It goes without saying that making your customers wait so long that they simply hang up (aka abandon the call) is a bad idea. It also goes without saying that this is rarely intentional (with the possible exception of my current cable provider).
Why Every Call Matters
Understanding why abandon rates matter isn’t rocket science. Customers can only hear “… your call matters to us …” so many times before they lose patience and end the call. Of those who abandon, a percentage will take their business elsewhere (or they’ll remember the experience when evaluating their next purchase). Many who abandon will dial again and again, escalating queue times with each call. It’s not hard to see the correlation between the abandon rate and customer retention.
Of course, I’m telling you what you already know. Every contact center worth its salt already tracks abandon rates as well as other KPIs that matter. The real question is what to do with that data. What’s an acceptable abandon rate for your organization, and what can you do about it? Abandonment is not entirely under the control of the contact center, after all. While you can affect queue times, many other factors are beyond your control. For example, the tolerance level of individual callers, service or marketing initiatives causing traffic to spike, time of day issues, etc.
Understanding Customer Satisfaction
My own opinion is that it’s more important to understand what’s acceptable for your customers than it is to simply know industry benchmarks. For example: according to MetricNet, the abandonment rate for service desks 8.7%. Well that might be true, but does it sound reasonable to expect more than 1 in 12 callers to hang up in frustration? (I certainly don’t want my customers to.)
Understanding customer satisfaction is, of course, difficult. A while back, I read a study that said 27% of contact centers used Net Promoter Score to measure agent performance, but 30% of those same contact centers didn’t have a reliable method for measuring customer satisfaction. Without knowing that- well, we’re back to blindly following the usual call center metrics (Service Level, FCR, AHT, etc.)
Perhaps Twitter can shed some light. This is, after all, where frustrated customers turn when they need to vent. An analysis comparing a company’s Net Promoter Score to the number of Twitter complaints about being on hold (from onholdwith.com – a site that catalogs tweets from callers stuck on hold) found a direct correlation between the two. The bottom line here is that if you’re concerned about NPS score and customer satisfaction, then eliminating hold time should be a priority.
What to do About Abandonment
Beyond an increase in staffing, call centers have several tools at their disposal to reduce abandonment rates. After all, this has been the driving factor behind many innovations in the call center, from announcing Estimated Wait Time (EWT), to Call-Back technology, to Workforce Management (WFM) solutions.
We’ve talked at length about this topic before. Choosing an approach depends largely on the nature and seriousness of the problem. When call volumes are well understood, approaches based on staffing are the best way to treat the problem. However, for many companies this isn’t the case. Accordingly, managing spikes in call traffic isn’t an easy task.
This is where a call-back solution (like Fonolo) is a great option. When hold times (or call volumes) exceed a certain threshold, customers can be offered the option of a call-back when an agent is available. The advantage here is twofold: 1) Customers are far less likely to abandon and 2) Additional agents are not required, since the impact of queue times is reduced, lowering the cost-per-call. You can think of call-backs as sort of insurance policy, to be used when you need the most.
Here’s hoping your customers stay on the line!