Don’t Tolerate a High Abandon Rate!

An illustration of a mobile phone reads "Missed Call"

What are the typical causes of a high abandon rate? As you might imagine, often the culprit is an understaffed team or a dedicated staffing model in which a finite number of agents are expected to handle contact volume spikes or peak periods. That is assuming they’re not leveraging the shared team for the overflow in such instances; however, just as frequently, those unanswered contacts are a result of the service desk merging Level 1 and Level 2 functions among the same agents. So once all IT staff are engaged in more time-consuming tasks like complex antivirus scans, application deployments, or wi-fi set up, the remaining inbound contacts are not being handled. When queue management takes a backseat to complex issue resolution no matter how long it takes, the next end user in line is forced to wait and the more likely they are to hang up.

Below are some of the consequences to tolerating excessively high abandon rates for extended periods:

Increased walk-ups

Especially for on-site IT staff, if they are not answering the phone because they’re in the middle of another project, their coworkers will get in the habit of approaching them in person in order to ensure an immediate response. Sure, that personal attention works out just fine for the end user being served, but if they’re interrupting the infrastructure team’s network upgrade project merely to restore VPN access, neither the engineer nor their CIO will be terribly pleased. Furthermore, informal contacts like snagging a technician while they’re away from their desk increase the risk of those incidents going undocumented. This means, not only are those operational costs not being tracked, but any unique resolution procedures are not being shared with the rest of the team. When it comes to time-saving troubleshooting tips and updating Knowledgebase Articles, less is not more.

Lower Customer Satisfaction

While First Contact Resolution has a more direct correlation with customer satisfaction, perpetually high abandon rates will indeed cause satisfaction rates to plummet. Consequently, the service desk begins to develop a poor reputation among the end user population, which means fewer people will contact the Level 1 team for support. Not to be confused with call avoidance in which end users receive an answer to their query before they contact the service desk, total discouragement of service desk usage is not a cost-effective alternative. If you’re paying for a service desk solution you’re not using, how is that effective ROI?

Failure to Meet SLAs

Although more relevant when applied to external clients versus an organization’s internal user population, missed SLAs constitutes a contractual breach on that minimum commitment. As a result, service desk outsourcing vendors are held more accountable to meeting or beating those service quality benchmarks than their in house counterparts; which is why abandon rate tends to be tolerated more when internal IT is understaffed and/or overtasked with Level 1 and Level 2 duties, responding to that next call on a best effort basis. By contrast, third party vendors that fail to set the right staffing levels or segregate those roles, fail to meet SLAs and ultimately fail to retain that client.

Lower End User Productivity/Higher Operational Costs

If your abandon rate is over even 5%, that means at least 5% of your employees are not getting back to work quickly. Chances are, if the average speed of answer is too high, they’ve abandoned all hope for a Level 1 resolution along with the potential contact. This often translates to more creative troubleshooting in which the end user is possibly researching their own solution, interrupting other resources for assistance, or working around the problem entirely. Either way, the service desk costs are shifted to whoever absorbs the burden of resolving the issue, assuming it is indeed resolved. If not, the long term impacts of end user downtime can be even more costly.

Bear in mind there is such a thing as overkill. While high abandon rates consistently hovering at 10% or more should certainly be mitigated, attaining absolute perfection can be just as costly a proposition. If, for example, you’re overstaffing to the point where not one call is missed, agent utilization will decrease during slower periods in which case your staffing costs have gratuitously skyrocketed; however, if high abandon rate is temporary due to call volume spikes and peak periods, many organizations resort to an overflow solution that complements rather than competes with their onsite staff. In other words, you’re leveraging a third party’s shared service desk resources only to handle those contacts your internal team otherwise wouldn’t. The good news is, when your end users need help, at least someone’s always answering the phone and ready to offer a solution.