How to Reduce Call Abandonment in a Call Center

Abandoned calls—the calls that were dropped by customers while waiting for an agent—are bad for business. Whatever the reason for a dropped call, every abandoned call can be reduced to this: the customer who needed to contact your business left unsatisfied.

You can learn a lot about your call center’s performance by analyzing the details of abandoned calls. A key performance indicator, the number of abandoned calls that your call center receives can be measured as the share or ratio of incoming calls to the percentage of calls abandoned. (This assessment does not include unattended calls—the answered calls that were abandoned during outbound campaigns.)

There are a number of solutions to this problem. The simplest solution is to increase staffing to handle the volume of incoming calls; however, hiring more agents is not always a viable option for your call center.

If that’s the case, consider employing any of the following ways to reduce call abandonment:

  • Announce estimated wait time
  • Offer virtual queuing
  • Use media blending
  • Dial abandoned calls during off-peak times
  • Occupy the customer’s time
  • Play engaging announcements and/or music
  • Offer self-service
  • Use wallboards and team broadcasts
  • Reallocate hours
  • Overflow calls that have been waiting too long

Using such approaches, our Bright Pattern Cloud Contact Center software solution provides the means to increase customer satisfaction and reduce your call center’s number of abandoned calls.

Announce Estimated Wait Time

Informing customers about their estimated wait time (EWT) helps to retain them in a queue longer. According to David Maister’s The Psychology of Waiting Lines, unexplained waits are perceived to be longer than explained waits. Announcing EWT during a caller’s hold time helps customers make an informed decision about whether they should continue waiting or abandon the call.

Our contact center solution’s IVR-driven scenarios enable you to set EWT announcements for inbound calls. The announcements are automatically played for callers once the estimated wait time is calculated by the system.

Some customers will abandon the call immediately once they hear the announcement, while others will wait for at least the length of the EWT. This customer behavior affirms just how valuable our next approach, virtual queuing, can be, if customers decide to drop the call.

Offer Virtual Queuing

Virtual queuing is a technology that allows a customer to hang up during peak call center times and then receive a callback when the next agent is available. If virtual queuing is selected, customers can keep their place in the queue (i.e., in “line) without having to stay on the phone. In addition to boosting customer satisfaction, virtual queuing saves money—callbacks are made using less expensive outbound calls, versus incoming toll-free calls, and less money is spent on the telephone minutes that would have been spent on hold.

It is good practice to offer callbacks during periods of excessive estimated waiting times (EWT). Bright Pattern’s virtual queuing solution allows you to do just that—offer callbacks once the EWT exceeds a preset threshold. For example, your organization may set the threshold to 10% of the estimated call duration, or it may set the threshold according to data gathered for abandoned calls.

Useful beyond voice calls, virtual queuing gives customers the chance to receive callbacks, SMS/text alerts, and social messenger alerts on their mobile phones. Customers who contact your company via a mobile app can can go about their business and get alerted when the next agent is available. Such callbacks and alerts provide added convenience to the customer on the go.

Use Media Blending

Another approach to absorbing demand peaks and minimizing queue overload is to schedule staff to handle interactions across multiple channels of communication. Known as media blending, this approach is handled by Bright Pattern’s omnichannel routing system.

Omnichannel routing uses specified metrics for agent capacity—an agent’s capability to handle more than one interaction at a time—to determine when voice interactions should take precedence over email or chat, how much agent capacity each type of interaction should take, how much agent capacity is needed to accommodate the next interaction, and so forth. Media blending enables contact centers to fill in gaps in text conversations (e.g., chat or SMS/text messages) or to override one interaction with another (e.g., interrupting email processing with an incoming voice call).

Dial Abandoned Calls During Off-Peak Times

In cases of high-value interactions, it makes sense to redial abandoned calls as soon as possible. Scheduling agents to dial abandoned calls during off-peak times helps both customers and agents—customers are assured that their needs are important, and agents are neither overloaded with calls nor sitting there waiting idly.

You may wish to use our comprehensive campaigns to automate this process. Abandoned calls can be queued into a preview-dialed outbound campaign so that calls to redial will be delivered to agents once their inbound voice queue is empty. Such campaigns are launched in Bright Pattern Contact Center using calling lists, advanced scenarios, and contact center team assignments.

Occupy the Customer’s Time

One way to minimize perceived wait time is to occupy the customer’s time with a task or request. If callers are busy preparing all required data in advance or locating account numbers for identification, for example, they are focused on being productive rather than waiting, getting bored, wondering when they will ever talk to someone, or—worse—becoming angry. Being prepared for the call also helps reduce the amount of time spent on the call itself because customers can provide helpful data to agents quickly, reducing the time spent gathering information.

For chat interactions, occupying time may involve requesting that customers type their questions and any other relevant information into a form in advance of the chat being accepted.

In our Scenario Builder application, you can create custom announcements to be played to the customer while the system is looking for an agent. For chat interactions, you can create and specify custom forms for customers to complete while they wait.

Play Engaging Announcements and/or Music

Running promotional advertisements, short informational announcements, or self-service options are common approaches, but they have to be done carefully and strategically. Ask yourself, would you want to hear these specific ads while waiting? How would you react if an agent answers the call during the announcement, just as you got interested? Consider reiterating alternative contact methods, in case an announcement is cut short by the agent accepting the call or the customer abandoning the call.

Pleasant hold music is unlikely to keep customers on hold longer, but a bad choice of hold music or a bad recording will surely make customers want to hang up sooner. Select music for the emotional effect you want to project, music that has qualities associated with your brand.

Offer Self-Service

Self-service options provide an effective way to reduce the amount of time that agents spend handling frequent and routine requests. After all, most of the calls to UPS and FedEx in pre-mobile/Internet times were simply for package tracking. Imagine if those were all handled by live agents today.

Bright Pattern’s advanced scenarios manage the services, including self-services, offered by your back office system. With scenarios, interactions can be automated across multiple interactive media channels, providing self-service calls, chats, emails, and SMS/text messages.

Examples of omnichannel self-service include:

  • Voice interactions that prompt customers to select options from a menu using their keypad
  • Email interactions that include links to forms to be completed by the customer
  • SMS/text messages that prompt customers to answer questions, schedule appointments, share their location, and more

It is good practice to include an escape option in your self-service scenarios for customers to receive live support. Consider how frustrated customers could become if their need is not offered by the automated menu and there is no option to speak to a live person. Adding escapes to self-service scenarios can effectively address such exceptions and help boost customer satisfaction.

Use Wallboards and Team Broadcast

Informing agents about the number of customers waiting could provide an incentive for agents to complete their interactions faster. Such critical information can be conveyed in a wallboard (i.e., a display panel with stats), a dashboard on the agents’ desktops, or even in internal chat or email broadcasts. This approach has to be done carefully, however, as it may place additional pressure on agents, reduce morale, and affect customer satisfaction.

Our user-friendly Agent Desktop application provides a dashboard at the top of the screen, for at-a-glance metrics that are updated in real time. This dashboard may be configured to display items related directly to agent performance, statistics related to the queue, the number of calls waiting, and the current maximum wait time, for example.

Supervisors can send internal team chats to agents on selected teams to encourage agents to work more efficiently. Team chats are not seen by anyone outside of your organization, and they afford the opportunity to send friendly, informative announcements to many agents en masse.

Reallocate Hours

Contact centers typically have peak and off-peak hours where interaction activity is either high or low. Definitively knowing the peaks and lulls in your interaction activity means that you can reallocate more agents to work during peak hours.

To determine your contact center’s peak hours, simply study the call detail reports generated for your contact center. Any excess agent capacity could be reallocated to peak hours by 1) identifying the hours that your average speed of answer (ASA) or service levels are better than targets, and 2) adjusting agent work schedules from these hours to peak times. Note that adjusting work schedules is much easier to do with virtual agents (i.e., agents who work from home), who do not have to commute to an office.

A robust workforce management (WFM) system, such as Bright Pattern Contact Center, will complete such allocations for you automatically, as well as provide out-of-the box reports for call details, agent performance, and so forth. You may also use our Call Center Calculator to make estimations and validate hypothetical situations or shifts.

Overflow the Calls That Have Been Waiting Too Long

How long is too long to stay on hold? 20 seconds? 40 seconds? Your call center can determine a preset value of any length of time so that calls waiting longer than that can be handled by other teams or call centers. This approach helps divert calls automatically when teams are at their highest capacity. Note that call overflow may present a staffing challenge to the overflow target teams, and your contact center should adjust accordingly.

Our contact center solution uses advanced scenarios to specify how calls are distributed to other teams or contact centers. Using Bright Pattern Contact Center, you can assign overflow teams to services, specify wait times, adjust agent skill requirements, and mark specific intervals of time as overflow. Marking such intervals will help account for the overflow calls made and received for both teams in your reports.

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