First things first: What is abandonment rate in the call center and how is it measured and expressed?
The abandonment rate is a percentage of how many calls hang up before speaking to an agent versus the total number of incoming calls. It is expressed as a percentage and calculated by dividing the number of abandoned calls by the number of total calls. Configured properly, your CRM system should be equipped to track these numbers.
Are you measuring your AR accurately?
But before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to reduce the abandonment rate in the call center, take a moment to examine whether you are accurately measuring your abandonment rate in the first place.
First, many companies choose not to include call abandonment that happens less than five seconds into the call, which are presumably misdials that have little to do with your system or your agents. Secondly, be sure to begin tracking calls as they come through the IVR (interactive voice response) system rather than waiting to count calls that arrive at agents’ queues.
The number of callers abandoning their queries during the IVR phase of the call can be important to keep an eye on. Lastly, be sure not to double-count calls transferred from one agent or department to another. Doing so artificially enhances your abandonment rate, giving a misleading interpretation of your metrics. Again, properly configured CRM software can help you track individual calls and callers to avoid this mistake.
How does your call center’s AR stack up against the competition?
Having now attained an accurate metric for your abandonment rate, you may find yourself wondering if your call center’s rate is acceptable and how it compares to other call centers. Whereas the global average is 5-8%, companies generally like to keep their rates at or below 5%, with 2% considered to be an excellent rate.
How to Reduce Abandonment Rate in the Call Center
If you’re ready to take action to reduce abandonment rate in the call center that you manage, here are five concrete things you can do to achieve this goal.
1. Communicate With Your Customer
Most call center systems are programmed to notify the caller that they will have to wait, and then to remind them every 60 seconds or so that their “call is important to us” and they must continue to hold. The repetitive and vague nature of this looped message can annoy customers and make their wait seem endless.
As an alternative, companies should give their customers an estimate of what their hold time will be.
This can be expressed as an estimated wait time or by simply telling the customer what number they are in the queue (“You are the number __ call holding. Calls will be answered in the order in which they are received.”) In customer relationships, as in all relationships, communication is key.
2. Offer Options
Some customers simply do not have the time or the patience to wait very long. Luckily, you can offer them options, like patching them through to voicemail or receiving a callback or text when an agent becomes available.
Customers enjoy the freedom of choice and the ability to manage their time, agents can better juggle high call volumes, and your abandonment rate will improve since customers who opt for these alternatives will not be logged as hangups.
3. Schedule According to Call Volume
Using your CRM software, you should be able to track call volume patterns at the hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and even annual level. By anticipating peak hours, you can staff your call center accordingly. Take call volume into consideration when scheduling breaks and lunches, too, to ensure that queues don’t stack up out of control.
4. Reduce AHT
One way to shorten customers’ hold times (and thus reduce abandonment rate in the call center) is to focus on another metric alongside it: Average handle time (AHT). To make the most of the staff you have working, consider reducing the average amount of time agents spend on each call. Less time spent with a customer means the agent is moving more quickly through the queue to the next waiting customer. Naturally, AHT reduction should be executed carefully so as not to sacrifice overall customer service quality.
5. Increase Your Ring Time
This tip may be a little outside of the box, but hear it out. If a call to your contact center begins with a click and a swift entry onto the automated message carousel that tends to irritate customers, why not begin with a few rings instead? Customers are used to waiting through several rings before a recipient picks up the phone-- in fact, 18 seconds is the average mobile-to-mobile ring time. Customers will have entered the queue upon the first ring, thus reducing their perception of the time they’ve been on hold by the amount of time they listened to the rings. It may seem like a small change, but considering that most calls are abandoned early on, it’s worth getting customers through the initial minute or so with as little annoyance as possible.
Keeping your abandonment rate as low as possible means more customers will receive the service they called for — be it sales, service, or technical support. It also means maintaining a reputation as a company that is staffed and organized to provide a convenient and fulfilling customer experience.