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Customer Hang-ups: A New Wave of Customer Call Strategies

By Emma Mills

Oh why can't we talk again

Don't leave me hanging on the telephone

-- Blondie, “Hanging on the Telephone,” 1978

Consumers who get interactive or automated voice calls on their phones hang up, right? Because they would prefer talking to a “real person,” of course. In fact, the opposite is true. The vast majority of consumers does accept and participate in interactive voice calls. When we examined call participation rates with companies using our customer communication services we found that they achieve over 85 percent participation in calls made in fraud intervention, and over 70 percent in credit management interactions, including collections.

In other words, interactive voice calls won’t leave your business “hanging on the telephone.” But when customers do hang up, you’d be surprised that an immediate voice callback really works.

Why consumers prefer interactive voice

Interactive voice calls generate high levels of consumer satisfaction because they are timely, consistent and non-judgmental. In fact, the consumer controls the interaction much more than in an interpersonal dialogue. Interactive voice calls also generate fewer complaints.

The graph below shows the results of a survey by a European utility, who asked consumers notified about a missing payment how they preferred to be communicated with. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they would prefer interactive voice.

Missed Payment Notification 55 percent of a European utility’s customers prefer to be notified via interactive voice.

So why do consumers hang up?

There are a lot of possible reasons why some customers still hang up on interactive voice calls.

  • The call might not come at a convenient time.
  • The customer’s mobile phone may drop the signal.
  • The consumer might be “caught off guard."
  • Some consumers may prefer to be contacted via a different channel.
  • Some may not welcome any method of contact reminding them of missed payments.
Most (70 percent-80 percent) of the 35 percent of hang-ups that occur in the early stages of the call happen within the first few seconds, when the name of the organization calling is played. This is called “greeting block.”  Other hang-ups are distributed across the rest of the call, as indicated in the graph below.

Distribution of Hang-ups Hang-ups are distributed over the duration of an interactive voice call.

The new wave of interactive solutions

If you called someone and were disconnected, you’d call them right back, wouldn’t you? It also makes sense for your interactive voice strategies to do the same.

When consumers disconnect, we recommend to our clients that they re-dial the consumer on the same number, and when connected tell the consumer: “We were just disconnected, and we would like to conclude the discussion.” Scripts can be tailored to meet any need, and to complement any point of the original disconnect.

The consumer can continue the call on the automated service or choose an option to speak with a human agent. System controls help to ensure that attempts to reconnect are limited so as not to cause annoyance.

Strategy of Insanity, right?

Repeating the same thing and expecting different results. Wrong. Across the board, we've seen good success rates with callbacks. There is almost 9 percent uplift in the number of right parties connected, and about 17 percent of calls either transfer to a human agent or self-resolve. And the longer the consumer was connected on the initial call, the better they will respond on a reconnect. All of these results demonstrate the value of interactive voice callbacks.

Reconnect Strategies 8.19 percent of consumers reached on collection-related interactive voice callbacks convert to some form of payment arrangement.

Customers prefer interactive or automated voice calls much more than most people intuitively expect, and respond quite well to immediate call backs. You can learn more about how consumers prefer to interact with their banks, healthcare providers and insurers with our mobileIQ survey report at www.fico.com/mobileIQ.

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