Contact center call volume is consistently inconsistent. Contact centers can experience predictable increases in volume based on the season, month, week, time of day or a planned marketing campaign. However, contact centers can also experience unexpected, sharp spikes in volume due to a natural disaster, technology failure, product issue or security breach. How an organization is prepared to manage both expected and unexpected call volume surges can have a direct impact on profits, customer loyalty and the satisfaction of contact center agents.

When contact centers deal with more call volume than their agents can handle, the amount of time a customer spends on hold grows. Some customers will be patient. Others will not. When the customer’s patience hits its expiration point, the call is abandoned. But abandoned calls aren’t just the result of long wait times. Studies have shown that more than half of abandoned calls occur within the first 15 seconds of placing the customer on hold.

Although there is no industry standard or best practice, the ideal abandoned rate – the percentage of total calls that are abandoned – is typically considered to be between 3 percent and 5 percent. As call volume rises further and further above the call center’s capacity to respond to calls, the impact on the bottom line increases. Each abandoned call is a missed opportunity for you and a new opportunity for a competitor. Even if a customer has the patience to call back later, their trust in and loyalty to your organization has been eroded.

Of course, the effects of high call volume are first felt by contact center agents. By no fault of their own, agents are forced to deal with an endless barrage of frustrated customers who have either been on hold for a long time or have called back after their issue wasn’t resolved the first time. With no more than a few seconds between calls, agents can easily become stressed and fatigued. This can affect the quality of the service they provide and lead to high turnover, which causes more financial strain in the form of higher recruitment and training costs.

There isn’t much you can do to stop people from hanging up as soon as they’re placed on hold. What you can do is prevent customers from being placed on hold, reduce time spent on hold, and implement the right tools to optimize contact center operations. In the next post, we’ll discuss ways to minimize abandoned calls and lost revenue.