How to Manage High Call Volumes in your Contact Center

Putting customers on hold is an unavoidable part of running a contact center. Despite this, two-thirds of people are only willing to wait on hold for 2 minutes or less before hanging up.[1] Response time is a decisive factor as to whether customers leave your phone lines happy, or frustrated. This is especially true when a large volume of calls hit. How can you keep customer satisfaction (CSAT) high and queues manageable with a high call volume?

Contact centers need to be contactable anytime, anywhere and by any means. This includes when there are high call volumes and peaks in demand, both expected and unexpected. By and large, the ability of your organization to handle large numbers of callers rests in the capabilities of your contact center solution.

To manage high call volumes successfully, contact center solutions must excel in two things: scalability and operational effectiveness.


What does it mean to be scalable?

Scalability can be defined as the ability to handle a growing, or decreasing, volume of customer interactions, based on demand. For instance, scaling in preparation for university clearing and scaling down after seasonal holidays such as Christmas and New Year. Alternatively, scaling in response to an influx of calls prompted by an unexpected service outage or event. Examples of the unexpected include a power cut or changes to travel rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More often than not, scaling up services is what customers need to do. This is because the cost to always have the capacity to meet peak demand levels is prohibitive.

The makings of a scalable contact center solution

A highly scalable contact center solution will have the following characteristics:

  • Is cloud-based

  • Has a high resilience level, preferably 99.999%

A cloud contact center solution has no need for specific hardware or software on your organization’s premises. Having hardware and software on premise are limiting factors to scalability. In the cloud, the sky’s the limit. Cloud contact center solutions allow organizations to handle peaks and dips in demand efficiently. They do this by supporting large queues intelligently and without the need for additional, costly equipment. On the other hand, on-premise contact center solutions are built to scale up to a certain point. For this reason, they will hold your organization back when you need to handle unexpected high call volumes.

A reliable contact center solution is a necessity in high call volume situations. Therefore a contact center solution that delivers ‘five nines’ (99.999%) availability in their service level agreements (SLA) will ensure service quality and stability when you need it most.

Want to read more about scalability? Check out Content Guru’s other blogs: 3 Tips to Scale Your Contact Center with Confidence and The Best of Content Guru – Unrivalled Scalability.

Operational effectiveness

What does it mean to be operationally effective?

Contact centers that are operationally effective maximize the efficient use of their resources to improve service quality and agent productivity. Operational effectiveness is vital when high call volumes strike. Not only must your contact center handle extreme service demand, and respond to customers promptly, but it must not compromise customer experience (CX). Here are some methods to manage high call volumes that will make the most of your resources and ensure excellent CX.

1. Offer More Channels

Have you ever taken the long way round, only to learn of a shortcut afterwards? Likewise, when customers call up your contact center, they may not know that there is an easier, more direct way of finding an answer to their query – one that doesn’t necessarily involve speaking to a live agent.

In your IVR, make customers aware of the alternatives to waiting on hold, especially for routine information and services. Channels such as social media and web chat can be automated, and so are often quicker to respond to queries. Directing customers to other, more convenient channels for their query, makes for a smoother CX, and also reduces the waiting time for customers that need the experience of a live agent.

2. Provide a call back service

“Your call matters to us, please hold”…but for how long?

On top of letting customers know how long they should expect to wait until they reach an agent, it’s a good idea to provide a call back service. This will mean your customers do not spend more time than necessary in a queue. In addition, your customers will feel like their call really does matter to your organization. Besides better CX, benefits of a call back service include decreased costs and lower call abandonment rates.

3. Enable self-service

Empower your customers to find answers with self-service. Through supportive content such as articles in a knowledge base, or an FAQ page on your website, your organization can deflect callers looking for answers for routine questions.

For a next-level self-service, deploy chatbots that leverage best-in-class AI capabilities such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and image recognition. This will allow your self-service channels to process voice, text and images with ease and at scale. Then your organization will be able to service complex queries 24/7, and reduce the pressure on live agents. Also for any interaction that needs the attention of a live agent, chatbots are able to transfer the interaction to a live human agent effortlessly.

4. Optimize call routing

A fast initial customer response is vital. In addition to deflecting simpler queries, it is crucial to direct people to the right person the first time, with no transfers or excessive hold times. According to a recent study, the most important thing organizations could do to improve its service is to make it easier to contact the right person to help them.[2]

To optimize your call routing, find a solution that leverages principles such as Mediated Interaction Matching (MIM). MIM calculates routing based on factors such as personality and skill level to optimize contact center effectiveness. This will allow you to match enquires to the best available agent every time, across every channel.

Handle high call volumes easily with Content Guru

Gartner® Inc., a company that delivers actionable, objective insight to executive and their teams, have determined five Use Cases that are crucial for Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solutions. Content Guru understands that these Use Cases were defined by Gartner based on the common needs of organizations seeking a CCaaS solution, both geographical and functional. One such Use Case is the High Volume Customer Call Center Use Case.

Being able to cope with huge levels of customer service demand is fundamental for any organization. As such, Content Guru believe that Gartner stress the importance of a CCaaS platform that can scale and support high resilience levels, all the while delivering best-of-breed experiences.

For the fourth year running, Content Guru have scored the highest in the High Volume Customer Call Center Use Case, with a 3.73 out of 5 in the 2021 Gartner® Critical Capabilities for Contact Center as a Service report.[3] Content Guru considers this result a true reflection of the storm® cloud platform in terms of its unrivalled scalability and intelligent automation.

storm is trusted by some of the world’s largest enterprises to support their customer engagement and experience services. For instance NHS 111, the British National Health Service non-emergency medical helpline, uses storm to handle up to 32,000 urgent calls a week, 24/7, 365 days a year. Fleurop Interflora, the world’s largest floristry company, also use storm’s unlimited scalability in the cloud to handle spikes in customer demand seamlessly.

Read more about how to handle high call volumes effortlessly with Content Guru’s whitepaper, ‘Scaling Up: How High Volume Contact Handling Can Keep Your Company Competitive’.

[1] Arise, Arise Customer Service Frustration Series: Phone Hold Times, 2019

[2] The Institute of Customer Service, UK Customer Satisfaction Index, July 2021

[3] Gartner, Critical Capabilities for Contact Centre as a Service, Steve Blood, Drew Kraus, Pri Rathnayake, 9 August 2021


Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.