Don't Make Your Customers Abandon You

Knowing that your interactive voice response (IVR) is often a customer's first point of contact when making a voice call to your organization, you know that keeping call abandonment rates down means properly implementing queue management. This concern makes IVR worth a thorough look no matter how confident you are in your current setup.

Call Abandonment Rates, Queue Management, and IVR

Why the focus on IVR? Simply put, while hardly cutting-edge, the technology isn't always implemented as well as it should be in the customer service arena. In some circumstances, businesses employ the technology less than optimally in terms of positive customer engagement. In others, the deployment is downright painful.

To that end, pushing customer service interaction onto IVR self-service isn't a wise idea: If those users aren't interested in IVR, they will press zero for a live agent at the onset, as many customers do.

If businesses don't make live agents available to frustrated users, they won't need to worry about providing their customer service in the future. Call abandonment rates drop in the absence of good queue management; every opt-in interaction with an automated system comes with the implied contract that customers can duck out as soon as the experience becomes less than satisfactory and talk with a live agent instead. Few things frustrate callers more than being forced to use a self-service option that ultimately fails to suit their needs.

Customer Agency Matters

The more automated IVR options a business has, the higher call abandonment rates they can generally expect to suffer. The logic here is simple: Just as more callers are bound to drop a hold the longer you keep them in the queue, the amount of customer effort involved with labyrinthine IVR menus almost certainly diminishes a customer's willingness to wait in the phone queue.

Offering an in-queue call-back option has a positive effect on call abandonment rates. To the other end, letting the caller know their position in the queue appears to have a less positive impact. The takeaway? Call abandonment rates may be reduced when businesses offer actions that benefit customers, such as calling them back, instead of offering passive updates that give customers little agency in the interaction. In other words, customers seem to appreciate actively being able to choose what to do. Instead of wasting time — with or without knowledge of how long they'll be waiting — customers can decide how the interaction goes forth.

Putting it all together, then, an IVR doesn't have to be a less-than-optimal (or painful!) experience for customers. On the contrary, businesses that practice smart queue management and offer options that customers actually react to give themselves the chance to add to their experience instead of detracting from it.

The advent of technologies such as visual IVR — a solution that puts existing IVR menus in a visual format, particularly useful for smartphones — can further improve the user experience while reusing existing IVR functionality and structure. It's a proposition that offers a major experiential uptick on the business's end without a significant overhaul of existing phone systems. Linking self-service channels to support availability may further increase the experience and provide true omnichannel support for customers in need.

Steve Morrell
Steve Morrell

Steve Morrell is Managing Partner at ContactBabel, the leading analyst firm for the contact centre industry. Find out more at www.contactbabel.com

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