Call avoidance: What is it and how do you address and prevent it?

Call avoidance: What is it and how do you address and prevent it?
October 19, 2023
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For many customers, the customer service experience begins when they call your contact center representative with a question or issue. Your agents then have a responsibility to answer and deliver a resolution. Call avoidance happens when your contact center representatives don't answer your customers' calls. This reduces call center efficiency, lowering customer satisfaction.

In this blog, we'll show you how to spot, correct, and prevent call avoidance. We'll provide a call avoidance definition and some examples. We'll also share some tips on how to address problem patterns and prevent them with an effective call avoidance strategy.

What is call avoidance?

Call avoidance, also known as interaction avoidance, occurs when contact center representatives deliberately avoid answering customer calls or interactions on other support channels, such as live chat or email. Agents may avoid calls for several reasons, like customer complaints, high call volume, or physical exhaustion.

Additionally, call avoidance can manifest in various ways. For example, agents may avoid calls by keeping customers on hold, transferring calls, or taking excessive breaks. In some cases, call center agents may have legitimate reasons for seemingly avoiding calls, such as failing to take new calls to follow through with customers who need extra attention. Addressing call avoidance effectively requires identifying its causes accurately.

Why is call avoidance bad?

Call avoidance can present multiple issues for call centers. High call avoidance frequency can:

  • Reduce call center efficiency by increasing customer wait times and lowering resolution rates.
  • Impede a positive customer experience and reduce customer satisfaction.
  • Signal employee dissatisfaction, indicating agents are frustrated or considering quitting.

These undesirable outcomes make it imperative for call center managers to take steps to detect, address, and prevent call avoidance.

Call avoidance examples

What does call avoidance look like in action? Here are nine examples:

  1. The agent logs into the call center system and enters their status as "not ready," making them unavailable to take calls.
  2. The agent takes an excessive amount of breaks, especially at peak call times (note that this may stem from causes other than call avoidance, such as health issues).
  3. The agent frequently claims to have IT issues and can't log in.
  4. The agent keeps customers on hold until they hang up.
  5. The agent ends calls before greeting customers or resolving their issues.
  6. The agent transfers customers or returns them to the queue without attempting to assist them.
  7. The agent stays in post-interaction mode after a call concludes to avoid taking new calls.
  8. The agent rapidly changes disposition codes to move themselves to the back of the queue for accepting new callers.
  9. The agent stalls work by placing personal calls.

These call avoidance examples illustrate variations on a few major tactics for achieving the same goal. Some of these methods use technical means, such as manipulating codes to avoid calls, while others use manual methods, such as staying out of the room. 

How to spot call avoidance

The different call avoidance methods illustrated above have different corresponding symptoms:

  1. If agents enter a "not ready" status to avoid calls, a review of their code usage at the beginning of their shifts will reveal this.
  2. If agents take excessive breaks to avoid calls, their activity logs will reflect this.
  3. If agents attempt to avoid calls by claiming IT problems, you can check this by reviewing IT ticket requests.
  4. If agents keep customers on hold, they will have longer hold times and shorter interaction handle times than average.
  5. If agents avoid calls by ending them prematurely, their average handle times will be shorter than average.
  6. If agents transfer customers or return them to queues to avoid calls, they will have high transfer rates and short handle times.
  7. If agents spend excessive time in post-interaction mode, they will have long hold and queue wait times near the ends of shifts.
  8. If agents avoid calls by changing disposition codes, they will have low numbers of interactions with customers.
  9. If agents attempt to avoid customer calls by placing personal calls, you can spot this by cross-checking numbers against phone number databases.

In general, the best way to spot call avoidance is to monitor and review key performance indicators (KPIs) that reflect avoidance activity, such as average handle time.

What causes call avoidance

As mentioned above, call avoidance can stem from several causes, including:

  • Anxiety and frustration over dealing with customer complaints
  • Burnout and fatigue from high call volume
  • Workplace personality conflicts
  • Preoccupation with personal distractions
  • Job dissatisfaction

However, in some cases, behavior that appears to be call avoidance may stem from other motivations. For example, an employee who takes frequent restroom breaks may have health issues.

Additionally, inferring motivation solely from activity logs and KPIs may not always reveal the whole story. For instance, an employee may stay on the line after a transfer to ensure that a customer with a difficult problem gets helped. Carefully review and give employees a chance to explain their side of the story before assuming call avoidance.

How to handle call avoidance when it happens

A comprehensive call avoidance strategy should include procedures for handling actual avoidance incidents and policies for preventing potential incidents. To manage call avoidance when it occurs, consider implementing this three-step procedure:

  1. Monitor call interaction KPIs.
  2. Analyze avoidance behavior patterns.
  3. Discuss incidents with call center agents and implement call avoidance action plans.

Here are some guidelines for applying these steps:

1. Monitor call interaction KPIs

To detect call avoidance incidents, monitor call representative activity using KPIs that can reflect avoidance behaviors. Crucial KPIs can include:

  • Average handle time: This is the duration between the time the agent answers a call and the time the call disconnects
  • Average hold time: This is the length of time customers stay on hold per call
  • Call transfer rate: This is the percentage of calls agents transfer
  • Average queue wait time: This is the length of time customers wait in queue per call
  • Average after-call work time: This is the length of time agents spend on transactions after calls are disconnected
  • Percentage of calls blocked: This is the number of inbound calls that receive a busy signal
  • Average speed of answer: This is the length of time it takes an agent to answer a call after their phone starts ringing

Depending on what type of call avoidance behavior you monitor, other KPIs may apply. So select the KPIs relevant to the behaviors you want to detect.

However, KPIs aren't the only way to detect call avoidance. In individual cases, an employee's behavior may raise suspicions. When this happens, consider comparing the incident with KPIs from the employee's call log data to see if the event reflects a pattern.

2. Analyze avoidance behavior patterns

Monitoring call interaction KPIs gives you the data you need to identify patterns that indicate potential call avoidance behaviors. First, create a reporting format for organizing and analyzing your KPI data. Then, establish a regular data analysis review cycle. Finally, work with your data analyst(s) to determine the average KPIs and the performance range to flag as possible call avoidance.

3. Discuss incidents with call center agents and implement call avoidance action plans

Establish procedures for presenting employees with evidence of call avoidance, expressing your concerns, and allowing them to explain their side. When you suspect a representative has engaged in call avoidance, discuss the situation with them. To be fair and accurate, include dates and times of specific incidents, taking care to adhere to any data privacy policies that may apply to customer calls. 

If you determine that call avoidance has occurred, follow up with appropriate action according to a call avoidance action plan for handling the results of incident reviews. Depending on your findings, a warning letter, employee training, or disciplinary action may be necessary. Work with your human resources and legal teams to establish a fair plan for responding to call avoidance incidents.

How to prevent call avoidance

To reduce the number of call avoidance incidents you have to manage, follow these guidelines:

  1. Develop a call avoidance policy.
  2. Set performance goals.
  3. Automate call center routing.
  4. Support omnichannel communication.

Here are some tips for applying these guidelines:

1. Develop a call avoidance policy

Your company's policy on call avoidance guides your preventive strategy. A good policy should address topics such as:

  • What level of call quality to deliver to customers
  • What standards to expect from call center representatives
  • How to track and measure adherence to call center performance targets
  • What steps will occur when you suspect or confirm call avoidance
  • What rights representatives have when confronted with call avoidance data
  • What consequences will occur when you determine call avoidance

Your human resources and legal teams can develop a policy that will be fair to your company, as well as your workers and customers. After developing your policy, be sure to communicate it to employees through training and reference resources so that representatives are aware of the policy.

2. Set performance goals

To implement your policy, set specific performance goals for the KPIs you use to detect call avoidance behaviors. This will help you monitor and analyze call avoidance patterns. It also helps call center representatives know what to expect and what they should refrain from doing.

3. Automate call center routing

Strategic use of contact center automation can reduce employee burnout that may incite call avoidance, increasing efficiency and improving customer experience.

Many routine customer support tickets don't require manual attention. You can increase efficiency and reduce manual workloads by developing routing procedures to distinguish tickets that automation can handle from those requiring human support. Automation can also streamline the process of pairing ticket requests with the appropriate agents.

To further leverage automation, use progressive dialers, which automatically connect agents to the next call as soon as they're available. This reduces opportunities to avoid taking calls.

4. Support omnichannel communication

Lastly, combining automation with an omnichannel support strategy can further reduce call avoidance. When clients have more support channels to choose from, they're less likely to overload agents supporting the phone or other interactive channels such as live chat. 

A cloud contact center solution supports the omnichannel approach by enabling you to integrate data from all customer support channels. This allows agents to quickly access data if a customer support ticket moves from one representative to another or from one channel to another.

Implement an effective call avoidance action strategy with Twilio

Call avoidance can slow down your call center and lower customer satisfaction, but you can intercept and prevent it by adopting a proactive strategy. KPI monitoring, performance analysis, incident reviews, and follow-ups can stop call avoidance behavior when it happens. Call avoidance policies, performance goals, automation, and omnichannel support can prevent and reduce incidents of agents avoiding calls. Twilio can help you with that.

Twilio Flex provides you with a digital engagement platform for implementing an effective call avoidance strategy. Flex integrates your entire customer journey into one centralized interface where representatives and managers can access all the data need to monitor call KPIs. You can also choose the communication channels you want and integrate Flex with other apps to build omnichannel support into a customized, automated workflow for more efficient call center management. 

See a Twilio Flex demo to learn how Flex can help you take control of call avoidance.