Featured Image for the blog: How to Stop Abandoned Calls From Ruining Your Customer Satisfaction and Toppling Your Other Call Center Metrics

A company recently charged me for a duplicate purchase I didn’t make. I knew if I didn’t jump on a call with customer service right then and there, I’d likely forget (or procrastinate) until it was too late and I couldn’t get the charges removed. So, I dropped everything I was doing and dialed the number. Nevermind the load of laundry and the box of toys my 2-year-old was currently dumping on the floor.

But my drop-everything-response turned into 5…10…20 minutes of waiting by my phone, suffering through some scratchy jazz hold music. At this point, I was trying to half-way fold laundry and keep my 2-year-old from whining so I could hear a live person finally answer the phone.

Things were getting too chaotic at home, so I finally caved and hung up the phone. Frustrated, I now had a messy house, an attention-starved toddler, and an unresolved issue.

Sound familiar?

It’s the story of abandoned calls. Customers abandon calls when they’re frustrated from long hold times and unanswered questions. Then, agents get overwhelmed by their heavy workload and dropping CSAT scores. Meanwhile, managers and leaders are disappointed by plummeting metrics and the inability to satisfy every customer. Everyone loses.

Spikes in abandoned calls take a toll on agent productivity and customer satisfaction. And often, they lead your customers to abandon your brand entirely. According to Voice Response, Inc., 34% of customers who hang up before reaching a live agent will never call back. As a leader, it can be stressful to lose customers simply because of call overload. Here are some tips to reduce abandoned calls in your contact center, so you can give your customers (and agents) a better experience.

1. Improve efficiency (without sacrificing quality)

Perhaps the most obvious way to reduce abandoned calls is to hire more agents to answer calls. The more trained agents you have, the more customers you’ll be able to reach. That’d be nice, right?

But, you’re likely stuck with tons of abandoned call rates because you’re in the same boat as many other contact centers. You operate lean and keep staff counts to a minimum to cut costs, so hiring isn’t always a possibility. If that’s the case, you have to get creative to handle spikes in call volume, so you can avoid an overload of abandoned calls. One tried-and-true fix is to consider ways to reduce your Average Handle Time (AHT), while still giving quality service, of course. Measure your AHT to see how long agents spend with customers, so you can better predict staffing needs, improve agent training and fill in the blanks with resources your agents need to improve their efficiency.

Measure AHT so you can improve it to reduce customer wait times.

Your AHT will uncover where your customers’ time is being wasted.

Two-thirds of customers are only willing to wait two or three minutes on hold. So if hold time is the culprit, you know to work on cutting down wait times.

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If the agent interaction is taking too long, review your agents’ performance and calls. Do your agents seem unprepared for calls? Are they spending lots of time toggling between systems? Are they distracted or not listening to their customers? These issues may indicate gaps in training or system inefficiencies.

Shorter AHT doesn’t always indicate better service, though. Your agents may be gaming the system, rushing through their calls to keep AHT low. And, they may be sacrificing good customer care as a result. So when you measure these efficiency metrics, be sure to also look at CSAT scores and other agent performance metrics like First Call Resolution that measure quality, too.

2. Make wait times more tolerable

Most of us could probably quote the “Your call is very important to us…” automated message we hear whenever we reach out to customer service. But many callers abandon a call after an automated message like that begins to play. That’s because people know it likely indicates long hold times. And, such a generic message implies that the company doesn’t actually value the individual.

If your company can’t avoid hold times (because often times, resources don’t allow it), make your customers’ wait feel more tolerable.

To help your customers feel known and cared for, change your automated message to something more personal. Make it clear that your company is speaking directly to the person on the other line. Include the estimated wait time, or give each caller a queue number. Customers will be more likely to wait on hold if they know they’re third in line and they see an end in sight.

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Research shows that 71% of people like to listen to music while on hold. But beware of picking songs people don’t like. Do some research on what kinds of music people prefer, and what they can’t stand while on hold (elevator music, I’m looking at you).

Play around with how often you repeat the automated messages, too. Callers often mistake automated voices for live agents, so if they hear the same message repeated too frequently, they may get frustrated. They get a glimmer of hope, only to realize they’re still stuck on hold.

There’s plenty of room for creativity when it comes to entertaining your customers. Personalize your approach to every step of the customer journey and it speaks volumes.

3. Give your customers a callback or voicemail option

Many of your customers don’t have time to sit on hold with customer service. They’re busy attending meetings, driving to appointments, making dinner, or scrambling to get kids out the door. Setting aside an unknown amount of time to sit on hold isn’t exactly easy for most people. And, it’s even harder to plan for the unknown.

To help your customers maintain trust and interest in your company, set up callback queues. That way your customers can hang up and get a return call when an agent is available to help. This lets your customers know their call – and their time – is important to you. And customers appreciate it. In fact, 63% of customers prefer a call-back option to getting placed on hold. Brand loyalty comes when customers feel cared for.

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When using callback queues, be specific in your message about when customers can expect a callback. And make sure your team’s approach is really ironed out. Because 43% of customers expect a call back within 30 minutes. Too many companies offer a callback option and never get back to their customers. Or it takes days to hear back, and most customers have probably given up by then.

If a callback option isn’t feasible on your current platform (and you don’t need a new contact center), let your customers leave a voicemail or ask their question on a different channel, like email or chat. Make sure agents are trained to handle these channels and have omnichannel capabilities, so they can respond to requests on any channel customers use.

4. Improve your IVR

Research found that improving IVRs contributes to lower call abandonment rates. IVRs are intended to route customers to the right agent and help customers answer their questions quickly. But too often, IVRs are just downright frustrating and confusing. Too many menu options, poor routing systems, and mishandled requests all lead to irritated customers.

Other times, they’re too simplified. If customers think their question doesn’t fit into option 1, 2, or 3, they may just try to zero out or yell “Representative” at the phone five times before they hang up.

Help your customers help themselves. IVRs are intended to provide simple, self-service options for your customers. So spend time optimizing your IVR to be as specific and helpful as possible. And, if your customers don’t get routed to the right agent the first time, coach agents to transfer calls the right way so customers don’t get lost in a black hole between departments.

Make your menu options clear and comprehensive. Personalize your IVR so customers feel known. Frank Sherlock suggests getting rid of generic questions like, “How may we help you today?” and replacing them with more tailored questions, such as “Are you calling about the order you placed yesterday?”

Personalizing and simplifying your IVR will make your customers more satisfied. And your agents will land fewer angry customers. It’s a win-win.

5. Offer alternative communication channels to improve efficiency

With texting, smartphones and Google always at their fingertips, customers have high expectations for getting answers at lightning speed. And studies show that customers’ expectations for quick service are only growing.

Most customers these days prefer digital channels to communicate, including how they reach out to customer service. In fact, more than 50% of people are more likely to buy from a company that provides customer service via chat.

If you’re struggling with abandoned calls, it might be a sign your customers want omnichannel service. Set up alternative communication channels to keep pace with customer requests. List FAQs with answers to basic questions on your website. Use online chat so customers don’t have to sit on hold while they wait for an agent. If you have the technology, implement chatbots that can answer common questions. Designate several agents to check your social media messages for customer questions.

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Customers are happy when know they have multiple ways to get in touch with you. They appreciate knowing they don’t always have to resort to a long phone call for any and every question. An omnichannel approach to customer service will help your CSAT scores skyrocket.

Your agents will thank you, too. Their queues will be more manageable when they don’t have to juggle tons of repeat questions on top of their complicated calls. And, their other metrics won’t suffer from spikes in abandoned calls.

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