Our panel of experts share their top tips for reducing abandon rates in the contact centre.
1. Identify Where Calls Are Being Abandoned (and Act!)
It’s important to understand that a customer can abandon a call at any point throughout the call journey, not just at the start while the caller is waiting to be answered.
Customers will abandon calls when being placed on hold for too long…
For example, customers will abandon calls when being placed on hold for too long or when they have lost count of the overly complicated options within the IVR.
So the first and possibly most important step to lowering the abandon rate is to identify where the calls are being abandoned.
Once the “where” has been identified, you can start to figure out the “why”.
Using metrics such as Abandoned Calls and Calls Ended On Hold at any step of the call journey makes it relatively easily to analyse the entire call journey and identify where the highest rates of abandonment occur.
2. Experience the Caller Journey for Yourself
A good and often overlooked way to gain insight into how the customer call journey can be improved is to try it for yourself.
Experience how it feels to move through these pain points and see for yourself how each step could be improved.
Improve the on-hold messages, simplify the options on the IVR or even lower the time that callers are kept on hold.
It could be something as simple as the need to improve the on-hold messages, simplify the options on the IVR or even lower the time that callers are kept on hold.
Inevitability, though, in most cases, it will come down to having enough agents available at the right times.
3. Consider When Callers Are Willing to Wait Longer
Don’t just look at the call numbers to establish busy or quiet times, have a look at what times of day, on a day-by-day basis, customers are willing to wait or when they talk for longer.
Average abandon times and even average talk time changes throughout the day, and even day to day.
If you can identify that callers will abandon a call sooner earlier in the morning, maybe look at having more advisors available in that queue at that time of day.
Thanks to Colin Gill at Akixi
4. Reassess Your IVR Messaging
If somebody is ringing your company, they have a particular purpose in mind. The amount of time that they will be willing to wait centres around that purpose.
So consider your IVR queues. What messages are best suited to those waiting in each queue?
You don’t, for example, want to play a message about a promotion to a customer who is likely about to make a complaint. They will either get angry or hang up and move on to a competitor. This will damage abandon rates and – more importantly – customer loyalty.
Other key IVR messaging considerations to make include:
- Should we keep customers informed of their queue progress?
- Are we setting proper expectations?
- Which messages are causing the most abandons?
Thanks to Vincent Van den Bossche at Wisper
5. Implement Automatic Callbacks
To reduce abandon rates, contact centres should consider implementing a popular feature within an IVR system, which allows a caller to choose an option to be called back rather than wait on hold in the phone queue.
When an advisor does become available, the system will call the customer and connect them to an agent.
Some IVRs also offer the added option of allowing the customer to set an appointment, so they receive the callback at a time which is convenient for them.
Enabling callbacks has a positive impact on the customer experience, as callers are then spared the frustration of waiting on hold in a long call queue.
However, be wary with callbacks if your demand is not spiky. There is no doubt that they can improve customer experience, but if high call volumes are sustained, it can make queues longer. This is because it adds another step in the advisor journey, in having to call the customer back.
So, make sure you think though your callback strategy carefully.
Thanks to Alex Stenton-Hibbert at Business Systems
6. Optimize Forecasting and Scheduling
Lots of quick fixes for reducing abandon rates exist. Some classic examples include:
- Reducing Average Handling Time (AHT) by cutting out cross-selling
- Boosting your headcount by cancelling training
- Moving trainees over to the phones before they are ready
Yet each of these “quick fixes” has its drawbacks. Moreover, they won’t make a sustainable improvement but they will damage other metrics.
A better approach is to find the root cause and fix it.
If you forecast more accurately, peaks won’t catch you unawares. You can also staff-up to peaks – and down to troughs – while actively monitoring adherence.
Cross-skilling will unlock “pooling efficiencies” which positively impact abandonment – and other metrics – without hiring more staff.
Thanks to Chris Dealy at injixo
7. Get on Top of Call Peaks Early
If your contact centre is abandoning a high percentage of calls, it’s likely a decent chunk of those are customers who have called and abandoned multiple times.
This vicious cycle can quickly escalate and negatively impact calls-offered statistics and demand forecasting, making it look like more agents are required than necessary.
Make a concerted effort with extra staff and technology to answer calls initially, and calls offered will dramatically reduce, up to 25% in some cases. This provides a truer picture of customer demand and offers breathing space before staff are refocused to where they are truly needed.
If volatile call volumes are an issue, callback technologies can keep a customer’s in-queue place or offer callbacks at a time convenient for the customer. This helps smooth out demand, making it easier for contact centres to handle calls.
Thanks to Craig Farley at IP Integration
8. Get Your Staffing Levels Right
A common cause of high abandon rates is inadequate staffing. Companies must ensure that there are enough agents with the proper skills available to attend to enquiries across both digital and voice channels.
Workforce management (WFM) technologies enable organizations to account for multiskill, omnichannel, virtual queues with tight integration between long-range planning and near-term forecasts.
For contact centres with fewer than 50 advisors, where investing in WFM technology may not be so practical, familiarize yourself with forecasting techniques such as triple exponential smoothing and ARIMA. Build lots of models and test them – on old data – to see which works best in your environment.
You can then use these forecasts to create a more effective staffing plan using an Erlang Calculator.
Thanks to Aviad Abiri at NICE
9. Give Customers an Estimated Wait Time
Customers need clarity, and it is important to give them concrete expectations.
One way to do this is to give the customer their estimated waiting time. That way they know exactly how long to expect to be on hold before they are able to talk to someone.
Another tactic is to remind the customer of their queue number. Let them know how far along they are and assure them that someone will be in contact soon.
By phrasing it in this way, fewer callers will abandon the queue because they know how long they have to wait.
10. Improve Your Channel Shift Strategy
Some calls don’t need to be calls at all and can be handled through chat or email.
Solutions like omnichannel software can detect how vital a call is and assign it to a specific queue to be assessed depending on urgency or customer preference, or both.
This is great for customers who’d like their issues assessed immediately but don’t like waiting on the phone. Their complaint can be assessed and addressed via an email or other channel.
Thanks to Zofia Bobrowicz Cohn at RingCentral
11. Analyse Failure Demand
If your abandon rates are high because of increased call demand, determining where that extra demand is coming from and addressing that issue should be a big priority.
By using technology such as interaction analytics to uncover the reason behind and frequency of calls from customers, organizations can get to the root cause of any process or routing problems.
Not only does this enable the contact centre to proactively develop resources to satisfy customer needs, while improving and reducing inefficiencies and abandonment, you can use your failure demand analysis to predict and prepare for future call volume spikes.
Thanks to Frank Sherlock at CallMiner
12. Know How Other Metrics Impact Your Abandon Rates
To reduce abandon rates, most contact centres closely track metrics such as the number of interactions, average handle times and number of advisors needed to meet service level.
Why? Because if you know what happens to your abandon rates when service level hits different points, for example, you can use intraday management tactics to steady the ship.
These intraday management tactics may include:
- Adjusting your IVR messaging
- Bringing in staff to work overtime
- Changing your website messaging
Yet a more effective, long-term strategy is to personalize the IVR. Personalizing IVRs streamlines customers’ journeys and avoids pushing them through the same funnel of options.
By qualifying customers and applying rules for certain situations, IVRs shrink wait times and minimize customer effort.
Thanks to Neil Titcomb at Odigo
13. Authenticate Customers as They Wait in the Call Queue
Abandon rates usually become a problem when the ratio of calls to agents is too high. The agents get overwhelmed, so when expanding your team isn’t an option, the focus should be directed to streamlining the overall customer service process.
Authenticating customers waiting in the call queue can be a great way to reduce abandon rates.
Simply validating customer information whilst in the queue reminds them that you’re being proactive about solving their problem.
Doing so also reduces call time by eliminating the need for the advisor to authenticate once connected and alleviates stress from the overall experience.
Thanks to Nick Hudson at Natterbox
14. Automate Repetitive Advisor Tasks
Tasks like after-call work (ACW) and retrieving information from the knowledge base prolong average handling time (AHT), which – in turn – increases abandon rates.
AI tools can now automate tasks like this and lower AHT, providing advisors with a superior experience and allowing them to focus more on the customer and what matters to them.
Another AI-based tool that can help lower abandon rates is a virtual agent, which can help to reduce contact centre demand and therefore call abandons.
These bots can give customers self-service options that feel natural and are powerful, while also generating conversation transcripts that give businesses insight into the topics that are being discussed.
Thanks to James Mackie at Mitel
15. Categorize Customer Contacts
Sort customer contacts into categories. Identify those that can be efficiently handled by automation and self-service, giving your advisors more time to manage customer contacts that need a more personal touch. This should reduce queues and time-to-answer, and hence abandon rates.
Also, identify busy periods and increase staffing during those periods. If you are running a bricks-and-mortar contact centre and it isn’t possible – or efficient – to increase staffing for short periods using office-based personnel, then consider homeworkers operating on flexible working shifts.
This final point is crucial if the busy period is relatively short, and especially if, for example, your peak demand periods are during the key commute to work periods of 7.30–9am and 4.30–6pm.
Thanks to Andrew Scobie at Sensée
16. Replace Your IVR With Conversational AI
To help meet the sudden spike in demand, many organizations have been turning to conversational artificial intelligence (AI) – using virtual assistants and live chat solutions to assist customers in real time.
They can also transition to live advisors to answer more difficult questions, with AI systems sharing important context for online chats that can make conversations go more efficiently.
Thanks to Brett Beranek at Nuance
17. Employ Workforce Management Software
WFM solutions support teams by automatically finding the right-skilled, available people to close service gaps, reschedule agents during the day and so minimize customer wait times.
Team leaders are able to manage last-minute absence requests effectively without impacting service levels, while sophisticated optimizer and intraday adherence tools automatically check staffing levels against metric and service level, all while reducing abandon rates.
Intraday self-scheduling tools help advisors to take control of their new WFM regime, boosting morale and productivity.
Thanks to Ben Willmott at Calabrio
18. Get Proactive With Your Messaging
Proactive outbound customer engagement could help lower inbound contact volumes and thus help lower abandon rates.
Tools such as outbound SMS notifications utilized efficiently and strategically can help lower inbound traffic and minimize wait times, especially when they allow a customer to complete a transaction through self-service and in the same channel.
Proactive outreach strategies can be vital in helping to reduce inbound traffic following events such as a power outage or cancelled flight.
Thanks to Tyler Hinton at Aspect Software
For more insights from our panel of experts, read our articles: