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What’s a Normal Ratio of Messages Left to Total Calls with an Answering Service?


Once you make the decision to use an answering service, you more or less know how many calls they will be taking. But how many messages should your answering service be delivering to you?

Image of Answering Service employees going over message ratio

You are considering getting an answering service but you ask yourself, “How many more messages will people actually leave?” You’d like to know the difference between total calls into your service as compared to the number of actual messages left. If it were a math equation, it would look like this:


There are two different items you want to talk to your chosen live support provider about to answer this question and to determine good fit. These two things are abandonment rate and empty messages (also known as “junk tickets“).

Abandonment rate is a call that actually comes into an answering service and is not processed. Either the caller “abandons” the process before talking with an agent (hangs up) or the call is immediately placed on hold and the caller abandons before the operator can complete the call.

The first type of abandon is known as a “switch” abandon because the caller hung up before the operator even had time to answer it. The second type of abandon is known as a “live call” abandon. This is the more serious type of abandon and indicates that the caller spoke to an agent but then hung up. That could possibly happen because the operator could not help the caller or because the caller was waiting too long for assistance.

A good answering service should keep their switch abandons well under 2% of total calls answered. Live abandons should be under 1% and the vast majority of those types of abandons happen because the caller simply changed his or her mind about the call and hung up (not because of poor service).

Empty tickets are also something to talk with your answering service about. The telephone answering service industry affectionately terms these calls “Junk Tickets.” A junk ticket is a call in which the caller decides not to leave a message. For example, a call might sound something like this:

AGENT “Thank you for calling Jim’s Garage. How may I help you?”
CALLER “Is Jim there?”
AGENT “You’ve reached Jim’s service. I can take a message and have Jim paged.”
CALLER “I’ll call back tomorrow. -CLICK-”

In this example, the agent took a call but the caller did not state his or her name nor did they leave a message. Jim has a choice to either have this “message” delivered or not delivered. If he does want to see it, he will get a message that says “Man will call back” or “Woman will call back.” No name, no message, nothing. The message ticket is empty because it really doesn’t have any content other than to say that the operator received a call and was not able to take a message. Hence, and “empty” ticket with little to no value other than to tell Jim he received a very brief call.

It is hard to quantify how many junk tickets an answering service might generate for you because that is normally dependent on the type of customers that you serve. If you deal with a lot of fly-by-night individuals, you might get a lot of junk tickets. If you are a doctor, you might hardly get any at all. But as a general average across all industries, your junk tickets should be less than 5% of all calls handled.

So, “What is the normal ratio of messages left to total calls for an answering service?” You should expect that you will be better than 95% overall. But you must ask your service provider about abandons and about empty tickets. 95% is a far better percentage than voice mail, which usually captures about 20-30% of all calls handled. Certainly, using answering service is the better choice.

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This entry was posted in Answering Service, Medical Answering Service and tagged , , by Brian Gabriel. Bookmark the permalink.

About Brian Gabriel

As the Call Center Manager for Sound Telecom, Brian is responsible for overseeing the daily operations and long term success of the company while managing a variety of inbound customer support programs. He also has a hand in taking care of the Solaxis services division. Prior to joining Sound Telecom, Mr. Gabriel held management positions with several prominent Internet Services companies including and Brian started his career in advertising and sales before moving to Washington State. He joined AEI Music in 1995 and supervised their international customer service department and technical support call centers. Brian received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish languages from San Diego State University. Brian teaches adult education at his church and actively supports Christian ministries.