What Does Hang Up the Phone Mean? Why It's Important

    What Does Hang Up the Phone Mean?

    We all know what “hanging up the phone” means—it’s when someone ends a call. This seems pretty obvious, but there’s been a generational change as technology (and time) advances. Think about it, when was the last time you physically hung up a phone? 

    However, this term has a lot more weight behind it in the context of call centers and customer service. Instead of being seen as a neutral end to a call, contact centers see it as a sign of deeper issues with their customer experience. Customers don’t hang up the phone for no reason. It’s most commonly done out of frustration.

    But why are they getting frustrated? Could it be due to an agent’s mistakes, long wait times, or something else? And how can you avoid it? In this article, we’ll dive into not just what the phrase means but some of the common drivers for customers hanging up the phone and how you can work to prevent it from happening again.

    What does it mean to hang up the phone?

    “Hanging up the phone” is a pretty clear term—it’s when you end a call.

    For most adults above the age of 30, this probably reminds them of the days of landlines and home phones, when they would physically hang up by putting phones back on the receiver.

    In the modern world, where about 85% of people own a smartphone, the younger generation has almost forgotten the phrase's origin. Don’t believe us? Ask anyone under 20 to show you how they pick up a phone, and then ask someone who’s 30+.

    While most understand the meaning of hanging up the phone, it still has some negative connotations—especially when someone hangs up on you.

    When it comes to customer service, it usually isn't a good sign if an agent hangs up the phone on a customer out of the blue (or vice versa).

    When can customer service agents hang up the phone?

    In most cases, an agent shouldn’t ever hang up the phone.

    Even when an interaction is over, it’s generally good practice to have them wait until the customer disconnects at the end of an interaction.

    This doesn’t mean an agent should never hang the phone, though. In some rare cases, it’s acceptable for an agent to end the call. Although hanging up on a caller is generally considered a last resort, there are specific scenarios where it’s necessary:

    • Abusive language: If the caller persists in using offensive or threatening language after a warning.

    • Harassment: When the conversation deviates into personal attacks or harassment toward the agent.

    • Prank calls: Identifying and disengaging from non-serious calls intended to waste time.

    • Resolved issues: Once the customer’s issue has been addressed satisfactorily, the agent may conclude the call, provided all protocol steps have been taken.

    • Non-communication: After several attempts to re-engage a silent caller, ending the call might be appropriate.

    It's crucial to clearly understand your call center's policies and the discretion they are allowed.

    Agents should always strive to resolve the caller's issue efficiently and empathetically and maintain professionalism by giving ample warning before ending a call under adverse conditions. However, in rare cases like these, there may be no alternative.

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    Why do customers hang up the phone?

    Customers can be driven to hang up the phone for any number of issues, with most of them a result of an unsatisfactory outcome or pure frustration. Some of the most common reasons are:

    They’ve resolved the issue on their own

    Sometimes, customers figure out the solution on their own, whether on hold or speaking to an agent. They might find the answer online, through your self-serve options, or simply by reconsidering their initial question and finding the answer. In any case, the customer no longer needs to speak to an agent, leading to them hanging up the phone.

    The wait times are too much

    Extended wait times are a detriment to any call center and can severely impact the customer experience.

    Research shows that 90% of customers rate an immediate answer as important or very important, with 60% of those respondents defining “immediate” as ten minutes or less.

    When customers are left on hold for too long, they often feel their time is wasted. This frustration can lead to hang-ups, especially if the caller has other priorities.

    They’re frustrated with the service

    If the interaction with the agent isn’t going well, customers are more likely to hang up the phone. This could be down to:

    • A lack of relevant information

    • Weak communication skills

    • Perceived indifference

    • And more

    Effective agent training and support can help resolve these situations, but there will always be a chance.

    They don’t feel heard or valued

    Customers want to feel that they’re being taken seriously. If they think the agent is being dismissive, or simply not listening, they may hang up the phone out of frustration. This is where your agent’s soft skills training in active listening and empathy comes into play.

    They’ve had enough of call transfers

    Being transferred time and time again can be incredibly frustrating for anyone. Each new transfer probably means they’ll have to explain the issues all over again. In this scenario, a customer might feel like they’re being bounced around, or that your organization simply doesn’t care (or know enough) about their problem to find a solution. 

    Technical issues got in the way

    Technical problems will just happen sometimes, that’s pretty much unavoidable. Things like poor call quality, dropped calls, or connection issues can result in customers hanging up the phone.

    While these are usually outside the agent's control, they still contribute to a negative experience and must be considered when making changes to a CX strategy or call handling workflow.

    What does a customer hanging up the phone mean for your business?

    When a customer hangs up the phone unexpectedly, it’s a clear sign that something went wrong in their experience with your support team. Sometimes it’s a one-off, but a hang-up often reflects deeper issues with your call center that could spiral in the future.

    Firstly, hanging up the phone basically always represents a lost opportunity, such as:

    • Delivering quality support

    • Answering a question

    • Making a sale

    Ultimately, these missed opportunities have a big impact on your bottom line.

    On top of that, frequent hang ups can severely tarnish your brand’s reputation. Customers who hang up frustrated are much more likely to vent their frustrations to others. One survey shows that more than 50% of customers will complain publicly on social media after a negative interaction.

    Additionally, high hang-up rates can increase customer churn risk. Unhappy customers are more than willing to switch to a competitor, especially if their issue remains unresolved after the hang-up. Churn not only eats into your customer base, but it can also increase the cost of attracting new customers to fill the void.

    What is call abandonment rate in a call center?

    Call abandonment rate is a crucial metric within call center operations.

    Definition: The percentage of callers that hang up before reaching an agent.

    By tracking your abandonment rate, you can uncover key insights into overall customer satisfaction and the efficiency of your call center operations.

    Industry standard: Call abandonment rates typically range between 5% and 8%, with      about 80% of calls being answered within 20 seconds.

    You should be aiming to keep your abandonment rate in this range as a best practice. An increase can be indicative of underlying issues (long wait times, staffing problems, etc.) that are taking away from your CX. 

    To calculate your call abandonment rate, use the formula below:

     Call Abandonment Rate = (Number of Abandoned Calls ÷ Total Number of Incoming         Calls) *100

    To illustrate, if you received 1,000 calls in a day and 70 of them were abandoned, you’d calculate as follows:

    (70 ÷ 1000) * 100 = 7%

    Be sure to keep an eye on this metric as it can help you identify crucial areas for improvement that contribute to overall customer satisfaction levels.

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    How to avoid customers hanging up the phone + reduce your call abandonment rate

    Work on your waiting times

    Long wait times are the most common driver for high abandonment rates

    The longer a customer has to wait, the more likely they are to abandon the call. Try some of the measures below to reduce wait times and you’ll see big improvements in your abandonment rate too:

    • Nail your staffing levels: Adequate staffing, especially during peak hours or busy seasons is crucial. Review historical data to track peak times and schedule accordingly.

    • Use call routing tech: Intelligent call routing systems direct calls to the most suitable agent based on skill and availability, speeding up wait times. This minimizes hold times and increases first contact resolution (FCR) rates too.

    Give agents training and resources

    Well-trained, knowledgeable agents resolve issues quickly and efficiently, reducing the likelihood of customers hanging up the phone.

    Try empowering your team with:

    • Comprehensive training: Regular training sessions should cover both technical skills and soft skills. Your agents need to know how your products and services work, and how to best communicate with customers.

    • Sufficient resources and tools: Make sure your agents have access to all the information they need (using a knowledge base, for example), as well as the tools and tech to streamline their workflows.

    Focus on soft skills

    Soft skills are crucial for positive customer interactions. Training agents in the key areas below can significantly reduce the potential for customers hanging up the phone.

    • Active listening: Teach agents to listen carefully and acknowledge customers’ feelings to ensure they feel heard and valued.

    • Empathy: Encourage them to understand customers’ frustrations and show that they have genuine concern for their issues.

    • Emotional intelligence: Cultivate your agents’ ability to manage emotions and handle stressful situations in a calm, professional manner.

    Personalize the customer experience

    Customers want a personalized approach. A personal touch can defuse tense situations and reduce the chances of the customer hanging up on the call. Integrating a CRM alongside your QA reporting & analytics tools enables you to collect customer info so you can tailor future interactions by remembering their personality, preferences, and past behaviors.

    Level up your self-service options

    81% of consumers want more self-service, but only 15% of consumers say they’re happy with the options available today. Upping your self-service game will reduce the volume of calls your agents have to handle which, in turn, reduces the risk of call abandonment. Plus, it will give your business a competitive edge in the CX arena. Two notable example of self-service include:

    • AI chatbots and virtual agents to handle simple queries like order status, checking account balances, delivery updates, etc. 

    • Online knowledge bases to empower customers to find their own solutions to recurring questions and troubleshoot issues independently

    Implement a call-back option

    If customers can simply request a call-back instead of sitting on hold, they will immediately be happier with the whole experience. A call-back option eliminates long waiting times—one of the biggest drivers of hanging up the phone.

    Instead of waiting around and growing frustrated, they can go about their day knowing that they’ll get their issue solved later. This shows that your company respects their time and, as a bonus, gives agents a chance to familiarize themselves with the issue before the call.

    Use QA software to analyze interactions

    Finally, you can use your existing QA platform to analyze customer interactions so you can find out what’s going wrong and where to make changes.

    Regularly reviewing call recordings and transcripts gives your team a chance to understand the standard of their customer service, both the good and the bad.

    Pair this with customer surveys, reviews, and feedback, and you’ve got a goldmine of insights into the root causes behind hanging up the phone.

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    What to do when a customer hangs up the phone

    If it’s appropriate—based on the context of the hang-up—you should try and call the customer back. Particularly if they hung up due to a technical issue or something outside your control, or if their issue has been left unresolved. If a call isn’t an option, a follow-up message might be a good alternative.

    This effort shows that you value the customer and you’re really committed to actually solving their problem, not just getting through the call as quickly as possible. If you do it right, calling back can make up for a negative experience and leave them satisfied.

    If calling back isn’t a realistic option, it’s time to dig into your QA toolbox to recover the situation, or at least learn for next time.

    Dig through your call recordings and transcripts to find out what happened, whether the customer hung up the phone due to the agent’s behavior, service quality, or something else.

    This approach can give you insights into recurring issues that drive disconnections (long wait times, lack of soft skills, technical problems, etc.), so you can take corrective action via training, process adjustments, or updates to call handling guidelines.

    Customer feedback is another excellent investigative resource to find out why they’re hanging up the phone. Parsing social media, emails, reviews, and customer surveys can offer insights into what your customers perceive. Then, you can take that data and use it for training purposes or improving workflows.


    Originally, the term “hanging up the phone” simply meant putting a physical phone back on its receiver to end a call. But with cellphones nearly completely replacing landlines, it’s evolved to simply mean when a call ends. 

    Within the context of a call center, this is usually a negative.

    Customers can hang up for any number of reasons, with the most common being long wait times, unresolved issues, or poor service.

    To combat this, call centers should implement strategies like adding self-serve options, optimizing their staffing, training agents on their soft skills, and leveraging QA software to analyze calls.

    Interested in seeing the impact QA software can make on your contact center? Sign up for a demo from Scorebuddy and see how it can transform your customer experience.


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      What’s the difference between a customer "hanging up" and a call being "dropped"?

      The difference between a customer "hanging up" and a call being "dropped" lies in intent versus technical issues. A customer hangs up intentionally, often out of frustration, while a dropped call results from technical problems. Distinguishing between the two is crucial for accurate call data analysis. 

      Is it possible to completely eliminate customer hang-ups?

      Completely eliminating customer hang-ups is unlikely. However, with targeted strategies to reduce wait times, enhance agent training, and leverage technology, you can significantly reduce hang-up rates. These efforts will also boost overall customer satisfaction and improve your call center performance.