Why is Call Abandonment Still a Thing?

Call Abandonment Rate | 7 minute read

Why is call abandonment still a thing? Can’t technology put an end to this problem once and for all? Now there’s a tantalizing question. You likely know the answer, but let’s take a closer look.

Link to ultimate guide to service level agreements.

If you take a tech tool like ChatGPT and ask it about call abandonment in the contact center, the AI-powered bot will give you an earful about one of the most persistent problems in the customer service industry. But asking the powerful generative pre-trained transformer a question won’t save a single abandoned call.

No kidding, right? We use this example to illustrate one of the problems with technology. If it’s not applied the right way, the mere existence of a tech tool will not save the day in your contact center.

But what if you integrated the powerful AI-driven chatbot with your customer-facing self-service to quickly route calls to the correct agent? Now you’re talking!

Know Your Customer’s Journey

The point is that technology impacts your call center metrics, but it’s only as good as your carefully constructed plans allow it to be. And issues that impact your customer’s experience – today we’re talking about reducing call abandonment – won’t magically go away in the presence of the mightiest technology.

Deep knowledge of your customer’s journey and careful implementation of your call center tools and solutions are still the keys to improving problems like abandonment rates.

So, how do you reduce abandonment rates in today’s contact center? There are so many ways! You could start by:

• optimizing staffing levels,
• improving and automating call routing strategies,
• enhancing your IVR system,
• and implementing a call-back solution.

You’ll also want to revisit your SLAs to make sure they’re aligned with the current workflows in your contact center. We’ll discuss these ideas in more length, but first, a couple of definitions to make sure we’re all on the same page.

You likely already know that an abandoned call in a call center happens when the caller hangs up before they speak to a customer support agent. The caller may be waiting on hold, or still navigating your IVR system when they give up. Either way, it’s an abandoned call.

What Do High Call Abandon Rates Really Mean?

Abandon rates don’t just mean “a caller hung up.” They tell a bigger story. Abandonment rate is still considered a critical metric because it can signal to management various other problems in the call center.

1. Customers are experiencing long hold times

High call abandonment rates usually mean customers are experiencing long wait times in your call center’s queue. You might be understaffed or have inefficient call-routing strategies.

Workforce management software and smart call routing tools can help ensure better CX in this situation. Call-backs are another insurance policy your contact center should have. When calls are spiking, a tool like Fonolo Call-Backs allows you to defer calls to quieter times and gives customers the option to request a call-back instead of experiencing an extended wait on hold. (75% of customers prefer call-backs to hold time, according to Zendesk.)

2. Customers are frustrated

Call abandonment rates serve as a direct reflection of customer frustration with your service. Are we sure? Yes. If customers are hanging up, then they’re waiting on hold too long. Fussy IVR menus and poor self-service can contribute to their pain.

Understanding the specific pain points that lead to abandonment rates is crucial for addressing customer dissatisfaction. We’ll talk more about service levels later, but it’s important to note that some customers may wait on hold a bit longer than you think, depending on the reason for their call and the level of service they are looking for. It’s important to have a clear understanding of your customer, so you can target the correct service levels to achieve business goals and offer effective, excellent CX.

3. You are missing opportunities

Each abandoned call represents a missed opportunity for the call center to solve a problem for a customer, provide support, build a relationship, or close a sale. These missed opportunities not only impact customer satisfaction but also derail business results.

Recognizing and combatting the factors contributing to call abandonment helps you maximize your potential, and can help elevate the call center from a cost sink to a growth center.

4. You are losing money

Abandoned calls are a losing proposition. They take resources (lines are engaged, IVRs are activated, and calls may be routed) but offer no return. By investing time and effort in calls that are ultimately not completed, the call center incurs unnecessary operational costs.

You have to strike a balance, of course. There will always be some call abandonment, but by keeping dropped calls in check, you optimize efficiency and help maintain a healthy bottom line. Ultimately, reducing call abandonment rates can lead to more streamlined and resource-efficient call center operations.

Link to ultimate guide to service level agreements.

What is an Acceptable Call Abandonment Rate?

Abandonment rate really is an individual metric and acceptable rates will vary from one contact center to another. Hubspot says between 5-8% is tolerable, and a Talkdesk Report pegs the industry standards at 5.91%. Some businesses say 9% is the norm for their industry.

How Tech Advancements Help Lower Call Abandonment Rates

As we’ve discussed, technology won’t eliminate abandoned calls, but strategic implementation of the right contact center solutions can help keep your metrics in check, and improve your CX as well as your bottom line.

Generative pre-trained transformers

ChatGPT, with its natural language processing capabilities, can help answer routine queries through chat interfaces, freeing up human agents to focus on more complex and personalized interactions. This can save time and can reduce caller frustration. 67% of people prefer to use self-service for simple problems according to Zendesk.

Workforce management tools

Data-driven WFM tools predict call volume and can help you staff appropriately, which in turn will help reduce wait times and call abandonment. These tools also facilitate flexible scheduling for agents, which is key to creating an attractive, competitive workplace.

Remember, agent happiness is always a factor in the contact center. It lingers in the background of many KPIs in obvious, and not-so-obvious ways. Simply put, if agents are unhappy, your KPIs and customer service suffer. Happily, the new generation of WFM software is great and there seems to be constant innovation in this area.

Robotic process automation

This technology takes over repetitive, low-value tasks like data entry, basic self-service, and order-taking. In the past, the justification for RPA technology was that it would keep agents focused on high-value tasks. It also speeds up customer service times and helps keep agents’ jobs engaging enough that they won’t quit.


Call-Backs and Scheduled Call-Backs keep callers off hold, which improves CSat, lowers call abandonment and supports agents when calls are spiking..

A Word About Service Levels

We want to put in a special word about SLAs in this context but first, a bit of background. Service level is a metric that goes back over five decades and is powerful, in part because it is universally understood across the industry to convey how quickly customers’ calls are answered by agents in a specific timeframe.

An 80/20 service level means 80 percent of calls are answered in 20 seconds or less. Incidentally, 80/20 service levels are still very common in our industry, but there are several reasons why that might not be right for your contact center. Why?

1. The automation tools that help lower call abandonment should have you questioning one-size-fits-all SLAs. If your bots or self-service tools are handling simple questions, then agents are left to answer more complex problems. These calls will almost always take longer than simple, self-service queries. An 80/20 service level might be unattainable in this scenario, and result in the wrong staffing levels and higher call abandonment, or rushed agents and lower CSAT ratings.

2. 80/20 also doesn’t speak to the newer channels like chat, SMS, and social media. If you don’t understand how these channels impact your staffing needs, you’ll have a hard time staffing appropriately, and KPIs will be impacted.

How Service Levels and Call Abandonment Interact

Service levels and call abandonment rates are interrelated, and contact centers need to strike a balance between efficiently handling incoming calls (maintaining high service levels) and minimizing call abandonment, while keeping an eye on budgets and operational efficiencies. Monitoring both metrics allows contact center managers to identify areas for improvement and enhance the overall customer experience.

It’s a Balancing Act

No tech offers a one-size-fits-all solution. Thoughtful implementation is key to striking a balance that lets automation support and speed up processes – and frees up agents to offer the empathy, personal touch, and complex problem-solving skills customers crave. The right balance will allow managers to minimize call abandonment rates, while maximizing operational efficiencies.

Link to ultimate guide to service level agreements.

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