Abandoned calls are a problem for call centers, and they can result in missed opportunities to engage. So let’s look at what is an abandoned call, what is a missed call and how we can prevent them.
What Is an Abandoned Call?
An abandoned call is one that’s been disconnected by the caller during the ring cycle. As a result, the caller doesn’t get to speak to someone nor complete an action that they set out to do. An abandoned call doesn’t include one that goes to voicemail (as the user can leave a message). You can use the abandonment rate to calculate how many abandoned calls you deem acceptable.
What Is a Missed Call?
A missed call is one where the caller has attempted to ring but the call has either gone to voicemail or has reached the limit of the number of rings allowed. It may also have been dropped by the agent due to lack of time or due to being on another call. However, this missed call meaning may vary between call centers.
|Abandoned Call||Missed Call|
|Call has been dropped by the caller||Call isn’t attended by the agent|
|Abandoned after IVR but before leaving a reply on voicemail||Call is disconnected after rings end and caller goes to voicemail|
|Dropped due to technical issues||Call dropped by agent|
Why Calls Get Abandoned
Abandoned calls are usually a result of four key factors:
- High wait times
- Lack of callback options
- Poor call routing
- Technical issues
High wait times
If your customers have to wait to contact you, there’s a higher likelihood of abandoned calls. Ideally, 80% of calls should be answered within 20 seconds for most industries. There will, of course, be exceptions (doctors offices are notorious for longer call wait times), but it’s a good metric to follow. Typically, customers will wait no more than 3-4 minutes before abandoning a call due to wait times.
Lack of callback options
Many businesses have now implemented callbacks instead of forcing customers to wait. This makes it easier for call centers to spread their workload over the day, rather than primarily deal with peaks at lunchtime and common break times. Businesses that don’t implement callbacks may find their customers gradually migrate to other providers if they’re routinely busy.
Poor call routing
No one likes being given the runaround. Poor call routing can mean customers find themselves bewildered by the array of options available, or they can end up going around in circles. If something doesn’t quite fit into the options available, it can also cause confusion, resulting in abandoned calls.
Technical issues are inevitable, especially as so many parts are involved in telephony, notably internet connections. Calls can get dropped due to unreliable SIP trunks, storms, extreme heat or cold affecting infrastructure or sometimes just bad software.
Taking into account all of these factors, the abandoned call rate industry standard is as follows:
- Good: Below 5%
- Acceptable: 5-8%
- Poor: 9% or higher
Making this industry standard for abandoned call rate more complex is that sometimes a call is considered abandoned if it’s terminated by the customer without a complete resolution, even if they’ve reached an agent. This reason is usually a result of poor training and scripts, and it’s particularly common with a second or third contact by the customer. It can also be a result of unreasonable expectations by the customer, such as asking for an action that simply isn’t possible. At this stage, rather than asking “what is an abandoned call”, you may need to ask “why are my calls being abandoned?”.
The Impact of Abandoned Calls
Unfortunately, the impact of abandoned calls can be substantial. The most obvious is loss of potential business opportunities, which can be severe. If 10 percent of your customers are abandoning their calls, that’s often another 10% of business you’re losing out on.
It can have other implications, as well. Customers can end up not renewing services, resulting in a loss of upselling opportunities. Similarly, they can become more motivated to quit or not use services due to a negative experience. This is a direct result of reduced customer satisfaction and it can hit your brand loyalty and reputation hard.
Worse, customers who end up abandoning calls can be upset and spread negative reviews.
From a management perspective, abandoned calls can result in skewed metrics — especially if the call abandonment rate isn’t calculated. They can increase perceptions of customer satisfaction, and they can result in inaccurate staffing levels.
Increased cost is also a major issue. Each call costs money in some way. A frustrated customer will often complain about the call issue when they get through, which increases overall call time as the agent must sit through the complaint and respond appropriately. In addition, frustrated customers are often less patient with call center staff, resulting in longer overall resolution times.
A second or third call may be required to deliver an appropriate resolution to both the original issue and the call issue. And a supervisor or manager may be needed to address that issue, resulting in even more expense. They may need to offer a larger discount or even a replacement due to the added frustration.
All of these issues either mean decreased turnover or increased costs.
Strategies to Reduce Abandoned Calls
Call center analytics are everything. Integrated ACD stats (automatic call distribution) can help you understand at what point a call is abandoned and potentially why.
Call volume stats are your friend here. Understanding long-term call volumes can help you avoid bottlenecks during peak periods, and they can improve efficiencies at the end of the day. However, bear in mind that the various lockdowns as a result of the pandemic have resulted in skewed call volumes during 2020 and, to a lesser extent, 2021. If you are seeing high call volumes and a corresponding increase in call abandonment, there’s not enough staff at peak times.
Trying to get enough staff for call centers has long been a problem, especially as many companies see them as an expense rather than revenue generation. However, a key change in mindset would view them as an opportunity to improve overall customer satisfaction, helping make future sales much more likely.
If problems with getting enough staff at peak times are causing issues, implementing solid callback solutions can help mitigate the issue. These help smooth out the peaks in traffic, and they also allow customers to get on with their day, improving customer satisfaction.
The main issue with callback solutions is that if staffing levels are too low, callback solutions can fail, leaving discontent with the process. However, even should that happen, there’s less time invested in waiting for a callback, so the level of dissatisfaction should be lower, especially in populations with very high levels of mobile phone use.
IVR is also essential in any strategy involving reducing abandoned calls. IVR is “interactive voice response”, and it makes it simpler for people to say what they want or use the keys to select options. With voice recognition, once the system processes a spoken response, it then provides confirmation and options for the customer to select. It can be fickle when it comes to strong regional accents or nonstandard pronunciation, however, so always allow the option to select options or speak to a real person. There are few things more frustrating than a computer unable to correctly discern what you’ve said.
A well-designed IVR system can reduce overall contact and direct clients to easily automated tasks, such as adding money to services, checking account balances or paying bills.
Training is also an important part of reducing abandoned calls — even training them to understand what is an abandoned call! Empowering agents can help increase first-call resolution (FCR), reducing the strain on the system. Allow agents to go somewhat off-script if necessary, but make sure their good judgment is backed by effective results.
Call metrics are so important that they need to be mentioned multiple times. Monitoring the right metrics (call abandonment rate, wait times (sometimes “time in queue”), FCR, speed time of answer, occupancy rates, average handle time and service level.
If you only monitor a few of these stats, call center employees often find ways to circumvent the system. For example, those who prioritize handle time find that employees are much more likely to recommend quick short-term solutions that will result in further calls when the solution fails. Alternatively, they may place unnecessary tech callouts because that’s fast and easy, but it costs the company much more than taking the time to resolve the issue.
This means you need to analyze and then act on call metrics. Don’t forget that calls at certain times may result in longer handle times, for example, such as late-night calls.
Finally, regularly updating your infrastructure can help significantly reduce call abandonment rates. More efficient systems, better call switching and a cloud solution with an appropriate call center solution layered on top can improve overall results dramatically.
x-bees, for example, can deliver call transcripts and summaries after meetings and subtitles during them, and it also allows you to use text and video to help resolve calls rapidly. Visitors sign in using SSO, helping you track recurring callers and ensure you’re always directed to the latest chat and call record in your CRM.
Northside Truck & Van: A Short Case Study
Northside Truck & Van sells, services and repairs commercial Mercedes-Benz vehicles across Yorkshire in the UK. It has seven depots, which needed to be connected via a reliable telephony system. The company typically receives 400 to 500 inquiries per day.
Piotr Brylinski, Trade Center Manager, Northside Truck & Van
The overall training requirements were minimal, and they allowed all staff to be brought up to speed rapidly. It can also handle high call volumes, and it’s easy to expand. The overall missed/abandoned call rate dropped from 25% to 8% after just 12 months of using Wildix solutions.
Cloud-based technologies make it simple to work from home where necessary and set up new locations. Training also opens up the possibility of remote training via video calls, reducing overall costs and travel time. All of these factors mean Northside Truck & Van are well-positioned to grow their business.
What Is an Abandoned Call: A Short Conclusion
Every abandoned call is a missed opportunity to sell to your customers and retain them. They reduce the likelihood of customers coming back, and those who do cost more to retain, on average. Good practices can help reduce the likelihood of an abandoned call, including setting up great systems such as IVR and callbacks.
If this is interesting, take a look at our 2018 article on how to increase call center productivity!
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