Average Time to Abandon

What is Average Time to Abandon? (And How to Improve Yours!)

The average American spends 43 days of their life waiting on hold. That breaks down to 10 to 20 minutes per week! To make matters even worse, many of those calls were probably abandoned as well, which leads perfectly into the topic of Average Time to Abandon (ATA).

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In this post:

What is ATA?

Many KPIs can tell you how your call center is performing, and ATA is one of them. Simply put, ATA is the average amount of time your customers wait on hold before they hang up.

If you’re trying to measure your contact center’s ATA, then you only consider the calls that have been abandoned.

What counts as an abandoned call?

There are a few important things to consider when calculating your ATA. For example, which calls are you counting as abandoned calls? If someone hangs up 5 seconds after an agent answers, do you still count this as an abandoned call?

It’s common practice to exclude short calls – those which are abandoned in the first few seconds after dialing. This type of abandoned call is more of an indication that someone dialed by mistake than it is an accurate reflection of your call center performance.

Some call centers choose to disregard calls abandoned in the IVR before the caller has joined the queue. But this can be problematic. If you’re not counting these abandoned calls, you’re missing some key data. A high rate of calls abandoned mid-IVR can indicate a major problem with your IVR itself. And if you don’t know the problem is there, you can’t address it.

What does your ATA tell you about your contact center?

ATA is a useful metric to monitor because it provides insight into some key areas as outlined below.

How well your contact center is staffed

Average Hold Time and Average Time to Abandon are two very important metrics you can put together to help you figure out if you’re scheduling enough agents. 

While it goes without saying that it’s better if customers don’t have to wait on hold for long periods, some call centers can tolerate higher hold times because they have a lower ATA. 

Certain types of customers are just more willing to wait than others. You can use this information to calculate whether increasing or reducing your agent numbers is the best course of action.

The effectiveness of your IVR

Your Average Time to Abandon tells you a lot about your IVR. If you see abandonment rates spike at a particular point in your IVR, it could indicate one of the following:

  • Your IVR is giving customers the information they need, which leads them to hang up and handle the issue accordingly. In this case, your IVR is performing well, which is good to know.
  • Your customers are getting frustrated with a particular feature of your IVR. They’re hanging up out of annoyance — not because they’ve received the appropriate assistance they came for. This is a sign that you may need to re-evaluate some functions of your IVR.
  • Your IVR is confusing or customers can’t figure out what they should do next. This could mean you need to make some changes to the options you’re providing customers via your IVR.
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How long customers are willing to wait

Understanding the patience of your callers is key to determining appropriate staffing levels. According to some studies, most people are only willing to wait on hold for up to 1 minute. But in reality, this figure is hugely dependent on different circumstances.

Are you desperately trying to rebook a canceled flight at short notice, for example? The likelihood is that you’ll be willing to wait on hold a bit longer. But if your call center is sales focused, on the other hand, customers might be less likely to wait. As a result, each abandoned call will be costing your call center a sale.

What drives your ATA figures?

Several factors can influence your ATA as explained below.

Wait times

This one is the most obvious. If you have long wait times, you will inevitably have a longer ATA. If calls are answered quickly, your customers are less likely to abandon them.

Reason for calling

How badly do your customers want to speak to an agent? Are they calling because their WiFi isn’t working, and they urgently need it back up and running for work? Or are they calling because they saw an ad for something you’re offering, and they were interested in signing up for your service? The value your customers place on the ability to speak to an agent will have an enormous impact on your ATA.

Customer expectations

If customers expect to wait for a long time, they’ll be more willing to do it. But if they expect to get through quickly, they’re less likely to spend any significant time waiting to speak to one of your agents.

Implementing an IVR that tells customers how long they have left to wait can have a knock-on effect on your ATA as well. It can work both ways. A customer who knows it’ll be a 10-minute wait might be more willing to hold on for longer. But at the same time, it could have the opposite effect, which leads to the customer abandoning even faster.

Your IVR 

The options you offer customers via your IVR can have a significant impact on your ATA. If customers can quickly and easily solve their issue without speaking to an agent, they might abandon faster, which would make it a ‘good abandonment’. However, if your IVR is difficult to navigate, or customers can’t find the information they need, you might have the same ATA — but not for negative reasons.

The hold experience

Don’t underestimate the hold experience. Are you playing annoying music? Or just an eerie dead static sound? Are callers being bombarded with repetitive messaging telling them how important their call is, even though they’ve been waiting for ages with no end in sight? The hold experience is often an afterthought but it can most certainly impact your ATA.

How can you improve your ATA?

It’s important to note that “improve” doesn’t necessarily mean increase or decrease. What your ATA can do is point you in the direction of elements you can change or improve to boost the performance of your contact center.

A short ATA could tell you that your IVR is enabling customers to serve themselves. It can also be telling you that your hold experience is so unbearable that customers aren’t willing to wait any longer. If the latter is the case, consider how to make it better so that your customers have more patience while waiting to speak to an agent.

The bottom line is that Average Time to Abandon is an important metric for gauging the health of your contact center. It can tell you a lot about your customers and their expectations, as well as the service you’re providing. By understanding what drives your ATA, you can implement the necessary changes to improve the customer experience, which will benefit your business as a whole.


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