We all know too well, however, that agents often neglect to pass on vital details of these conversations to their colleagues, and that clients may not even bother to take notes, relying instead on imperfect (and often deeply flawed) memory!
The result of either one party or the other failing to properly follow up on a conversation: wasted time and frustration for both! This is where after-call work (ACW) comes in. While agents can't necessarily control whether the client on the phone with them will accurately recall conversation details once they hang up - let alone act on them in a timely manner - they can take responsibility on their own end to make sure that all elements of the call are noted and that they take all necessary follow-up actions.
The following article will detail the benefits of after-call work and explain how the right phone system will allow you to implement it at your own company, saving time and increasing employee productivity as well as revenue.
What is after-call work?
After-call work is time dedicated to follow-up tasks related to a call that has just ended.
Typically, after-call notes would include detailed points about:
- Reason for the call (eg. product return, service renewal, complaint)
- Follow-up tasks
- Outcomes (client satisfied w/suggested solution/will call back next week/hung up unhappy)
- Customer mood
- People to involve in follow-up
- New discoveries about client (started looking at other competitors, changing roles soon)
- Special requests from client
It is a great way to briefly list next steps, such as keeping colleagues updated or scheduling appointments. ACW should take place immediately after a call so that no important details are forgotten, and any shorthand notes made during the call can be properly elaborated on. It's a time period during which incoming calls should be suspended to keep distractions to a minimum.
How long should call wrap-up last?
There's no magic formula that will tell you the ideal amount of time that should be set aside for after-call work: it depends on everything from your sector to your workload, internal structure, and the complexity of a call. Though it should account for all relevant information exchanged during the call, it should be as short as possible to prevent agents from logging superfluous information that will take more effort to sift through later.
Between 60 and 120 seconds is a typically sufficient amount of time to make post-call notes and schedule follow-up tasks. However, if you need to factor ACW in to specific goals for your call center in terms of service level and AHT (Average Handling Time), using an Erlang calculator can be extremely helpful.
Why should call centers make ACW mandatory?
Incorporating after-call work time into your sales and customer service process can benefit a your company in several tangible ways:
- Keep important records about conversations
- Assist in new hire induction
- Save time on client calls
- To avoid asking customers for repetitive details
- Improve agent time management
Illustration: After-call work applied
Let's say that Tom works in the call center of a company that sells vacuum cleaners and accessories.
He first takes a call from Mary Stewart, who wants to order new bags for her G-135 series. He jots down "MS - G-135 - new bags" on his notepad, thanks her for her business, and hangs up.
Another call immediately rings on his line - this time from Martha Stanley, who wants to exchange her older G-274 for the latest upgraded model. He jots down "MS wants new G274," thanks the customer, and hangs up.
He takes 5 minutes to go for a cup of coffee and returns to his desk intending to carry out the client requests he's just received…only now he can't recall which "MS" is which, or what the initials even stand for!
Tom is now facing quite a dilemma. He can try to rely on error-prone memory and risk a lot of inconvenience for the customers with whom he's just spoken, or he can call all of the dozens of women in the company system with similar names and initials and ask them to confirm the requests. By now he's not only wasted time worrying about how to handle a problem that could have been easily avoided, but he's going lose more time finding a solution, likely causing confusion and frustration for customers as well as a colleague or two in the process.
Had Tom completed ACW (or been required to do so by his company), he would have properly noted the first caller's request. And had Tom's company put a time-saving and productivity-boosting phone system in place to begin with, the client file would have automatically appeared on Tom's computer screen, and pre-set after-call work time would have prevented any new calls from interrupting him during follow-up.
Read also: Call Center Metrics: The Top 20 KPIs To Measure in Your Call Center
6 tips to reduce after-call work time
The goal of after-call work should always be to increase productivity and save time, no matter your domain. Below are a few tips to help you and your customer service reps do so:
1. Do continuous training
Train agents continuously and consistently from the day they are hired. Ensure agents understand that after-call work time is more than a few minutes to breeze out before moving onto the next call but it makes a huge difference in the quality of their work - for themselves and for everyone else. A good way to make training easy is to use call monitoring and supervision tools that can give you direct access to agent calls.
2. Establish after-call standards
Coach agents on what good note-taking looks like and what details should be included in their notes and feedback text. Use a template and establish SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that everyone can simply follow to create uniformity in how each agent handles their after-call work time. Also, ensure agents are all aware of what the standard ACW time duration is and that they stick to it. For instance, 60 seconds for first-time callers and 30 seconds for existing contacts.
3. Automate call wrap-up process
Use a cloud-based phone system with integrated ACW feature (pre-set time to temporarily prevent any new calls from coming in) to speed up the process. Go even a step further to automate standard administrative tasks such as creating a new contact record in CRM for new callers or cheating a call back task event in CRM for missed calls. This would also help to ensure agents never forget to complete crucial call wrap up steps thus improving overall efficiency and quality of work.
4. Route calls smarter
Create smart routing rules to send callers directly to their account manager or the best skilled and available agent. This means that the caller’s request can be handled quicker and more smoothly thus making it easier for the agent to sum up his feedback notes and minimize repetitions.
5. Adopt a combined call center and CRM software
Sync call center software with your CRM to automate as many tasks as possible. For example, a beneficial feature is screen pop which displays customer information on the agent’s screen when a call comes in. Integrating your call center software to your CRM makes it possible to streamline your agent’s workflow and boost productivity.
6. Audit your process
After-call work time is as good as it is costly. Managers should make it a regular habit to evaluate the process in place to identify gaps and deficiencies in the process and to rectify them. Every second an agent spends off the phone is an expense to the company thus it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure that agents are spending their time wisely on and off the phone. Auditing will also uncover any weakness in the SOPs set and may also show elements in call note taking that can be omitted because they are already accounted for in the CRM, for example.
Need help reducing after-call work time?
Now that you're aware of just how important after-call work is for any type of call center, you're ready to start putting the above information into practice and bring your company one step closer to its optimal performance. If your current phone system does not support the after-call work features mentioned in this article, Ringover is here to help you with this and much more!
Get in touch with one of our sales reps today to schedule a demo or try us out for free for 7 days!