Q: What’s an acceptable call abandonment rate?
A: The industry average is about 2%-3% of calls received. Many companies have even lower abandonment rates. Conversely, some merchants with very specialized product lines can let their abandonment rate ride a little higher.
The industry has conditioned customers to expect their calls to be answered promptly. At a minimum, your abandon rate should be in the range of 3%-4%, and preferably lower. Yes, this will cost more to provide the necessary level of service, but in my view it is not an option.
A much more appropriate measurement of your performance (and guide for staffing) is service level and/or average speed of answer rather abandon rate. Service level is usually stated in terms of the percent of calls answered within X seconds; a typical standard is something in the range of 85% of calls answered within 20 seconds. This info is generally available from your automatic call distributor (ACD) reporting system. A similar metric is average speed of answer, where all calls are answered by a live operator within an average of X seconds (usually 15-20 seconds).
The trick to maintaining acceptable costs for an acceptable level of service is to fairly aggressively plan and manage your staffing levels, right down to the hour or half-hour of each day. Measure actual performance to determine actual average call times and after-call times, as well as the required amount of “idle” time required each hour so that the rep is available to take a call: You must have people signed on but not on calls available to answer the next call.
There is a real art to balancing occupancy with service levels and cost. There’s no question in my mind that the contact center is the hardest part of the business to manage and staff effectively–and it has the most immediate impact on your customer’s experience.
And if you want more tips on how to manage your contact center, be sure to subscribe to MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT/O+F’s new e-mail newsletter, the Contact Center Advisor at, www.multichannelmerchant.com/opsandfulfillment/contact_center_advisor