HomeBusinessToo Many Calls? Call Deflection Won’t Help. Here’s Why

Too Many Calls? Call Deflection Won’t Help. Here’s Why


Call deflection is a strategy used in customer service to manage high call volumes by directing callers to alternative support channels like a website’s knowledge base, email, FAQs page, or chatbot.

While it might reduce immediate call pressure, it doesn’t necessarily lessen the overall workload or solve customer problems. Often, issues are just delayed—or never resolved at all.

Simply rerouting customers to self-service options they’ve likely already explored doesn’t meet their need for a prompt and effective resolution. Customers may end up calling back, or agents might need to return calls, creating a loop of deferred solutions.

So why do so many call centers still rely on call deflection? It’s often seen as a quick fix to alleviate immediate pressure, without addressing the root causes of high call volumes. However, savvy call center workforce management teams are shifting their focus toward more effective solutions.

Call Deflection From the Customers’ Point of View

To best understand the impact of call deflection, let’s walk through the customer’s journey.

First, a customer encounters an issue and immediately turns to your website’s self-service options, browsing FAQs or help guides with no success.

Realizing that they’re not going to be able to solve their problem themselves, they decide to call your call center, expecting a direct conversation with an agent who can resolve their issue.

However, upon calling, they’re met with an automated system that deflects them back to the very online resources they’ve already found inadequate.

This loop of deflection not only heightens their frustration but also diminishes their trust in your brand.

At this stage, the customer is likely to feel ignored and undervalued, a sentiment that can significantly erode brand loyalty.

73% of consumers believe that when brands prioritize their time, it leads to a positive customer service experience. They don’t want to be directed to alternative channels to search for help on their own—they want to know you’ll be available when they need you.

If a caller is sent back to a self-service menu or directed to a format like chat or email, they’re more likely to abandon the call altogether.

In the long run, this experience can be costly for businesses. A negative customer experience can lead to increased churn rates and negative word-of-mouth, impacting your company’s reputation and bottom line.

7 Ways Call Deflection Is Only Making Things Worse

Call deflection is designed to redirect incoming calls to alternative support channels, with the aim to manage call volumes more efficiently.

However, this rarely has the positive effect that businesses think it’ll have. In fact, it usually just makes things worse. Here’s how.

1. Unresolved customer issues

Call deflection often leads to customers’ specific issues being inadequately addressed. Here’s a typical breakdown of how this process can fail:

  • Generic self-service resources: Customers are redirected to FAQs, chatbots, or automated responses that may not actually answer their questions or address their concerns.
  • Missed personalized interaction: Personalization is key to a positive customer experience. When you deflect calls, the opportunity for tailored advice or troubleshooting from a live agent is lost.
  • Persistent problems: The customer’s issues remain unresolved, and their problems persist.

So the customer’s problem doesn’t get fixed, which means they’ll be calling again (if they haven’t given up completely)—which, ultimately, takes more time than if the call had never been deflected in the first place.

2. Increased customer frustration

In urgent situations, call deflection is just going to make your customers feel more frustrated.

Here’s how that could look for your business

  • Higher complaint rates: Customers are more likely to make formal complaints when their urgent needs aren’t met promptly.
  • Longer call durations: Subsequent calls tend to be longer, as your agents will need to spend additional time addressing your customers’ frustrations.
  • Reduced first-call resolution: There’s a notable decrease in the percentage of issues resolved on the first call, meaning the customer will likely need to call back and talk to multiple agents.
  • Eroded trust and loyalty: The lack of direct, empathetic communication can severely damage customers’ trust and loyalty towards your brand.

This doesn’t just put a strain on the customer experience—but on call center operations as well.

3. Callback complications

In busy call centers, the management of promised callbacks presents a significant operational challenge, even with the best call center software. Technically, this often stems from the complex interplay of call queue dynamics, workforce scheduling, and customer relationship management (CRM) system limitations.

Common callback complications include:

  • Queue prioritization issues: Callbacks can get deprioritized in the call queue management system, especially during peak hours, leading to delays in follow-up.
  • Workforce allocation challenges: Inadequate workforce management and scheduling can result in a shortage of available agents to handle the volume of callbacks, which just makes the issue even worse.
  • CRM integration gaps: A lack of integration between telephone systems and CRM platforms can result in callbacks slipping through the cracks.
  • Tracking and accountability difficulties: Without defined tracking mechanisms and accountability standards, promised callbacks can be overlooked or forgotten completely.

These technical and operational hurdles can lead to a significant number of promised callbacks never being completed—once again resulting in frustrated customers and a tarnished brand reputation.

4. Growing backlog of queries

Call deflection can inadvertently contribute to an increasing backlog of customer queries. This typically occurs due to several technical and process-oriented factors:

  • Ineffective channel shifting: When customers are deflected to channels that fail to resolve their issues, it often leads to repeat calls. This cycle inflates the number of unresolved queries in the system.
  • Resource allocation imbalance: Your call center might face challenges in reallocating resources between primary call handling and managing deflected queries, making the backlog even worse.
  • Data synchronization issues: If you don’t have real-time data synchronization between various customer service channels, this can result in repeated queries being logged as new, once again contributing to the backlog.

Such a growing backlog not only extends wait times for customers but also places additional pressure on agents. Call center quality monitoring and audit processes can also suffer as backlogged queries are less likely to be sampled for quality checks.

5. Decreased agent productivity

In call centers, decreased agent productivity often results from handling a backlog created by ineffective call deflection strategies. Even the best VoIP phone services can’t make up for overwhelmed agents and inefficient processes.

This scenario, common in even the best call center services, involves agents spending disproportionate time on repeat calls for previously unresolved issues.

Here’s how call deflection can affect agent productivity:

  • Increased average handling time (AHT): The percentage of repeat calls can inflate an agent’s AHT, making it challenging to improve handling times. This can be especially frustrating for the agent if your call center sets goals that they’re not achieving because of call deflection.
  • Lower first contact resolution (FCR) rates: As the backlog grows and the number of escalated calls increases, agents are less likely to resolve customer issues on the first call, affecting FCR rates.
  • Repetitive tasks and redundancies: Agents may have to perform repeated tasks and deal with redundancies due to callbacks or unresolved queries, which often leads to agent burnout.

The cycle of revisiting the same problems leads to a significant reduction in the time available for new queries, and it can also lead to your agents feeling frustrated and burned out.

6. Compromised quality of service leading to poor reviews

When call deflection becomes a primary strategy in a call center, several specific issues can negatively impact call center quality assurance goals:

  • Agents may have fewer direct interactions with customers due to deflection, which means a portion of your customer base isn’t getting the help they need—and you may be missing out on discovering important issues going on with your products or services.
  • Deflection may lead to repetitive, scripted responses that fail to address unique customer issues effectively, resulting in unresolved problems.
  • The lack of direct engagement can result in missed opportunities to identify and implement necessary service improvements like better call center routing.

Negative customer service reviews add up over time. Not only have you lost old customers, but new clients will see these reviews and be more likely to run in the opposite direction.

7. Undermining customer loyalty

Ultimately, the undermining of customer loyalty due to call deflection results in customers often looking at other solutions to meet their needs:

  • Exploration of alternatives: Customers start exploring other service providers with positive reviews and testimonials indicating they provide better customer service than your business.
  • Lowered tiers: A customer may switch to a lower-tier or free plan within the same service since their needs aren’t being met on more expensive plans.
  • They drop you completely: Frustrated customers may consider dropping you completely since they’re not getting the help they need with your business.

Losing customer loyalty can have a hugely negative impact on a company. Not only do you potentially lose the customer, but they often end up looking to your competitors to get the help they’re searching for.

Ditch Call Deflection and Do These Things Instead

If you’re using call deflection or just getting started with call center operations, here are some alternative strategies to consider:

Scale your workforce management team

Scaling your workforce management team is the most straightforward alternative to deflected calls. Simply put, it just means adding more team members to handle your call center’s current workload. Here’s a simplified rundown of implementation:

  • Identify the number of deflected calls to determine how many agents are needed
  • Staff accordingly to handle increased call volumes
  • Utilize workforce management software for efficient planning and onboarding of new agents

This is particularly beneficial for call centers with small teams and increasing caller demand. You can also consider hiring temporary staff during peak periods to handle increased call volumes.

Leverage AI-enhanced tools

AI-enhanced tools refer to the use of artificial intelligence in streamlining call center operations. For instance, an AI-powered VoIP system can intelligently route calls based on the caller’s history and needs, thereby reducing call deflection.

  • Implement AI-powered VoIP systems to smartly route calls to the most suitable agent
  • Use predictive analytics tools to anticipate customer requirements
  • Apply sentiment analysis to gauge customer emotions and tailor responses accordingly

This strategy is ideal for high-volume call centers, but remember the importance of maintaining a human touch alongside automation for a personalized customer experience.

Implement smart IVR systems

Smart IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems are automated programs that interact with callers, collect information, and route calls to the appropriate recipient. For instance, a customer seeking technical support can be directly routed to a tech specialist, thus minimizing deflected calls.

  • Set up an IVR system that accurately identifies the purpose of the call
  • Train your staff on how to handle different types of calls based on IVR categorization
  • Regularly update the IVR system to match changing customer needs

Switching to smart IVR systems can drastically reduce waiting times, provide 24/7 customer service, and free up your agents to handle more complex queries. This method is especially useful for call centers that receive a high volume of calls or operate round-the-clock.

Remember, simplicity and clarity are key in designing your IVR menu.

Explore overflow call center services

Overflow call center services are external service providers designed to take calls when your team is overloaded. Instead of deflecting them, a caller is transferred to the overflow service.

  • Choose a reliable overflow call center service that aligns with your business needs
  • Ensure a smooth transition process for calls to the overflow service
  • Regularly review the performance of the overflow service for quality control

Opting for overflow call center services can ensure every customer call is attended to, even during peak times. This solution is ideal for call centers experiencing high call volumes or seasonal surges.

Focus On Your Call Center KPIs to Monitor Call Deflection Alternatives

Call deflection is best minimized by precise and diligent tracking of call center metrics. Key performance indicators (KPIs) offer valuable insights into your operation’s effectiveness and areas of improvement.

Call deflection rate (CDR)

This KPI indicates the percentage of calls redirected to alternative channels, like chatbots or self-service portals. If you notice an elevated rate, it could signify an over-reliance on deflection. This is the most important metric when it comes to identifying your call center’s baseline so you can make improvements.

Agent occupancy rate (AOR)

This metric represents the ratio of time an agent spends on calls versus idle time. A high occupancy rate might suggest that your agents are overwhelmed, creating a need for call deflection. Regular monitoring helps in balancing workload and reducing deflection.

First call resolution (FCR)

FCR measures the percentage of calls resolved during the initial interaction. A low FCR could indicate complex issues necessitating deflection to specialized agents or channels. Tracking this KPI aids in improving problem-solving strategies and minimizing deflection.

Average handle time (AHT)

AHT is the average duration of a single call, inclusive of hold time. A high AHT can indicate inefficiencies that justify call deflection. Monitoring this metric will enable you to identify and rectify these inefficiencies, thereby reducing deflection.

The End of Call Deflection: What’s Next?

To use these strategies to their fullest potential, start by looking at newer call center trends.

Here are the two most common and effective call center alternatives to end call deflection:

Call center software

This is a specialized tool crafted with customer service in mind. Its primary function is to handle a high volume of calls and other customer interactions efficiently.

Call center software comes packed with helpful features such as:

  • Automatic call distribution
  • Interactive voice response
  • Real-time analytics to supercharge your service delivery

While creating your own might seem tempting, it can be resource-intensive. It involves purchasing infrastructure, software, and hardware. On the other hand, outsourcing the service to a reputable provider can significantly reduce your overhead costs and free up time to focus on your core business.

VoIP services

VoIP technology takes voice communications and multimedia sessions into the digital age by facilitating them over the internet.

In the realm of call centers, VoIP systems can offer a ton of benefits:

  • Cost savings
  • Simple scalability
  • Enhanced functionality like call forwarding and recording.

One of the best call center software options on the market today is Nextiva. It has an array of helpful features, including VoIP services, all designed to streamline your call center operations and elevate customer experiences.

With Nextiva, it’s easy to monitor KPIs, maintain quality assurance, and manage call flow paths effectively.

By implementing these tools and strategies, you can transition from a focus on call deflection to a more empathetic, customer-centric approach that prioritizes first-call resolutions and overall customer satisfaction.

The result? Happier customers and a more efficient call center.

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