A high call abandonment rate is one of the most significant problems encountered in modern contact centres. At a time when customer satisfaction is such an important consideration for businesses of all types and sizes, having a high abandonment rate is an indication that not all is as healthy as it should be. Generally, an abandonment rate of 5% or less is considered good, while anything lower than 2% is excellent. Here, we take an in-depth look at how you can reduce your call abandonment rate in 15 achievable steps.
- Increase your call capacity
- Consider your hold music
- Accurately measure your abandonment rate
- Implement a longer ring time
- Try a call-back function
- Analyse the data at your disposal
- Make callers aware of their progress
- Improve your human agents
- Give your employees the right tools
- Consider your Average Handling Time (AHT)
- Provide basic information automatically
- Offer self-service options
- Offer multiple channels
- Allow users to move between channels
- Ensure agents can move between channels
This is possibly the most straightforward answer to lowering your call abandonment rate, though it’s not always practical or feasible to do so. Hiring more human agents to handle calls ensures that there are more employees to pick up the slack when things get busy. However, this is an expensive solution that can lead to more significant problems further down the line. Essentially, this is not a short-term solution and should only be used if you’re sure that you are, and will be, understaffed for the foreseeable future. Hiring new agents adds to your wage bill and drives costs up, which can become problematic if your call volume then drops.
When you’re waiting on the end of the phone, the smallest things can irk you. Hold music is repeatedly reported to be one of the biggest frustrations with call centre queueing. Play the wrong music and you’re likely to annoy callers more than if there was no music at all.
The type of hold music you use should depend on the type of customer you deal with. In this respect, focus groups can be extremely useful. Test out a few options and see which stick and which cause callers to hang up in droves. Though hold music may seem inconsequential, the devil is in the detail and contact centre managers need to be aware of the fact that callers will quickly abandon the phone if they find something annoying.
To reduce call abandonment, it’s essential to have an accurate figure for your call abandonment rate. This means measuring call abandonment in a way that honestly represents the number of callers abandoning because they’re frustrated or impatient with the service. It involves tracking them through the entire call process and identifying when people abandon calls. It might also mean reconsidering the way in which you measure call abandonment rates. For instance, many businesses now refuse to include callers who hang up in the first 5 seconds. This is because it can be safely assumed that a significant portion of these callers are mis-dials.
Knowing when a caller hangs up also allows you to improve that aspect of the queue. Are callers abandoning in high numbers when the hold music stops? Are they abandoning when it starts? Do they abandon when they find out their place in the queue?
Some call centre systems ring once and then go straight through to the welcome message. There’s nothing wrong with this, but if you’re struggling with both high call volumes and a high abandonment rate, you may want to consider allowing the phone to ring three, four, or five times, before you hit the welcome message. This will only give you a few additional seconds, but these seconds soon add up.
A few additional seconds here and there give your human agents a little extra breathing space and improve the chance of them being ready to handle the next call immediately. As anyone who has worked in a call centre knows, seconds are a valuable commodity and business will invest a great deal of money into shaving seconds off their average waiting, handling, and resolution times.
Many businesses have had a great deal of success in implementing a call-back function. Rather than having to wait on the phone for an extended period (which always increases the chance of abandonment) customers can opt to be called back at a later time. This works for both parties. Not only does it lower the abandonment rate (because the caller has chosen to be called back), it also ensures that the caller does not become frustrated with the waiting process. However, it’s vital that the call-back request is followed up. Otherwise, customers will quickly become disillusioned with your service and more damage will have been done than if the caller had merely abandoned the call and tried again later.
To make informed decisions about how to reduce your call abandonment rate, it’s necessary to collect and analyse all the data at your disposal. This means measuring call volume on different days and at different times. It means checking to see whether call abandonment spikes as call volume increases. It means working out when and why customers are abandoning their calls. Digital systems allow us to collect and analyse data on a broader scale than ever before. Businesses should be using this information to improve their services and identify potential problems.
One of callers’ biggest frustrations is a lack of information. Not knowing whether they’re five seconds or five minutes from reaching a human agent can be extremely annoying. It’s also problematic for contact centres because they could be seeing a lot of calls abandoned, even though they were close to being picked up.
These are the easiest call abandonments to prevent, as a simple queueing system that informs the caller of their predicted wait time or position in the queue will, more often than not, keep them on the phone. However, there are some situations in which a queuing system like this may be detrimental. If your contact centre always has long wait times, or if there are regularly large numbers of callers queueing, it may not be the best option. No one wants to hear that they’re 372nd in the queue, even if they’re still likely to reach a human agent in a minute or two.
As well as improving the processes, protocols, and technology in your call centre, it’s necessary to invest in training your employees. Better trained human agents can handle calls more efficiently, reducing the amount of time they spend on the phone to each customer, and ensuring that they move quickly through any queue. Sometimes, this is a far better option than employing more human agents. Investing in your employees keeps your wage bill low, widens and deepens the skill sets at your disposal, and costs a similar amount to training new employees.
As well as providing your employees with the required skills, it’s also essential to ensure that they have the necessary tools to do the job. This could mean upgrading digital systems, investing in a new omnichannel management platform, or investing in new telephony systems.
To ensure that your staff do have the right equipment and tools, monitor the call handling process and see where they regularly encounter problems, are slowed down, or where time-saving efficiencies could be made. Once you’ve identified where issues generally arise, it’s a matter of working out whether it’s a technology or skill-related problem. From here, you can implement the right solution, improving the efficiency of your workers.
As we’ve already mentioned, call abandonment rates are strongly linked to your Average Handling Time (AHT). This is calculated as the average amount of time your human agents spend on the phone handling a query.
It’s often the case that your call abandonment rate is high because it’s just taking too long to process each call. However, this is a delicate balancing act, as you don’t want to compromise the quality of your customer service by rushing callers through the system. Instead, take a look at your AHT and see how it compares to the competition. Check whether it’s increasing or decreasing each week and examine the process for inefficiencies.
A large percentage of callers contact the call centre for fairly mundane reasons. They don’t have an urgent customer service issue to resolve, they don’t want to complain, and they don’t need to speak to a human agent. Instead, they’re looking for basic information concerning your business. For instance, they may want to find out the opening hours for your stores, the returns address for faulty products or the next day their bin will be collected. This type of basic information can be provided via relatively simple Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, without the need for a human agent.
This way of automatically communicating basic information to customers is often referred to as self-service. It allows callers to perform specific tasks themselves, without the need for interaction with a human agent. Typical examples of self-service include calling to track the progress of a parcel delivery, topping up credit on a mobile phone, or requesting marketing and promotional materials. None of these requires human to human interaction, and all of them can be performed using simple self-service systems. However, self-service comes into its own when you develop these options across multiple channels.
The digital revolution has opened up entirely new channels of communication to an incredibly large number of people. Rather than being forced to resort to the humble telephone, consumers can communicate via WhatsApp, Facebook, email, Twitter, online live chat, and a whole host of other digital technologies. Generally, the younger generations are more comfortable using these channels than they are using the phone. This means that businesses, if they’re to stay relevant and offer ease of access, need to begin developing their capacity for handling communications in these channels.
Alongside developing multiple channels, businesses need to ensure that users can move seamlessly between them. This ‘omnichannel’ approach is one of the key philosophies driving change in the modern contact centre.
Essentially, omnichannel strategy encourages managers to consider all communication channels as part of an interconnected whole. There should be no barriers between each channel; customers should be able to begin their customer experience by talking to a chatbot on Facebook Messenger and end it by talking to a human agent on the phone. They shouldn’t have to reset the process, or request the same information over and over again. This reduces call abandonment rates by reducing the pressure on the phone lines and ensuring that all problems that can be resolved before they reach the phones are resolved.
Finally, as well as ensuring that customers can move seamlessly between channels, your human agents also need to be able to navigate the various channels quickly and efficiently. Generally, this involves the use of an omnichannel management platform, through which all of the channels can be accessed, monitored, and controlled. If your employees aren’t able to cross channels without encountering obstacles or being slowed down, it doesn’t matter that your customers can. A fully functional and efficient back-end system is just as important as the front end.
As you can see, there are many different ways in which you can reduce your call abandonment rate. Some, such as ‘hiring more human agents,’ may help in the short term, but could also cause problems elsewhere in the business. Others, such as ‘implementing omnichannel solutions,’ are essential if you’re to keep up with contemporary contact centre developments and not fall behind the competition.
While the success of each of our 15 steps will depend on the particular context in which they’re implemented, developing multiple channels, ensuring they can be seamlessly navigated, and equipping your employees with the necessary tools, are arguably the most important and effective measures for reducing call abandonment rates.
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