FAQ: What Percentage of Abandoned Calls Do You Allow Your Agents?

HDI and HDAA members are a group of community-minded problem solvers. They take their jobs of managing people, process, and technology quite seriously, but they also love to help each other excel in their careers. Today, we’re sharing a recent discussion from Connect about call abandonment rate for support center agents.Q: For your Service Desk, what is the percentage of abandoned calls that you allow your agents to have per month? Right now, we have a metric of no more than 5%. This seems high to me, and so I’m wondering what others do.
– Donna D.

A: I have seen targets from 23% to 5%. It seems to depend on the type of customers supported. B2B tends to have lower targets, where B2C is typically higher. For enterprise organizations, my experience is a low of .2.5% to 35%. It depends (or it should) on the cost of the abandoned call to the organization.John C.

A: I completely agree, John. If that abandoned call has revenue potential, it’s like leaving money on the floor. I love the abandonment metric. It’s always treated like a step-metric, always getting the leftovers, no one paying much attention to it! But it can really help when looking at the other KPIs and is definitely part of a story.

Personally, I like the 5% mark. But I could be swayed to a different level. The lower your percentage, most likely the higher your operational cost (staff to answer those calls coming in). So you have to consider the ROI. If you look to lower abandonment rates, perhaps offer other channels as well that may be less expensive to the organization, including shift-left to deflect the incoming calls.Richard S.

A: One thing I remember reading about regarding abandoned calls is that, if you have a message that comes on during hold time saying “We are aware of problem X and are working to fix the issue” or “Have you tried our nifty website to look up your issues,” you might have abandoned calls for a good reason. Just food for thought, or to make your brain hurt.Gretchen O.

A: Hi Donna, 2% for my agents, and I agree, 5% is a bit high. :)Sheryl W.

A: Call abandonment rate can yield unintended results if pushed too low. It will increase your costs without any corresponding increase in customer satisfaction.Angela I.

A: Just be sure you don’t put too much emphasis on abandonment rate without also taking into consideration other metrics, Average Speed of Answer (ASA) being one of the key ones. We are a fairly small shop, so on low call volume days our abandonment rate can swing dramatically. We’ve had some days where our abandonment rate was above 5% but our ASA was down at 2 seconds. If a caller is unwilling to wait 2 seconds to reach a technician, then I wouldn’t put too much stress on my techs about it. However, if abandonment rate is high AND ASA is high, then we have a problem that needs to be corrected.Rod K.

A: When determining the abandonment rate make sure to figure in other factors that could affect this goal.

  • Staff Levelshaving too few or too many staff answering calls can have an effect on the quality of service and cost of running your business.
  • IndustryWhat is the industry average for the type of business you are supporting?
  • Customer expectationsWhat is the agreed upon SLA or KPI with the customer?

Our organization is fine with 5%.Shaun H.

A: We aim for 3%5%.  I also look at call volume along with abandonment. If volume is down and abandonment up, then we could have a problem.Scott J.

A: My abandonment SLA rate is 5% or less. I also answer 90% of all calls that come in within 30 seconds. I don’t count any call that drops up to 29 seconds against my metric. If a customer drops the line in less than 30 seconds, I assume either they dialed the wrong number or they fixed the issue before we could get to their call.Marnita R.

A: I’m interested in some of your details. I’m seeing posts of less than 5% abandon and 90% answered in under 30 seconds, etc.

We have 34 agents to answer 600 calls per day on average (up to 1000 calls on the first day of the month) with an average handle time (AHT) of 19 minutes. We are struggling to achieve 60% answered in under one minute. I’m curious to know what other organization’s head count, calls per day, and AHT is in comparison to achieve the metrics being posted here.

As for the abandon rate we are typically seeing 8%, which is in part due to the 60% answer in under one-minute issue and partially because we have IVR hold messages indicating any current issues we are aware of and working on. The customers have the option of virtual hold, so they can press 1 for a call back, holding their place in line without abandoning.Eric O.

A: We are a fairly large organization. I manage the North American region. Our SLA is less than or equal to 6% as a minimum.  The expected target is less than or equal to 5.5%.Gina E.

A: While we don’t have a formal metric for abandoned calls, I take a really close look at what was going on in a particular time frame if it gets above 5%. I disregard abandoned calls during times when we have a known issue that is reflected in our hold message, and I disregard instances where I see the same number called repeatedly in a short period of time.

Because we run with student employees who generally have very short shifts, I use abandonment rates to identify times when staffing levels need to be adjusted.Nicole M.

A: When I took over our team, they were shooting for an abandonment rate of 5%. That’s our current target, but we are a smaller shop and take into consideration influxes in call volumes related to unplanned outages, major incidents, etc.

I think it’s important to look at abandonment rate, but also look at first call resolution. Our shop has historically had sub-5% abandonment rate, but our FCR has been low as well (not so good). We are now focused on improving our FCR while maintaining a lower abandonment rate (5% may not be attainable).Ryan L.

A: Reading through everyone’s comments, it appears that all are in ACDs and therefore have the ability to report on abandoned, ASA, talk time, and all of the other wonderful call center metrics. We are set up as a bridge appearance, and I’ve been told by telephony that we are not able to collect traditional call center metrics because of this. I’m curious if there are other teams that use bridge appearance and if there is a way to gather the more typical call center metrics. At present, I have no clue what our abandoned rate is, and I only get a monthly report showing number of answered calls and call time.Anonymous

A: I would ask the Telecom person to show you what data they do get for calls.

If you have your own switch, they may be able to see calls that were “ring no answer” to your agents, which might be a way to look at abandons. They should also be able to show you call durations, which you could extrapolate into average call time.

In any event, I’d sit down with the telecom person or provider and ask them to show you what is captured. You’d be surprised what you might be able to come up with. If there is a pure data dump (csv, etc.) you can get from them it may allay any fears they have of having to generate reports on your behalf (watch out though, telecom data can be massive).Rich M.

A: I’m jealous of all the responses of 5% and below! Our target right now is 7%. According to the old way to measure staffing levels (by devices and people supported), I’m told we have enough staff. However, using the amount of work coming in and additional processes we handle, I find that number keeps us short. We also haven’t been fully staffed in a while, but that’s changing shortly. We made a serious push in the past two years to increase our first contact resolve numbers. That combined with some technology issues increased our average handle time. With that, our ASA increased and so did our abandoned calls. Thankfully we explained our case and are getting some people.Michael B.

While your targets for abandon rate are completely up to your organization, lower is better overall, of course.

According to the HDI 2017 Technical Support Practices & Salary Report, 8190% of tickets meet the stated SLA for call abandonment. Twenty-two percent of organizations report an abandon rate of 5%, while 14% of organizations report an abandon rate of 1015%, and 5% of organizations say their abandon rate is greater than 15%.

As for those with low abandon rates, only 7% of organizations report abandons at 2%, and another 7% report that they are seeing less than 1% abandons.

As mentioned in the discussion, outgoing messages (“We’re working on XYZ”) can increase abandons, as can staffing levels that are simply too low. Other factors that directly affect abandon rate are:

  • Availability of self-service/self-help
  • Self-help adoption
  • Alternative channels (chat, web forms)
  • Number of service outages

There is no one fix for an abandon rate your organization considers too high, but these are some of the factors to consider.

The real question is, “How satisfied are your customers and users overall with the service you provide?”

Roy Atkinson, Senior Writer/Analyst, HDI

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