Do you have abandonment issues?
Wait. Sorry. I should probably specify what I’m asking here.
Do customers abandon your phone support lines more frequently than you’d like?
Okay. Good. Now that we all know we’re in the right place, let’s talk solutions. Because unlike some metrics, call abandonment rate is one number managers can influence immediately.
Here are four places to look for fast results.
Change The Definition
The easiest way to boost performance is to lower the criteria. That may sound like cheating, but it’s not.
Many companies define missed calls too broadly. They classify any inbound call that doesn’t reach an agent as abandoned.
If you look more closely at these calls, though, that criteria hardly seems fair.
What if the call was placed outside of business hours?
What if the caller misdialed a number and instantly realized their mistake?
What if their network dropped the call in the first five seconds?
Are any of those missed calls really a reflection of your agents’ abilities?
Shifting the criteria to solely account for scenarios an agent can control will not only make your numbers look better, it will give you a more relevant metric to base management decisions around.
Build a Backup Plan
Every call routing strategy is a hypothesis. It reflects your best guess at what customers will want and your best attempt at balancing your team’s limited bandwidth.
Customer behavior won’t always align with your hypothesis, though. Sooner or later, a sea of callers will flood a critical line or spill into unexpected areas.
Whether you sink or swim in these critical moments has less to do with the quality of Plan A and more to do with the availability of a Plan B.
Teams with no contingency plan all face similar consequences. Their agents are overwhelmed, their queue time goes up, and the percentage of callers willing to wait goes down.
What’s even more frustrating, however, is the fact that many of those teams later discover that they left available agents sitting on the sidelines during the crisis.
You can avoid all these potential regrets by creating routing rules that pull in unoccupied agents when call volume or wait time crosses a certain threshold. That way, you’ll at least know you exhausted every available resource when trying to keep queue times down and keep callers on the phone.
Create a Better Queue Experience
You can only reduce customer queue time so much. At a certain point, you have to stop thinking about the number and start thinking about the experience.
One way to make queue time feel more tolerable is to tell callers exactly how much of it they can expect. Whether you quote them a time or let them know how many people are ahead of them in line, any sliver of uncertainty you can remove will be appreciated.
After all, who would you rather be? The customer who knows they have three minutes left to wait or the customer wondering whether the answer is two or twenty.
You should also consider varying the content and cadence of your on-hold messages. There’s only so many times a person can hear “your call is important to us” before they begin to doubt the truth in that statement. And chiming in at different intervals with new information will at least delay the onset of boredom.
Finally, don’t forget about on-hold music. Even smooth jazz is preferable to silence, and any effort to entertain callers will be recognized as evidence of your empathy.
Let Callers Opt Out
Convincing more customers to wait longer will certainly improve your abandonment rate, but it may not raise their satisfaction rate. Sometimes getting callers off the line before they talk to an agent is actually a good thing — as long as they’re leaving for the right reasons.
Instead of expecting extraordinary patience, give busy callers the option to leave a voicemail or request a call back instead.
This simple kindness immediately increases the level of control customers feel over their service experience. Suddenly they’re the ones dictating the timetable.
And as they filter out of your queue, the ripple effect is less wait time for everyone else.
(Just don’t forget to remove these interactions from your abandoned calls category!)
Bonus: 2 Long-Term Considerations To Add
Okay, okay. You got me.
Overnight solutions won’t fix everything. Lasting progress requires long-term commitment. So take two more bits of advice before you leave.
Rethink your staffing.
As we discussed earlier, some abandoned calls can be avoided simply by putting your agents in better positions. Creating backup teams is only the tip of the iceberg, though.
Changing business hours, updating shift coverage, and even hiring or outsourcing should be up for discussion. But it all starts by studying your call abandonment patterns and mapping your service objectives accordingly.
Find the root cause.
A call that’s never made cannot be abandoned. So in the end, the most impactful move you can make is to solve the customer service issues inspiring calls in the first place.
The customer support team won’t always have the ability to create the needed changes themselves. But you do have a responsibility to share feedback with colleagues who can make the difference in other departments.
The comments, tags, and recordings associated with support calls can tell powerful stories that trigger necessary improvements from Product, Marketing, Sales, and Success teams.
Published on September 7, 2023.