* Abandon rates have risen 200% since 2019: The State of Contact Centers Report 2022 uncovers contact center challenges and reiterates the need for an AI-based, omnichannel strategy
A study undertaken by Ozonetel, a leading omnichannel customer communication platform provider, has unveiled new insights pertaining to the contact center industry in 2022.
The study is an analysis of 22 million calls made on Ozonetel’s CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service) platform by over 160,000 active agents in 2022. The report covers inbound and outbound contact center calls across E-commerce, Restaurants & Food Delivery, Insurance & Fintech, Banking, Healthcare & Pharma, Real Estate, and Logistics contact centers.
The analysis found that contact centers struggled this year to meet customer expectations:
· Callers had to wait longer: ‘Average Time in Queue’ is the amount of time callers wait in a call queue before they connect to a business representative. This is an important customer experience metric as the longer customers wait, the less satisfied they are likely to be. When compared across the same sectors, Ozonetel’s report reveals that, on an average, callers waited 56 seconds to get connected to an agent as opposed to 45 seconds in 2021.
INSIGHT: Queue times decrease when sufficient agents are available to answer calls. The spike in average queue times indicates that businesses either need to increase the number of agents or improve their efficiency—and consequently their availability—with features like single-click dispositions. Alternatively, contact centers could deflect calls to WhatsApp or other digital channels via their IVR.
Agents must work longer to wrap calls: “Wrap time’ indicates how fast contact center agents can complete actions after a customer interaction and be available to attend the next call. This metric affects both queue time and agents’ productivity. The time taken for After Call Work increased from 40 seconds in 2021 to 46 seconds in 2022.
INSIGHT: In efficient contact centers, agents can tag calls with the correct disposition within a few seconds. When they are required to add more detailed notes or when they struggle to find the right disposition code, the Wrap Time increases. The average wrap time reported in 2019 was 25 seconds. This increase in Wrap Time either indicates an increase in agents’ post-call responsibilities or a failure to provide agents with disposition codes relevant to today’s customer queries.
Agents hustle to cope with the demand: ‘Average Agent Speed of Answer’ is the average time a contact center agent takes to answer inbound calls. This includes the duration for which the agent’s phone rings but does not include the time the caller spends in the IVR or waiting in a call queue. This metric has reduced to 7.7 seconds in 2022, as compared to 8 seconds in 2021.
INSIGHT: While agents spend more time on post-call work, the time they take to answer calls has decreased, indicating that they may have less idle time between calls.
The improvement in pickup time suggests that most contact centers are using an auto-answer feature to automatically connect calls to available agents without any downtime. However, this measure alone has not improved Average Queue Times sufficiently this year. Businesses may need to rethink their contact center strategy more holistically. They will need to invest in an AI-based, omnichannel self-service approach to reduce agent workloads and improve customer experience.
Average Talk Time remains consistent: ‘Average Talk Time’ indicates the time an agent spends talking to a caller. In 2022, this number is 3.7 minutes, which stands the same as in 2021.
INSIGHT: In most sectors, we see that talk time was an average of 3.7 minutes. It is unlikely that conversations of this length could take place via digital channels reiterating the relevance of voice as an important support and consultative sales channel. However, the study did also note that transactional conversations have successfully moved to digital channels such as chat and WhatsApp. The coexistence of these findings underlines the need for an omnichannel, rather than a single-channel strategy for contact centers.
Average Call Pickup Rate declines: In outbound calling, a lot of calls dial to busy lines or go unanswered. Average pickup rates inform us how many calls get connected to a contact. The average pickup rate this year saw a drastic decline, i.e., 39% as compared to 46% in 2021. However, in the restaurant & food delivery industry, 96% of calls connected to a prospect as compared to 54% in 2021.
INSIGHT: Low Average Call Pickup Rates suggest that prospects are unwilling to answer calls. The study noted that this was true for promotional calls from unknown phone numbers, the high connection rates within the restaurant, food delivery and e-commerce industry indicate that customers were happy to answer relevant, transactional calls and a verified business caller ID can ensure higher customer attention and lower call rejection.
Customer expectations are higher than ever: ‘Abandonment Rate’ tells us how many calls went unanswered by agents as callers disconnected while in the call queue. On an average, in 2022, 34% of calls were disconnected by the caller when in queue, compared to 29% in 2021. This shows a 200% increase since 2019 when an average of only 12% of calls were abandoned in queue.
INSIGHT: This year, we have an increase in average queue time and consequently the abandonment rates are also higher. However, when compared year-on-year this study also observed a rise in customer impatience. In 2019, on an average, 82% of callers were willing to wait in a call queue for 79 seconds. This year, 34% of callers were unwilling to wait in a call queue even though queue times were lower (56 seconds).
The study noted that a small percentage (3-5%) of these calls offered a self-service or callback option within the IVR. In such cases, call abandonment may not correlate to customer dissatisfaction, however, these best practices are not prevalent industry wide.
Customer calls are a valuable source of feedback and data, businesses need to offer shorter queue times to their customers if they wish to capture this data and resolve queries before it affects brand loyalty and reduces customer lifetime value.
The Vertical Report Card:
2022 has turned out to be a challenging year for the contact center industry. Customers are fundamentally different post-Covid, and their expectations of brands have changed.
Sectors like restaurants, food delivery, and e-commerce have kept their service standards high whereas sectors like education have struggled to keep up. Here is a list of verticals that outperformed and struggled under different parameters.