Customer wait time reduced by 53%: Study

A study undertaken by Ozonetel, India’s leading provider of on-demand cloud communication/telephony solutions, has unveiled interesting insights pertaining to the call center industry in the backdrop of lockdown enforced due to COVID-19.

This study is an analysis of a sample set of 150 million calls made on Ozonetel’s CloudAgent platform by nearly 76659 active agents in 2020. The analysis covers both inbound and outbound calls made on Ozonetel’s platform across various verticals, including eCommerce, food, healthcare, insurance, Ed-tech & real estate call centers. The study also includes how COVID-19 affected customer experience and call center performance.

Key findings of the report:

  • Callers had to wait for less. Average Time in Queue is the amount of time callers have to wait in a queue before they are connected to representatives. This is an important customer experience metric as the longer customers wait, the less satisfied they are likely to be. Ozonetel’s report reveals that on an average a caller waited 37 seconds to get connected to a live agent. This is a drastic improvement of 53 per cent against the 2019 average of 79 seconds. During the lockdown in April to June quarter, real estate, food delivery and healthcare reported lowest queue time with an average 25.6 seconds. On the other hand, sectors such as e-commerce, Ed-tech and insurance reported the highest queue time of average 51.6 seconds. Interestingly, in the new normal during October to December quarter-commerce improved on this parameter and along with healthcare and food delivery reported the lowest wait time for customers with an average 25.6 seconds.

INSIGHT: Queue times decrease when there are more agents available to answer calls. This year the improvement in queue times is likely due to businesses ensuring they had a sufficient number of agents to handle calls. The spike during the pandemic was mostly in sectors that faced a sudden spike in call volumes. Today, most queue times have reverted to their pre-pandemic levels.

  • Agents are finding things tougher: Average speed of answer is the average time a call 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 the queue. The average speed of answer in 2020 has been reported at 8 seconds against the 2019 average of 3.5 seconds. During the lockdown in April to June quarter, real estate, food delivery and Ed-tech sector reported the quickest response from agents with an average 18.6 sec. However, sectors such as e-commerce, healthcare and insurance reported the slowest response from agents with an average of 47.6 seconds. Noticeably, in the new normal during October to December quarter-commerce regained its customer satisfaction score under this parameter and joined real estate and food delivery to report an average of 18.3 seconds.

INSIGHT: This year many agents were forced to switch to work from home, and some in countries like India had to use their PSTN lines to answer calls. This means that they could not use the auto-answer facility that otherwise speeds up answer rates.

  • Customers are more impatient: Abandonment rates tell us how many calls went unanswered by agents as callers disconnected in the queue. 15 per cent is the average percentage of calls that callers disconnected before being routed to an agent in 2020 as compared to 12 per cent in 2019. During the lockdown period of April to June, real estate, food delivery and insurance sector reported the lowest abandonment rate of an average 35 per cent. Sectors such as Ed-tech, e-commerce and healthcare, on the other hand, reported the highest abandonment rate of an average 65 per cent. Ina turn of events, from October to December, food delivery and real estate improved and along with e-commerce reported lowest abandonment rate of average 26 per cent.

INSIGHT: This metric indicates how impatient the customer is.  This year, though we have a clear decrease in average queue times, yet there is an increase in abandonment rates. This indicates that customers have become more impatient and expect faster service than before.

  • Agent Efficiency: Some factor that can help us gauge agent efficiency within the call center is talk time, wrap time and hold times.
  • Average Talk Times indicate the time an agent spends talking to a caller on an average. In 2020, this number is 4 minutes as compared to 4.3 minutes in 2019. During lockdown in April to June quarter, insurance, food delivery and Ed-tech sector reported the highest average talk time of average 4.6 minutes. Sectors such as e-commerce, healthcare and real estate reported the lowest average talk time of average 3.4 minutes. During the October to December quarter also, insurance, Ed-tech and food delivery reported the highest average talk time (Average 4.5 minutes).

INSIGHT: An increase in talk times can indicate that agents are unable to resolve calls fast enough or that customers need to speak more to explain their issues. Increased talk times in eCommerce and food delivery verticals indicate a change in the kind of conversations taking place. Meanwhile, reduced talk times, as in the case of healthcare & pharma, is likely to be due to the increased pressure on agents to close calls faster due to a corresponding increase in call volumes.

  • Wrap time affects how fast call center agents can attend to the next call and affects queue wait time and productivity. There has been a sharp increase in After Call Work, from 25 seconds in 2019 to 45 seconds in 2020. During lockdown in April to June quarter, e-commerce, food delivery and healthcare sector reported the lowest wrap time of average 21 seconds. Ed-tech, real estate and insurance reported highest wrap time of average 92.3 seconds. During the new normal period of October to December, e-commerce, food delivery and healthcare continued to report the lowest wrap time of average 25.3 seconds.

INSIGHT:  One reason wrap times increase are when there are changes in what customers are saying, and agents cannot find an appropriate disposition code to tag this conversation. Another reason could be an increase in having to schedule follow up calls or SMS. With the changes this year, both these could be likely reasons for an increased wrap time. If this is the case, call centre managers may need to edit and add new codes.

  • Outbound Calls:
    • Average calls dialled: On average, across outbound call centres, agents dialled as many as 532 calls in comparison to 90 calls dialled in 2019. During lockdown in April to June, Ed-tech, food delivery and insurance sector reported maximum outbound calls dialled which are average 1013 calls. However, sectors such as real estate, healthcare and e-commerce reported minimum outbound calls of average 313 calls. In a turn of events, during the new normal of October to December, Ed-tech and insurance were joined by healthcare to report maximum outbound calls dialled of average 684 calls.
  • Average pickup/ answer rate: In outbound calling, a lot of calls dial to busy lines, or go unanswered. Average answer rates inform us how many calls get connected to contact. The average answer rate this year saw a decline, i.e. 38 per cent as compared to 46 per cent in 2019. During lockdown in April to June, real estate, healthcare and e-commerce sector reported the highest answer rate of average 42 per cent. However, Ed-tech, food delivery and insurance reported the lowest answer rate of an average 20 per cent. Interestingly, during this current quarter October to December, food delivery along with healthcare and real estate reported the highest answer rate of an average 50 per cent.

INSIGHT: When answer rates decline, it generally indicates a drop in data (you are dialling numbers prospects/customers who do not want to be contacted), people are not answering calls (possibly not answering calls from unknown numbers, or just more busy). But this year, you also need to consider that the number of calls dialled per agent has sharply increased with more businesses using automated diallers. So, a slight decline in answer rates when a larger database is being reached out to is expected.

Speaking about customer experience matrices in this unprecedented year, Chaitanya Chokkareddy, Chief Innovation Officer, Ozonetel said, “While COVID-19 is still at large, customer experience has never been more important. Needless to say, the year was incredibly difficult for call centers, but as they say, the show must go on, COVID or no COVID. We are happy that we were able to promptly assist call center agents to work from home thereby ensuring business continuity for them. In this study, we have analysed various parameters and compared the same with last year. We have also analysed data from before, during and after the lockdown to understand the various trends in customer experience as well as agent efficiency. We believe this report will be useful to all stakeholders of the call center industry.”

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