Call Avoidance: What Is the Way Out?

Anyone who has been working in a call center for at least a few months knows how it feels to be permanently under the pressure of angry clients who have no will besides telling you everything they think about you and the service they have got. No one can argue that such an experience probably has a negative effect on both emotional and physical conditions. According to this, some employees start finding ways to be aside from the angry customers and meet with them as rarely as possible. On the one hand, they can be comprehended for such actions because being bullied by the clients every day is impossible to tolerate. On the other hand, such actions damage the call center performance, cause more unresolved tickets, decrease the level of customer service, and as a result, you get more toxic and fierce clients than before.  Is it a good situation to have the rates down because of frustrated agents? We don’t think so. But to find the solution for dealing with both furious customers and burnout agents, we have to start by determining the ways which operators use to avoid talking with clients. So what is call avoidance in a call center? How can a contact center manager deal with it? What are the call center call avoidance tricks? How does the call avoidance rate count? How to create a reasonable call avoidance policy? What is the call avoidance strategy? So many questions, so few answers. But let’s deal with each of them in order. 

In this article you will discover:

  1. Definition of call avoidance
  2. Avoidance tactics and tricks
  3. Avoiding the avoidance
  4. Avoidance policy tips
  5. Decreasing the avoidance score
  6. Avoid calls and get an impact: is it real?
  7. Conclusions

Call avoidance definition and reasons for it

To describe call avoidance as a problem, it is enough to say that it covers all actions and methods which are used by the contact center agents to avoid answering the call. There are enough techniques of how to avoid calls in a call center, but we will talk about it a bit later. Another important factor of call avoidance is the fact that it should be committed deliberately. There are numerous reasons why the operators prefer to not answer the calls more than to adapt to customers and not take everything close to the heart, but the main reason is the past agent experience. For some people, untactful customer contact can be a cause of point of no return, while others are so vulnerable that they can find an affront even in common customer questions.  Some contact center agents can’t deal with bullying performed by toxic customers, or can’t take the amount of negative said by angry clients. To be honest, there are a small number of people who could tolerate such work without serious preparation. When agents apprehend that they can't stand it anymore, they have two ways to choose: leave work or try to avoid as many calls as possible. The second situation is the case that we are researching now.  

The methods and actions which operators do to avoid taking calls are various. The most popular and used call center tricks to avoid calls are excessive breaks, manipulations with the status or call center system to not take calls, abusing the voicemail, routing calls to their colleagues, and dragging out the conversation with one customer to not answering another. 

There are more additional paths on how to avoid calls in a call center and they depend on agents’ cunning only. But our topic is not about researching every way to not take the call, but to know how to deal with this issue. Call center management has its goal to do everything that is required to avoid such things as call avoidance, which greatly harms the customer service industry. 

How do contact center agents fool the managers? 

Here is an advanced list of call center tricks to avoid calls. It can be shocking how some employees use their skills to avoid providing customer service, but you must know where to look for craftiness.

Fooling the routing system

Many call center solutions use routing systems based on the term of waiting for a call. In this way, an agent who has the longest waiting time will be linked to a customer before his colleagues. But what if he falls out of the queue for a few seconds? We bet you’ve already guessed what happens - the operator is shuffled from the top to the bottom of a list. This is one of the most used methods for call avoidance among agents. 

How to tackle it? Fortunately, call center software has functions to track operators’ statuses during all working hours, and you will see if someone changes it. 

Holding the finished calls

How does the conversation between the operator and client finish? The customer says his issue is over, thanks, and goes. And what about the agents? No one can stop them from handling a call that has already finished, so they will be shown as busy in the system. No transfers, no new calls, just relax. 

How to find it out? Use the call recording option to discover if there are calls where a great part of a call contains only silence. 

Stretching the break

Some supervisors don’t pay attention to agents, who add time to their break. If it has to be no longer than 30 minutes, but an agent also spends 10 minutes before the break packing his bag and going out, and then 10 minutes after the break to prepare to work, his non-working time prolongs from 30 minutes to 50. By the way, in some companies, such occasions are a part of the corporate culture. Bathroom breaks can also eat much time. 

What to do? Improve office culture and look closely for time spent during Not Ready periods. 

Abusing the post-interaction work

Some calls require after-call work to finish the task in the right way -  but it doesn’t mean that every call needs to be maintained like this. Some operators take it into account and use this to take a few minutes rest after every call.

Where is the way out? Use screen recording to see what agents are doing after every call and detect overuse. 

Crises with call center software or hardware

Do agents say they are out of the service because of some technical issues? Ask them to call the responsible IT department for repair. But what if the problem really exists, but has no connection to the calls handling? Or is it just too little to affect the work processes? Let’s be real, you can’t control all such issues. 

What are the recommendations? Just ask the IT unit to send you the reports about every problem that has taken place and its influence on the working flow. If there have been no major issues, then it’s time to think about operators’ working etiquette. 

Last call avoiding

It’s not a method, but a situation when all previously described techniques are used the most often. No one wants to take a call at 4.52 pm with the understanding that this call can last at 5.20. So all tricks are used to avoid this call or make someone else deal with it. 

The funny thing is that sometimes there are a few operators in one unit who try to avoid this call, and then it’s a real challenge to provide customer service for this last caller. Anyhow, this issue is a great problem for almost every contact center because of its popularity and a weak willingness to deal with it from the agents’ side. 

This list contains famous and “adequate” paths for avoiding calls, but there are also crazy samples: using mute mode during calls to create an image of a line crash, calling on the personal agent’s phone (for those who do outbound calls), abusing AUX, hanging up the client’s call (to fall lower in a queue), and so on.

How to eradicate avoidance among agents? 

First of all, you should think of providing the employees with comprehendible and transparent rules of what they should do during, before, and after the conversation. To make it short, you must implement a call center call avoidance policy. The essential part of it has to include punishments for breaking the rules or trying to avoid the calls - and they should be tangible enough to make agents forget about any deceptions forever. 

On the other hand, you have to keep in mind that the operators are under powerful pressure and their work isn’t as pleasant as someone could imagine. By the way, a call center call avoidance policy should be designed with respect and understanding of agents' job conditions and feelings, as well as it should pay attention to rewards, not only punishments.

To be fair, penalties should be used only in the extreme cases - when the agent violates the rules permanently, or his deception is too complicated to be just forgiven

When a call center call avoidance policy will be created, discuss with the employees its statements and listen to their feedback. The more time you will spend communicating with the workers, the more trust will be in your relations, so the possibility that they will be foolish will greatly decrease.

But to clear the case, we need to discover the meaning of the call avoidance policy. 

What’s meant by a call center call avoidance policy?

To provide a short definition, let’s explain it as a pack of rules and recommendations on how to prevent call avoidance without harm to the business and stress for agents. It also contains the punishments for the rules violation. To go deeper, the call avoidance policy doesn’t have a goal to make call center avoidance score near 0%. Some companies do avoid calls, not because they have no discipline or agent control, but because of the market benefits. How can call center avoidance tactics bring benefits to a business? Well, avoiding calls doesn’t mean that customers leave without an answer - some non-essential phone calls are just replaced by self-service tools to provide a more individualized experience for customers. 

How to construct an ideal call center call avoidance policy?

Even though you can perform further without a call center call avoidance policy, there is no universal template that will suit every firm - you have to design it on your own. But to ease the task, we compiled a little list of tips that can greatly simplify the designing process. 

    1. Identify how workers avoid calls

You have to choose a starting point, and the great choice is to begin by detecting the methods of cheating that are used in your call center. Nonetheless, you can include every possible overuse tactic in your policy to follow the service provider rules and prevent agents from finding new paths of fooling you. We have mentioned all cheating techniques above, but to refresh memory we’ll notice them again: shuffling the queue, holding done calls, prolonging the break, after-call work overusing, exaggerating software issues, avoiding calls at the end of the shift, calling on the own phone, abusing the “mute” option, and so on. Put these cheatings into the policy and write down the punishment for using such tactics. 

    2. Don’t be too severe

Companies that have implemented very stern avoidance policies, have shot themselves in the leg. Contact centers are departments that always suffer from extremely high burnout and turnover rates caused by the clients’ pressure and toxic communications. If you add some strain here from the employer’s side, the operators will definitely leave. So if you want to save the team and build a positive work environment, avoid being a despot, even though you do it to help agents perform better. They have to deal with the clients and don’t abuse their minds with unnecessary demands. 

    3. Let operators explain their actions

Let’s start with an example: imagine that you detected that one agent has missed more than 10 calls during the last 20 minutes. You ask the team leader to deal with the issue and find out the reason for such behavior. The supervisor comes back with a mentioned agent and here we have two potential paths of where the story can go:

  1. Unwise managers will start by berating an operator because of his absenteeism on a line and a few avoided calls as a result. What do we finally get: frustrated agent, angry manager, and supervisor who will also receive his fair share of customer complaints? What about the issue? It hasn’t been solved and will never be.
  2. A wise manager will ask the operator about the reason for his call avoidance. The customer contact specialist can have no explanation or can tell that he has a call from a client who has been threatening that he would order a refund and write bad reviews if the agent wouldn’t be on the line until the issue is no more. What do we get here? The agent saved the firm’s money, and reputation and did his work perfectly. The only thing he receives is a reward. 

That is an easy sample of why you should listen to employees. If they have nothing to say, you just lose a few minutes but have a clear understanding of the situation. But if they can explain the case, you can be sure that they did their work as they had to do it. 

    4. Set up the judgments

Every employee should know that there is a penalty for every misdemeanor or violation of rules. You have to clearly explain to agents that for a causeless call avoidance will be disciplinary action. 

To keep a balance between strong rules following and not putting too much pressure on agents, select such penalties as a probationary period, a fine, mandatory coaching courses, or work under a permanent ward. 

If the agent doesn’t seem to change his imperfections or show a better performance, a release can be a way out, but try to use this only if the operator has had enough time to show his changes and self-development. 

In most companies, call avoidance policies don’t contain a release as a punishment for some distinctions because it’s the exception rather than the often-used practice.

Decrease the avoidance rate in three steps

Creating policies is more about the theory than the practice, so you require the working tactics which can deal with call avoidance in a short period of time and without losing the level of customer experience and customer satisfaction. We have good news for you: three methods can greatly decrease the issue without putting huge effort or investment into it. Let’s discover them!

    1. Uncover the root reason

Sometimes circumstances are too tough to let the operators work on the highest productivity level. Some workers choose to avoid calls, not because of their malicious intent or desire to be idle, but because they have no other choice. For a sample, one agent has a high avoidance rate, but after a little research, you discover that he is working for two - because of another agent’s illness or even truancy. Or one more example - an agent avoids a few calls because he takes an unforeseen break. You have to find out why he needs a break. If the reason is his bad health or emotional burnout, or banal work in six shifts in a row then there is no operator’s fault that he can’t perform at the expected level. Be responsive to the employees and let them know you understand their problems and needs, so they can trust you. It is better if the agent knows he can come and ask for a day off than he will be scared to do so and will work in a bad health with no outcomes or impact.

    2. Organize timetables wisely

If there are a tonne of calls just before the business hours end, you have to do something with this issue. Agents, who should have been at home, must handle new calls, lose their rest time, and feel frustrated. How do you think it will affect the customer experience? Are there any agents who are willing to provide perfect service during non-working hours? To avoid such troubles, use a double-shift workforce management model and intelligent call routing to connect such callers with agents who are beginning the shifts. 

It can also help to avoid handling calls when the break time is near. Use call routing to be sure that operators spend the break without any unexpected interruptions. Set up the break duration rules, break starting time, and the maximal number of operators from one group who can take a break at the same time. This is the path to keeping the minimal needed number of operators on the line and moving breaks to the period where is no peak of calls.

    3. Monitor the call center metrics and KPIs

Agents, who seem to not take calls, have lower scores than their fairly-working counterparts. Measure metrics to discover where the problem lies and why call avoidance happens. Important stats contain:

  1. CSR (Customer Satisfaction Rate)
  2. CLA (Client Level Arrangement)
  3. CER (Escalation score)
  4. AHT (Average Handle Time)
  5. FCR (First Call Resolution)
  6. CES (Client Effort Score)

Another great feature for measuring customer experience is automated after-conversation surveys, which can show the operator’s performance too. To find more metrics that may assist to control the overall performance of a contact center, use the following article.

The most interesting part: how to avoid calls and achieve better results? 

We know that the topic of the paragraph sounds a bit shocking. We have spent a while describing why call avoidance should be eradicated, and now we state that it can be useful. But there is no contradiction in the statement that call avoidance can be used without losing customers, or even to improve the service provided. 

But how? What is meant by operating call avoidance usefully? Let’s try to find out. 

Firstly, in this sense call avoidance means not as much as bypassing existing calls, but more about creating conditions for clients to resolve their issues without calling the call center team. The reasons for this method are quite clear and simple: unnecessary types of calls boost unload rate and make agents lose time to resolve the cases which are too routine and leisurely, and require no assistance from professionals. Another reason is that it is a wonderful model to save money: rarer calls - fewer operators - less costs for salary and onboarding. 

To simplify, this model is about implementing the self-service pages and instruments everywhere where they can be useful. But to gain a stronger comprehension of this technique, let’s deal with everything in order. 

    1. Automate the replies 

Here the IVR system comes to support to avoid all low-priority calls. It can answer basic customer questions or appeals of the clients, so the queries like “Where are you located?” or “Are you working until 8 p.m.?” will never disturb you again. 

The opportunities of modern IVRs are amazing - they can solve even more complicated issues, such as balance checking, tracking shipping, placing orders, or upgrading the subscription plan. 

Thanks to the IVR system, agents will never have to worry about routine calls, so their efforts will be focused on requests which require the assistance of living professionals. 

    2. Chats as the easiest way to avoid calls

Live chats, chatbots, SMS - every one of these methods of communication is great in use and can help to solve the issue without any calls. Chatbot plays the role of the text version of IVR, so it can be used as an FAQ navigation tool or route requests to live agents. If the information that is put into the chatbot can’t help the client solve the issue on his own, then the agent links to a live chat, and the real conversation starts - but it is still not a call! 

SMS is a good feature to send confirmations or updates - for example, you send the tracking code for shipping via SMS as well as shipment status updates or notifications about special events, and the customer will not call to ask for it.

    3. Not enough chats? Use messengers!

Messengers are extremely popular and they seem to be a more personalized way of communicating than a live chat or SMS. You can use them to save costs as texting costs nothing in comparison to calls. In addition, texting agents can share media, links, and other useful information that is unavailable to be shared during the call or in the live chat. People love to stay in touch with messengers - for example, you can’t make a call anywhere you want - it is a bit difficult while driving or being at work. But messaging deals with it easily - there is no problem in sending a voice message during a car trip or texting while you are sitting at the office. 

    4. There are never enough self-servicing tools

If you think that chatbot, live chat, and IVR can cover all self-service needs, we are going to disappoint you - no, it is still not enough. People want to have a FAQ on the website, a knowledge base to read it if needed, even a Facebook community group is a great solution to make people solve their issues during the discussion with other users of your products. People adore self-service, and your goal is to do what they expect - especially if it helps to avoid calls and contributes to savings. 

    5. Empower clients to use other contact channels

Do you want to get fewer calls? Then focus on advertising the other communication pipelines! Some experts advise deleting the phone number from some resources, but we will not be that radical. Just shift the accents on other communication channels, and present them as more comfortable, fast, and preferable to use. Write a post on Facebook to advertise your new chatbot and ask everyone to use it. You can even pin it, and every new lead will see it and use a chatbot rather than a phone. 

    6. Be proactive

If a client purchases something, then send him an email confirmation with a notification that he can ask any questions via email. This approach makes clients prefer to use the communication channel offered by you, so they will use email to solve issues. 

You can also send such mailings to existing customers and offer them service via email or messengers to avoid calls. 

As a summary

We have discovered that call avoidance is the conscious act performed by phone agents to get rid of the work. On the other hand, some businesses use the call avoidance strategy as a customer service strategy to encourage customers to resolve their issues on their own with the assistance of special tools. There are many ways to avoid calls, and some agents use even crazy methods to be aside from customer service for a while. Your goal is to create a well-designed call avoidance policy to make agents work as they have to and know the punishment for deceptions. 

We have told you how to decrease avoidance in three easy steps, as well as use self-service tools to avoid unnecessary calls. 

To close the topic, both identifying and optimizing call avoidance are impossible without the right cloud-based contact center software. Such options as IVR, chatbot, live chat, SMS integration, and agent monitoring features are must-haves if you want to deal with call avoidance issues. We have a cloud-based contact center software solution to help you forget about call avoidance and achieve excellent call center performance - just use the link below and go for more!

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