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Abandon Rate Standard


Jun 01, 2002

What is the industry standard for incoming percentage of call abandonment per day? -- Lisa McLaughlin


  • Posted at 12:00AM on Jul 1, 2002

    First, thanks for your question. It is one that is frequently asked. Second, while it might seem as if there should be an "industry standard" for abandonment rate, there truly isn't one for a number of reasons. Abandonment rate is a metric that is often misunderstood (i.e., folks use it as an indication of how well their center is performing) and can be perplexing in its fluctuations. Why? The main reasons there is no industry standard and that abandonment is not a good indicator of center performance are that: Abandonment rates are driven mainly by your callers' tolerance levels and there are many reasons people hang on and wait for a representative and/or hang up (abandon). There are an unlimited number of reasons that influence callers behavior, but most can be catagorized into "seven factors of caller tolerance" that include:

    1. Degree of motivation-how important the call/contact is to the customer
    2. Availability of substitutes --can they get the answer somewhere else (i.e., your Web site, or FAQs, etc.)
    3. Competition's service level
    4. Level of expectations -- do they have to wait a long time every time they call or did they get right through the last time they contacted you?
    5. Time available
    6. Who is paying for the call --callers may not wait as long if they are paying the phone charges
    7. Human behavior

    The main point is that due to these "factors" you may find that if you were to graph your service level (the key measurement of how accessible you are to your customers!) out by the half hour for a week and then graph abandonment by half hour for the same week you may see that even when you are meeting service level your abandonment might be higher than you would expect. Why? Mainly due to the fact that customers' needs, wants, expectations and therefore tolerance for waiting are constantly changing and therefore the abandonment rate will follow those changes.

    While abandonment rates should be monitored and reviewed, there is no industry standard and it should not be looked at in isolation (no metric should be). Focusing on service level and monitoring it by the half hour is a better way, and one that is more within your control, to determine whether you are meeting your customers expectations around your accessibility.

    I hope that helps!

    -- Rose Polchin, President, RPolchin Consulting and Training, Certified Associate, Incoming Calls Management Institute, Tel. 201-652-0443, Fax 603-806-8162, rpolchin@att.net

  • Posted at 12:00AM on Jul 1, 2002

    Our centre currently has a target abandon rate of less than 5%, but we typically achieve around 2.5%. I think it's hard to pinpoint an industry standard, as it depends so much on the types of calls handled and also the spirit of the organisation and its goals. For example, existing customer service calls in one organisation may be viewed lower priority as compared to sales calls, as those sales calls produce a visual cash return that is definable. A quick, efficient handling of a service call might not give you an immediate definable return, and how can we define "good service"? Everyone has a different opinion of that.

    Therefore, it could be argued that a 0% abandoned rate is desired on sales calls to catch all those potential sales and that a reasonable amount of service calls can be sacrificed to achieve that. That's where the tricky part is: what does your organisation see as being reasonable without damaging your existing customers' view of your company and service, and yet still expand your sales goals.

    You could say I'm not answering your question! Really what I'm saying is it's up to your organisation to decide in conjunction with your customers' needs as to where you want to pitch your levels. -- Greg Thorley, YBS, UK

  • Posted at 12:00AM on Aug 1, 2002

    What I found out in my few years looking after our customer service centre and attending various conferences is that there are very few if any industry standards at all.

    I believe that it is important to let your people know what their results are and then, as a group, select goals aiming at improving the results.

    We started with an abandonment rate of around 7% three years ago and by following this simple method of goal setting we decreased steadily so that we are now at about 4% for year 2002 to date.

    As far as I am concerned, the secret is to set objectives that are measurable, believable, and achievable. Go for a 0.5% to 1% decrease to start with and see how your people will give you more than expected. Remember that you cannot do it alone: all levels of your call centre must embark in this voyage toward continuous improvement.

    Good luck! -- Michel Crête

  • Posted at 12:00AM on Nov 1, 2002

    Our call center looks at calls that are abandoned after 20 seconds. We feel that callers that cannot or do not hold for at least 20 seconds may have reached the wrong number or do not need service at that time. We like to keep our target at less than 1% of calls abandoned after 20 seconds. If you view the total calls abandoned, you might want to revisit or look into setting a threshold that meets your desired service levels. If not, you will be looking at calls that hung up after one second or longer. By setting your own threshold you may find that you are doing much better than you had originally thought. -- Lisa M. Esker

  • Posted at 12:00AM on Dec 1, 2002

    Yes, I agree with many of the responses already sent, that each organisation needs to sit down and decide what their call abandonment rate should be. But don't forget that there are good call abandonments and bad call abandonments. Good call abandonments are callers that have received an answer to their problem and abandoned their call. In other words, if your telephony system provides you with the facility to put on a message to your clients advising them of changes or system problems, this often resolves those situations you have when there is a flood of calls coming into the call centre. These calls are then regarded as good abandonments. Bad call abandonments fall under the seven factors of caller tolerance, but excluding the second one, as mentioned in Response #1 July 2002.

    When I first started in this environment, I was told that the industry's norm for call abandonments is 5%. Our Service Level Agreement (SLA) with our client is set at less than or equal to 5%. Our abandonment rate during the past eight months has been anything between 1% and 3%. Good Luck!! -- Charmaine Esch, AST-Distributed Technology Services

  • Posted at 12:00AM on Jan 1, 2003

    There can never be a standard abandon rate. The "logical" goal of management is to drive the abandon rate as low as possible. However, obtaining an abandon rate of less than 2% may indicate an oversupply of agents in order to achieve such a goal, even in a sales environment. A more accurate measure of service could be the average wait time, which still may or may not tell you what customers really think.

    It is customers' expectations that drive their satisfaction. If customers know what to expect, access to the call center factors less in their overall satisfaction. If a customer calls for pre-sales information on computer products and the call is routinely answered in 25-30 seconds, he won't care if process improvement efforts drive the wait time down to an average of 15-20 seconds. He is more interested in the phone being answered consistently. As a result, you must develop a center that delivers consistency in all aspects of your call center, with accessibility to agents being one of several important factors.

    The most important thing you can do is to set call center metrics that can be obtained consistently. Basically, you don't want customer access to the call center to play an important factor in their overall satisfaction. The customer's interaction with the agent is a much more important indicator of overall customer satisfaction/sales potential and call center managers who apply a similar consistency discipline to providing complete, accurate and timely information in a professional manner will likely see customer loyalty increase. -- Bob Pierson, Hewlett-Packard

  • Posted at 12:00AM on May 1, 2003

    In my experience one needs to measure a suite of metrics to understand customer performance impacts. I would combine service level, abandonment rate, average wait time and live resolution, but a lot depends on your type of business and customer base.

    For example, if you have a captive customer base you may find that customers will wait longer to get through, abandon rate will look good but customers wait times are excessive...if this is acceptable customer service within your industry and you don't wish to differentiate yourself, then so-be-it.

    A few watch points:
    When looking for abandon rate benchmarking figures check at what point abandon rate is being measured from. Some companies measure abandon rate without any delays and a 5%-8% target might look high but it will include wrong numbers, etc. Some measure abandon rate after say five seconds to allow for wrong numbers.

    I have come across companies quoting actual abandon rate performance of <1%....but measuring after 15 seconds.

    The other watch point is your time measurement period -- measuring abandon rate over a month, week, day or hour -- a number of customer service sins/poor performance can be hidden within a monthly average figure.

    Its not an exact science and your measures / targets have to be based upon understanding your customers/business/industry/competition.

    In an inbound service centre we use service level of 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds, abandon rate of <3% after five seconds and 90% live resolution. If I have these under control then I'm providing the basics of good customer service and will focus on other metrics (e.g., cost per call minute, call quality -- which is where we look to differentiate ourselves from our competitors). -- Steve

  • Posted at 12:00AM on Jun 1, 2003

    I fully agree that there is no standard, but it is important to see abandon rates in conjunction with costs. It will be easy to provide abandon rates less than 1% independent from where you count them if you overstaff your call center. Therefore, you might see lower abandon rates where clients focus on customer satisfaction and not on costs.

    Although there is no industry standard, the most common rates are between 5% and 10% without blocking. What leads clients to claim rates lower then 5% for their service?

    • Order-taking service instead of help line (abandons = lost revenue)
    • Competition and common product (percentage of customers who will not call again and may order from the competition is higher)
    • Value of customer service for the client (market philosophy)
    • High call volumes (easier to manage)

    There is also a differentiation between technical support and customer service, where my feeling is that technical support accepts from time to time higher abandon rates and lower service level. -- Jochen

  • Posted at 12:00AM on Sep 1, 2003

    There is generally a "law on diminishing returns" as abandon rates can fall too far below a certain threshold. So the real key is measuring your "return" (customer satisfaction levels, complaints, changes in revenue per agent per hour, etc.) as the abandon rate decreases. Based on the type of call center and the industry, it's possible to have an abandon rate "improve" from in excess of 10% to under 5% with no hard benefit to the organization and/or no perceived benefit to the customer. -- Jim Garey, teleXpertise,inc.

  • Posted at 12:00AM on Dec 1, 2003

    Generally if you achieve your set service level goals, the abandonment rate should take care of itself. We have an 80/20 service level and a <5% abandonment goal. Interestingly, you can affect abandonment levels in real-time in a multi-skilled agent environment by manually shifting available agents from one call pool to another the moment you start to see any call queuing. The "shifted-agent" picks up the queuing call as soon as it occurs. Although this requires constant monitoring of the call volume, it also increases your agent utilization. -- Timothy J. Kim, 1-800-flowers.com

  • Mallika Posted at 12:00AM on Nov 14, 2005

    Hi, Needed some clarification. If abandoned rate is calculated as those instances where a customer disconnects the call after the IVR treatment but before selecting any specific queue, then messages related to systems issue should also be counted in the IVR treatment. Then how can we call that a good abandon rate? -- Mallika, Workxz

  • Mark Weingarten Posted at 12:00AM on Mar 3, 2006

    I have been involved with call centers for quite some time. I agree with many of the other comments already stated but my goal has always been an answer rate of 90% or an abandon rate of 10% or less. My initial greeting encourages people to hang up if they are calling about questions that shouldn't be answered from a particular center. My centers are normally set up for particular divisions (ex. financial aid, new prospective students, so I want callers to hang up if they didn't call the appropriate number for assistance. -- Mark Weingarten, Mercy College

  • Philippe T. Posted at 12:00AM on Aug 11, 2006

    As far as I know, there is no industry standard for incoming percentage of abandonment per day/month or etc... Taking it at from a call centre perspective, usually abandonment rate are set by clients/call centres managers. It would be inaccuarate to set a standard at this point since many factors would need to be taken into consideration (type of support, account, etc..) -- Philippe T.

  • Lukas Jezek Posted at 12:00AM on May 20, 2007

    In our call center we monitor how many abandoned calls contact us again - most often the same day. It is more than 50%, which signifies that abandon rate is not really an indicator for service level. Together with a system that enables queuing abandoned calls and discarding them in case the same number calls again, I would also recommend to set some call back process (next day after the abandoned call, operators call those customers back). We usually have about 7% abandoned calls, and thanks to the queuing system and callbacks we eliminate abandon calls nearly to zero. -- Lukas Jezek

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