What is Channel Capacity and How Does it Affect SMEs

by | Mar 24, 2016 | Happier Customers, Make More Sales, Technology, VoIP

We all know that come Friday night, everyone will be hitting the phone to order their extra cheese, extra pepperoni, hold the anchovies, large pizza – it is the weekend after all. Brilliant. So, pizza topping choice has been made, we can practically taste the grease, and without fail, when we go to pick up the phone, we’re hit with a long queue and extensive holding times. The hunger, the frustration, it’s unbearable. Long holding times are the worst, and if you’re like the 80% of customers, when hit with a long call queue, you’ll hang up and call another company.  

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Long hold queues and unanswered calls are a sure way to loose business. Large chains have been trying to solve the solution with online ordering, but there’s still no resolution…. Until now.

As Wizards in the telecommunications industry, we understand that what this industry is suffering from is limited channel capacity.

A call channel is essentially the number of calls your system is capable of receiving or making simultaneously.

A call channel could be:

  • A call in progress
  • A call in or out, whether it involves two+ parties or not
  • Someone in an IVR menu, on hold, or within a call

Think of channels like individual lines, each capable of transmitting audio in both directions – a call. If you have 8 channels into your office you can participate in 8 simultaneous calls. By participate I mean either on the phone, on hold, ringing, leaving a voicemail etc. Even if you have a channel for every person / handset in the office there is the chance that it’s not enough.

If call channel capacity is exceeded, the caller gets a busy tone and the call is terminated (if you’ve ever tried to call a doctor’s surgery first thing on a Monday you’ll probably have experienced this first hand). The worst thing about the dirty secret of channel limitation is that you have no idea who tried to call you but gave up at the busy tone. A business won’t even know they missed the call. The inbound lead who ended up buying from your competitor because your website/advert was great but they couldn’t talk to you is lost.

A busy sales office can tie up more channels than there are people. Conference calls for example or at a receptionist desk keeping inbound callers on hold while you direct them to the appropriate person. In days of yore phone system resellers used to suggest you take 1 channel for every 5 people in the office – in effect sharing a pool of lines and living with an unspoken restriction on how the system could be utilized. The justification was this, you have 24 staff, your last bill says you spend 32000 minutes a month on the phone, that’s 1450 per 8 hour working day or about 3 hours per hour – i.e. average of 3 simultaneous calls across the whole month. For ‘safety’ without knowing anything about the seasonality, or burstiness of your customers the suggestion is that 24/5 ~5 is more than enough for the average 3.

The reason was simple – it reduces the complexity of the PBX they wish to sell and hence the price in addition ongoing cost of line rental is reduced proportionally. On premise phone systems have always been expensive and restrictive, any trick to make things look a bit more manageable an investment was fair game for a savvy system seller – the classic 7 year finance deal was also common – after all it’s not $35000 of capital its $416 /month over 84 months. Of course you would have to be crazy to make a 7 year technological commitment in 2016!

So what is the big deal with sharing some channels? We might not need everyone on the phone at the same time! The problem comes when [not if] you reach that hard limitation – an embarrassing, deal killing, busy tone. Picture it – your website has had an amazing new refresh, the marketing team have put together this fantastic new promo, you’ve just been retweeted by the biggest publication in your industry, sales people have been getting the word out, you can taste the engagement, more hits on the site than you’ve seen before. The phone starts ringing, the buzz in the office is palpable as everyone seems to be talking with a new potential client. Best. Day. Ever. Then tomorrow comes, existing customers were annoyed they couldn’t get through, a couple thought you had some technical issues, you look through your call logs and there were no missed calls. Oddly your competitor seems to have had a bumper day too! I can tell you exactly what has happened – the campaign went well but as soon as you reached your channel limit nobody could get through to you, they weren’t on hold, you didn’t see the missed calls – they got a busy tone and were unrecorded. Those people who experienced the first attempt and couldn’t get through went to the next entry on the Google search, called your nemesis and gave them the money for a competing product that you drummed up interest for. What a shame, the non sales people could have answered those calls, answered some basic questions, taken orders, fed the prospects to the next available sales person, at the very least taken messages.

Chances are if your business is like ours, when there are busy times of the day, those buses all come at once. We have times of the day where nobody is on the phone then while 2 conference calls are going on within the sales team – probably 7 total calls, half the support team are on with customers… and someone browsing the site decides to call. We have now exceeded our headcount in channel usage. Give it an hour and we are down to a couple calls. Lucky for us VoIP technology does not restrict the number of channels and we ensure the Telux platform has capacity in many multiples of seats subscribed – we are committed to making sure no customer of ours, or their customer every hears  busy tone.

Always be answering your calls.

UK Businesses are losing £31.6 billion each year because they fail to answer calls. Limited channel capacity is essentially giving your leads to competitors on a silver platter. If you reach your inbound channel capacity and can’t answer your calls, 61% of consumers will move on when they don’t get a response first time calling and call one of you competitors. Don’t waste opportunities to build your customer base, optimise your phone system and you’ll never lose a caller again.

It’s as simple as that. Now you’ve figured out how to make sure you always get them on the phone, here’s our Guide on Corporate Phone Etiquette to ensure you’re making the most of every conversation.