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. These are the people that needed to contact your business that left unsatisfied. These abandoned calls are usually measured as a share or ratio of incoming calls: % calls abandoned, a key performance indicator.

(answered calls which abandon during outbound campaigns are termed unattended calls)

There are a number of solutions to this problem, the simplest being to increase staffing to handle the incoming call volume, but there are more viable options:

Announce Estimated Wait Time

Informing customers about their expected wait time also 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.

Within your inbound scenario, in the “Find Agent” block, specify an “EWT Announcement Prompt:” containing a voice segment “EWT”. This prompt will be automatically played once the estimated wait time is calculated.

Some customers will abandon the call immediately once they hear the announcement, while the rest will wait for at least the length of the estimated wait time. This gives us very valuable information to use in our next approach, virtual queuing.

Offer Virtual Queuing

Virtual queuing is a technology that offers a better customer experience by allowing a customer, during peak call center times, to hang up and be free to do other things, then receive a call back when the agent is available. In addition to maintaining customer satisfaction, virtual queuing saves money – you are not paying for the telephone minutes spent on hold, and outbound calls are often less expensive than toll-free.

We implement virtual queuing as part of our routing solution.

It is considered a good idea to offer the callback once the estimated wait time exceeds a preset threshold. For instance, set it to 10% of the estimated call duration or use abandonment stats in the above section to fine-tune the threshold.

Mobile Application Contact Queuing

A customer does not have to wait in a queue, in a standard manner, when contacting a company via a mobile application, including social messengers and SMS, – they can go about their business and get alerted when the agent is available.

Use Media Blending

Another approach to absorbing demand peaks and minimizing queue overload is to schedule staff for both voice and less urgent interactions such as email.

In the “Contact Center Configuration” >> “Omni-Channel Routing” specify:

  1. Precedence of voice over e-mail (default)
  2. How many agents capacity each email message takes
  3. How much spare agent capacity is needed to accommodate the next voice interaction

The same process can be utilized when using web chat, SMS, and other media.

Dial Abandoned Calls During Off-Peak Times

In cases of high-value interactions, it makes sense to re-dial abandoned calls as soon as possible. One of the approaches to consider is to queue abandoned calls into a preview-dialed outbound campaign:

  1. Set up a preview campaign and create an empty list, consisting of a single phone number field
  2. In your inbound scenario, use the “Add to list” block to add the calling phone number of an abandoned call to the list created above
  3. Assign the same teams of agents to the campaign and run it. Preview calls will start to be delivered to agents once the inbound queue is empty

Occupy Time

One of the methods to minimize perceived wait time is to have the customer do something.

The best approach is to ask them to prepare all required data in advance, such as an account number for identification, or documents for discussion. (For chat interactions, request that customers type their questions and any information that might be required ahead of being answered.)

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

Running promotion advertisements or short podcasts is another common approach, but it has 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 podcast, just as you get interested? Consider reiterating alternative contact methods and self-service options.

Offer Self-Service

Self-service is a good method to off-load agents from handling frequent/routine requests. 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.

ServicePattern scenarios have a number of integration blocks for working with your back office system. The scenarios are available to automate interactions across multiple interactive media channels.

Make sure to leave an escape option to receive live support in your self-service scenarios to handle exceptions and to maintain customer satisfaction.

Use Wallboards and Team Broadcast

Informing agents about customers waiting could provide a cue to try and complete the interactions faster.

On top of every agent desktop within ServicePattern, there is a display panel for stats you can configure and display to your agents. While it can include a number of items related directly to agent performance, it can also display statistics related to the queue, such as the number of calls waiting and the current maximum wait time.

This has to be done carefully, as it may place additional pressure on agents and reduce morale and/or customer satisfaction. Instead of showing critical stats in a dashboard, a supervisor could send an internal chat broadcast, and ask agents to try and finish their interactions a bit sooner.

Reallocate Hours

This is simply looking at any excess capacity you might have and re-allocating it to the peak hours:

Look at your service in time reports and identify which hours your ASA or Service Levels are better than targets. You can consider adjusting agent work schedules from these hours to peak times. (This is much easier to do with home-based, or virtual agents, who don’t have to regularly commute to your office.)

A good WFM system would complete such allocations for you automatically, you can also use our Call Center Calculator to make estimations and validate hypothetical situations or shifts.

Overflow the Calls Waiting Too Long

The calls waiting longer than a preset value could be sent or overflowed to other teams or call centers.

To configure overflows to other teams:

  1. Assign an overflow team to the service in question
  2. Adjust the skill values for the overflow team members to be lower than those of the original team
  3. In the scenario, relax the skill requirement in the “Find Agent” block after a certain wait time to include the overflow team
  4. Mark that interval as an overflow, to be able to account for the overflow calls made and received for both teams in your reporting

To send calls to another call center:

  1. Limit the time calls will spend in the “Find Agent” block
  2. Place a “Connect Call” block with another call center destination’s phone number
  3. Check the “Mark this call as overflow” in the “Connect Call”’s settings to reflect these calls in reports

Note that this may present a staffing challenge to the overflow target teams.

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