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The recent ContactBabel report, ‘The 2014 UK Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide’ contains a chapter on call-back, routing and queue management, which is sponsored by NewVoiceMedia.

This section of the report investigates how contact centres are handling the initial voice contact into their operation; quantifying the IVR menu options and levels that customers have to negotiate; understanding how calls and any associated identification data are actually used in the routing process, and whether customers waiting in a queue receive any information or a promise of a callback.

Despite the technology having been available since the advent of call centres, there are still many implementations where the customer experience of using touchtone IVR is suboptimal, if not downright painful. It’s no use trying to shift every customer service interaction onto IVR self-service, as if customers don’t want to use IVR, they will “zero-out” (press 0 for a live agent) straightaway – and 1 in 7 calls are.

If businesses don’t offer a live agent option to an irate and frustrated caller, they won’t need to worry about providing customer service to them in the future. It's worth reiterating that if callers agree to try a company’s self-service system rather than insisting upon talking to an agent, there's an implied contract that if the self-service session is unsuitable, the caller should be allowed to speak with an agent. Few things can frustrate callers more than being hectored into using an unhelpful and irrelevant self-service system.

This chart suggests that higher levels of call abandonment rates are found in operations with larger numbers of IVR menu options. There could be a case made that – just like keeping a caller in a queue for an excessive amount of time will make them more likely to abandon the call – the amount of customer effort involved with labyrinthine IVR menus may affect the customer’s willingness to wait in the phone queue.

IVR menu

Previous ContactBabel studies of US contact centres show that offering an in-queue call-back option has a positive effect on call abandonment rates, with those doing so having a mean of 4.1% of calls abandoned, compared with 5.5% amongst those who do not offer this option. Announcing the position of the caller in the queue seems to have less of a positive outcome, with a call abandonment rate of 4.9% against 5.3% in operations where no such announcement is made.

A tentative conclusion can be drawn that call abandonment rates can be reduced best through actual actions that benefit customers, such as calling them back. Simply providing them with more information about the queue situation (which may be negative news) could encourage customers to abandon the call and ring back later. Even in this case, having this knowledge and actively being able to choose what to do may well make the customer think more positively about the company (in that they haven’t had to waste any great amount of time). Still, without a call-back option being made available, the customer will not have managed to do what they set out to.

While some contact centres within this year’s survey have pushed ahead with offering callback options, in-queue announcements and more sophisticated routing capabilities, the majority of the UK contact centre industry still has some way to go. The advent of visual IVR - a solution whereby existing IVR menus are provided in a visual format - particularly useful for smartphones - has the potential to improve the user experience greatly while reusing existing IVR functionality and structure. Additionally, there's a widespread acceptance and effort within the industry of the need to link self-service channels with live agent assistance, thus taking steps towards providing a true omnichannel environment.

Download the NewVoiceMedia-sponsored chapter of the ContactBabel report, 'Call-back, routing and queue management'

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About Steve Morrell

Steve Morrell is Managing Partner at ContactBabel, the leading analyst firm for the contact centre industry.

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