Lost calls are any inbound calls that do not result in the caller being connected to either an advisor or an answering service.
This happens when the customer hangs up or is disconnected by the centre. The centre may disconnect a call deliberately, because of timeout – the call was taking too long to reach an agent – or through error.
Categories of lost call
Abandoned – The customer terminates the call before it is answered. The industry standard suggests that an abandon rate of 2-5% is commonplace.
Missed – The call is deliberately disconnected by the centre. This usually occurs when an incoming call reaches the maximum threshold for waiting time set by the ACD.
Dropped – The call is accidentally disconnected due to a technical error. The dropped call rate for landline calls is below 0.01%. The rate for mobile phone calls is slightly higher, but a dropped call rate of even a few per cent would warrant further investigation.
How to reduce lost calls
Every lost call is a lost opportunity to generate revenue and increase customer satisfaction (C-SAT).
Because there are several ways that a call can be lost, there is no guidance that applies to every scenario. However, as most preventable call losses are the product of extended queue times, reducing Average Speed of Answer (ASA) and shortening the queue is a good place to start.
Queueing times can be brought down by making more agents available to take calls. Employing new agents is expensive, but up-skilling existing agents to handle both inbound and outbound calls keeps staff on site without reducing occupancy in low traffic periods.
Virtual queueing is a compelling method for reducing the rate at which calls are cut off, while usually contributing to overall customer satisfaction (C-SAT). The virtual queueing mechanism allows customers to hold their place in the queue of inbound customers without needing to stay on the line.
Instead, their position in the queue is logged, and when they reach the front, the contact centre places an outbound call to them. This impacts lost call rates because the line cannot time out over a lengthy period of hold, and the customer cannot abandon the call.
With Calling Line Identify (also known as Caller ID or CLI) you can identify in the system any telephone numbers that have abandoned. These numbers can then be loaded into an outbound dialler to call the customer back.
What customers hear while queueing can also contribute quite seriously to call abandonment rates. Low quality recordings, short loops of music and messages that repeat too frequently are all factors known to drive customers away.
Taking the long view can also help; understanding the centre’s level of First Contact Resolution (FCR) will give managers an insight into the number of calls that are preventable clarifications of earlier calls.
Getting all the facts
Plotting a ‘call abandon curve’ – a graphed average of when callers hang up – can identify common factors that lead to abandoned calls and suggest potential changes to prevent them.
For example, it’s common to see calls abandoned at the point an IVR requests information from the customer that they do not have to hand. Similarly, customers may leave a call when alternative contact options are listed, such as email or social media. When dissecting this information, it is standard practice to discount calls that last less than 5 seconds, on the assumption that these are due to customer error.