Want to know how to guarantee your customers will hate calling you? Read on...

According to recent research by Forrester, the vast majority of people prefer to use self-service options when it comes to getting help from companies. Almost three-quarters of consumers would rather visit a website, social media page, or use an application than pick up the phone.

Why is this? Why do customers loathe calling you, even if they can get answers faster or a more favorable resolution to their problem? Several recent viral videos and recordings provide some clues, as they show customers dealing with phone representatives who seem clueless at best and combative at worst, but such extreme examples are still the exception rather than the rule. But if it isn’t almost comically frustrating customer service that’s the issue, what is it?

Looking at evidence from a number of surveys, customers are reluctant to call businesses if they feel they won’t have a good experience

. If you want to keep your phones ringing, be sure that these things are part of your call center experience.

1. Keep Wait Times Short

Perhaps the most oft-cited customer complaints related to call centers is long wait times. One survey found that the majority of customers (about 60 percent) are willing to wait for one minute or less to have their call answered. In fact, about half of those respondents noted that there should never even be a wait for a call to be answered, and all calls should be picked up immediately. An additional 30 percent of respondents said they would be willing to wait up to five minutes for their call to be answered, but beyond that, the number of patient customers dwindles.

The takeaway, then, is that to keep customers calling, you should answer calls as quickly as possible. Or, you can implement solutions to make it easier for your customers to self-service, including:

  • Intelligent Virtual Assistants. These computer-generated helpers walk customers through the task they’re trying to complete on the website, and connect them with a live agent when necessary.
  • Live chat. Give customers the ability to get live help from a person via chat on your site.
  • Callbacks. At times of high call volume, give customers the option of requesting a call back when an agent is available instead of waiting.

2. Pare Down Your Phone Menu

We’ve all encountered them: Phone menus that have so many options that getting help is similar to reading a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. While menu prompts can help route calls to the right place, customers get frustrated when they have to spend 10 minutes listening to 25 different menu options — and then more menu options after they make a selection. Many people either give up, or attempt to override the system by asking for an agent or operator.

If you want to keep customer frustration to a minimum, then make it less complicated to reach someone. A better alternative, though, would be a system that uses the least number of menu options possible, and gets callers to help quickly.

3. Make Sure Your Representatives Are Knowledgeable

Customers call expecting that your representatives will have the answers they need — or will at least be able to find the answers quickly. Nothing annoys callers more than finally getting through, only to reach an agent who doesn’t have a clue, and has to put the call on hold or transfer it to get answers.

You can avoid this by training your agents thoroughly, and retraining or enhancing training often. Implementing knowledge management software that gives agent access to a complete knowledge base in seconds, and updates regularly to include answers to caller questions and solutions to problems, can help even the most inexperienced agent provide excellent service.

4. Limit the Number of Times a Customers Has to Repeat the Problem

Customers usually only call when they need help or have an issue that needs solving. If the call needs to escalation to other agents or managers, you can annoy the caller even further by asking him or her to repeat all of the information that’s already been provided. The more times he or she can share the details of the problem, the more likely this customer will hang up.

If you need to transfer calls, the receiving agent should have as much information as possible before taking the call. Notes in the file and a conversation with the transferring agent can fill in the gaps — and keep callers happy.

In today’s technology age, don’t be discouraged if customers are still reluctant to call; offering other options like live chat and virtual assistants will  help customers find the answer they need and keep them happy. When the time comes that they do pick up the phone, the experience will be a pleasant one, and your customers will stay satisfied.