Call avoidance in call centers involves not attending customers’ phone calls intentionally.
This can increase the average waiting time or number of calls your support team doesn’t attend and decrease customer satisfaction.
Typical examples of call avoidance by agents include logging into voicemail to avoid a call, intentionally taking too long to record post-interaction work, taking excessive breaks, etc.
Fortunately, you can control avoidance by creating a call center call avoidance policy.
This article includes:
(Click on the link to go to a particular section)
- What is a Call Center Call Avoidance Policy?
- How to Create Your Call Center Call Avoidance Policy
- 3 Ways to Optimize Call Avoidance
Let’s get started.
What is a call center call avoidance policy?
A call center call avoidance policy sets basic guidelines regarding call avoidance while mitigating agents’ stress. A well-written call avoidance policy will help you provide uninterrupted customer support by setting standards for agents to meet.
It addresses call avoidance, guides a service provider to identify and manage it, and lays down penalties for misconduct.
However, not all avoidance policies aim to prevent call avoidance completely.
Some inbound call centers and contact centers develop a call avoidance strategy that utilizes call avoidance for business benefits.
How can call avoidance help organizations?
Let’s see how an inbound call center or contact center can use call avoidance to increase customer satisfaction:
1. Prioritizing calls
Inbound call centers use call avoidance to prioritize calls depending on their value. This helps organizations with the retention of premium customers.
For example, in an inbound call center dealing with the consumer market, call avoidance can let agents avoid incoming calls to push a premium customer’s call up the queue. As a result, the premium customer will have less wait time, enhancing their customer experience.
In a contact center, attending a call with an issue that could be solved via self-service portals isn’t time-effective and can keep an urgent issue in the queue. Moreover, solving problems by talking to a live person increases operational costs.
In such cases, you can have avoidance policies that enable a contact center agent to book voice calls for essential customers, crucial service requests, or emergencies.
2. Assigning calls based on customer history
You can assign calls such that a specific customer works with the same agent who had previously addressed their issue.
This will save the time the agent takes to familiarize themselves with the customer’s issue. Additionally, your agent and customer may bond over the process, increasing customer loyalty.
Now, you can include the following in your call avoidance strategy:
- Use a voice message with wait times, downtime, breaks, etc.
- Create a knowledge base, FAQ, and other self-service portals.
- Generate reports for performance analysis and easy corrective action.
- Set rules regarding call handling, repeat calls, social media conduct, etc.
However, you need to pay attention to how you’re drafting the call center call avoidance policy.
If you write it wrong, agents can feel controlled, making them anxious and adding more pressure to their work. This could, in turn, increase the employee turnover rate.
So let’s explore how to draft a great call center call avoidance policy.
How to create your call center call avoidance policy
Here are a few things you should keep in mind while you draft your call avoidance policy:
1. Address the ways agents avoid customer calls
A call center call avoidance policy is only beneficial if it helps the employer identify call avoidance. Here are a few call avoidance techniques that you should mention in your policy:
Agents who rely on shuffling to escape attending calls will stay online for an extended period of time and go offline just as they’re about to get a call.
How to spot it
You can detect shuffling in your customer support team by observing agent logs. Such agents have short unavailable logs followed by long available ones.
B. Trying to transfer the call
Agents can prolong a call by not terminating it after resolving the issue. This can happen when the caller forgets to disconnect the call. Agents can also extend a call when they transfer it to another agent.
How to spot it
It’s hard to identify when a call is unnecessarily prolonged as the agent will seem occupied on the outside. The only way to detect this practice is by regularly listening to the call recordings and monitoring agents closely.
C. Taking breaks
Your agents can take breaks during peak hours and resume work once the call volume is low. The agent can attend fewer calls, increasing the workload and stress on other agents.
How to spot it
You need to implement a break policy to control long breaks during peak hours. You can then track breaks and spot the ones that indicate call avoidance.
Want to implement a call center break policy?
Here’s a free call center break policy template to help you get started.
D. Utilize after-call work time
Agents can spend the after call work (ACW) time, meant for training, logging in call data, etc., on leisure activities.
How to spot it
You may not be able to identify when agents are misusing ACW unless you monitor workscreens, emails, and internet search histories.
Fortunately, productivity management tools like Time Doctor have features that let you take screenshots of agents’ monitors at regular intervals. This way, you can know what your call center agents are working on in real-time.
What is Time Doctor?
Time Doctor is an employee productivity and monitoring tool that helps service providers track their agents’ work using interactive time tracking features.
You can use Time Doctor to:
- Manage agent distractions using the idle time pop-up feature.
- Generate detailed reports on productivity and attendance in real-time.
- Assign shifts and track schedule adherence easily.
- Assign projects and tasks to employees.
- Integrate with Asana, Basecamp, and other software using the tool’s Chrome extension.
E. Report an IT problem
Agents can use ‘IT problems’ in the workplace as an excuse and take a few minutes of break, even when the issue doesn’t merit one.
How to spot it
You need to give your IT team the responsibility to resolve technical problems quickly and submit a detailed report to call center managers. This will help you learn the severity of the problem and decide whether it was genuine.
For example, if a help desk agent didn’t work for 15 minutes because one of their keyboard keys wasn’t working, it could be a case of call avoidance.
F. Muting the call
Muting a call can let agents take a minute or two for breaks. Most customers will hang the call, which will send the agent back in the queue.
How to spot it
The best way to detect this would be with speech analytics software to identify whose connection isn’t clear.
G. Calling their phones
Agents who make outbound calls can call their personal phone or a friend’s phone and pretend to converse with potential customers. This will give them unlimited breaks while those monitoring would think they’re working.
How to spot it
You should collect agents’ personal information and cross-check it with the phone numbers they call. You can also look for repeating calls and check if it’s a customer contact number.
H. Re-recording on an answering machine
Agents can re-record the message they left on a customer’s answering machine to waste time. By doing so, agents can prolong calls and take breaks in between.
How to spot it
You can spot this avoidance tactic by listening to call recordings.
I. Staying on-call during post-call survey
Agents can pass the time by not disconnecting customer calls during the post-call survey.
How to spot it
Listen to customer calls regularly and look for tapes with IVR (Interactive Voice Response) surveys.
In this method, agents attend calls but don’t talk to the customer and hang up in two to three seconds.
How to spot it
You need to collect and observe who disconnected the call and the amount of time agents spent on each call. If the number of short calls of two to five seconds is high and the agent ends the call, you can conclude it’s flushing.
2. Avoid zero tolerance
Employee burnout in call centers is high, and implementing overly strict policies can add more pressure on them. You need a call avoidance policy that is strict yet empathetic.
To ensure this, your drafting team should include at least one agent.
The agent can guide you to develop a policy that wouldn’t create a stressful work environment while ensuring high agent productivity.
For example, you can issue a formal memo to an employee who used social media while ignoring an inbound call. In comparison, an agent who placed a call on hold for more than the set time limit can be excused with a verbal warning.
Additionally, you need to consider the emotional status of the agent before taking action. Even a stellar agent dealing with an angry customer may not be in the mood to talk to another.
3. Let agents present their side
No matter how obvious call avoidance is, your policy should ensure that agents have the opportunity to explain their side of the story.
For example, let’s say a customer service representative was engaged in a three-way conversation for more than 15 minutes and ignored around ten other customer calls.
At first glance, it may look like a case of call avoidance.
However, upon asking, you may learn that the call was from a premium customer who insisted the agent stay with them till they resolved the issue.
By letting the agent explain, you can learn about the exact situation that led to the call avoidance. This enables you to take appropriate measures to deal with such situations down the line.
In the above example, you can ask the agent to let the manager know when to avoid calls. Then, the employer can route the calls to other agents.
That’s why it’s important to make provisions in your call avoidance policy to let the agents explain their position.
4. Include punitive measures
Finally, the policy document must mention the disciplinary action for every misconduct.
Let agents know that consistent call avoidance – without a valid reason – can get flagged as gross misconduct by management.
Clarify the course of action for employees who avoid calls and deliver low performances. This could include additional supervision, training, warnings, or probations.
In extreme cases, high call avoidance rates can even be legal grounds for suspension or even termination.
However, this should always be the last resort for management — ideally, after an employee has had a reasonable time and ample opportunity to improve.
Now let’s see how you can manage your call center’s call avoidance in the best way possible.
3 ways to optimize call avoidance
Drafting a policy may not be enough to prevent unnecessary call avoidance in your organization. It’s an ongoing process combining supervision and long-term planning.
Here are three ways to keep your call avoidance under control:
1. Solve the root cause
Taking action without understanding the root cause of call avoidance isn’t a productive solution. The persisting cause can prompt other agents to avoid calls as well.
For example, let’s say an agent was caught avoiding inbound calls and taking a break.
You need to investigate why the agent resorted to call avoidance for a small break. On inquiring further, you may learn that the workload in your call center is high due to absenteeism.
Here, absenteeism is the root cause, and you need to address it before tackling call avoidance. Otherwise, other agents may experience burnout and turn to call avoidance for relief.
You can solve the above issue by managing the workload such that employees’ have enough breaks.
2. Manage agent schedules better
As a manager, you should help your agents avoid long customer calls towards the end of shifts.
Attending long calls just before breaks or at the end of the shift can make agents work during their leisure time, reducing job satisfaction. This could also negatively impact their interactions with the caller, decreasing customer satisfaction.
To avoid this, you can collect information related to the issue from customers before connecting the call.
Based on the information, you can screen out types of calls that require a lot of time to resolve. You can also integrate your workforce management system and ACD (Automatic Call Dialer) for routing untimely calls to other agents.
For example, if a complex issue can take around 15 minutes to resolve, you can assign the call to an agent who has just started their shift instead of someone who is about to take a break.
Additionally, scammers can pose as customers and extract valuable information from your agents. This will waste your agent’s time and ruin your reputation. You need to screen out scam calls using caller ID to ensure the call is from a genuine customer.
3. Track performance
Tracking agent performance can show you whether they’re avoiding customer calls.
Usually, an agent who’s avoiding calls will have lower productivity.
To analyze their performance, you can use call center metrics like:
- Average Handle Time (AHT)
- Customer Satisfaction Score
- First Call Resolution (FCR)
- Service Level Agreement (SLA)
- Customer Effort Score (CES)
- Customer interaction
- Call escalation rates
Learn about these call center metrics in detail.
However, you can’t know exactly how agents are unproductive unless you use powerful tools like Time Doctor. Using the KPIs, along with Time Doctor, will give you a better understanding of your agent performance.
Drafting an effective call center call avoidance policy can help you control call center avoidance with ease. It can help your organization prevent call avoidance on a consistent, organization-wide level.
Use the information we covered here to understand what goes into a call avoidance policy and how to draft one.
And along with the policy, you can also use productivity management tools like Time Doctor to manage call avoidance and boost overall call center productivity.
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.