

Give your callers a business class experience.

In today’s call centers, call queueing is a standard feature allowing you to place inbound calls in smart queues according to predetermined criteria. With the right features, high-profile clients are prioritized. 

They can skip the queue or be directed to agents with the most expertise, and less important calls go to agents with less experience. If an important client has a good experience with a particular customer service representative, they will probably ask to speak with them again the next time they contact you.

CloudTalk allows you to skip that very question. With this tool, you can set a preferred agent for specific customers or assign particular calls to the same agents so that they can always give the customers the special treatment they expect. 

By doing this, your agents can focus on their work because they will already be familiar with a specific customer and their case. And besides amazing inbound call management, you’ll also see your customer satisfaction levels soar.

Checklist for call center agents and managers:

create a list of agents who could take specific cases or callsverify whether or not you have clients you’d like to prioritizeset up a flow within your organizationcheck if your software offers a Preferred Agent feature

Get inspired: 10 Proven Customer Service Strategies

#7 Use Call Scripts

Handling inbound calls can be a challenge – you have to juggle multiple tasks at once and keep track of a lot of different information. This is where call center scripts come in handy.

Call center scripts can help you manage your inbound calls more effectively by providing clear guidance for your agents. They can also help you keep track of important details about each call, such as the customer’s name, their problem, and the resolution status. 

Using a solid call center script can improve your inbound call management and provide better customer service. 

Checklist for call center agents and managers:

identify patterns for potential call center scriptsreview your current scripts every few months to update them, or degrade them and replace them with new onesensure that scripts are part of the employee onboarding processcheck the performance of each script regularly and adjust when needed

Get inspired: Call Center Script Templates

Not Enough Tips?

We’ve listed our top tips for handling inbound calls above, but we have a few more tricks up our sleeves. Find out how to manage your daily workload, get through your tasks smoothly, and deal with stress in our article with 22 tips for call center agents.

Conclusion

The way you handle inbound calls can have a significant impact on a customer’s perception of your business. If you focus on meeting their needs by helping to resolve problems quickly, your customers will keep returning to you in the future.


And if you don’t… well, better start now. With software like CloudTalk, you can automate many tedious tasks and take care of the overall quality of your call center.

Want to see CloudTalk’s magic?

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