Average Handle Time (AHT) is one of the most critical call center metrics that measures the average duration of contact between an agent and a customer. It assesses the efficiency of a call center with an aim to improve agent productivity and customer satisfaction. Maintaining a low AHT signifies good performance and hence boosts customer satisfaction score (CSAT).
AHT includes hold time and talk time but excludes ring time and queue time. Here is the formula to calculate AHT
The agents will able to answer more calls in a day if they are trained to close the customer calls more efficiently and successfully, thereby leading to reduced waiting time in the queue and higher cost efficiencies. However, many call center managers find it challenging to reduce AHT, despite the same being a predominant KPI. An intention to resolve a customer’s query quickly can negatively affect first call resolution and increase the number of repeat calls.
Below are 10 tips to reduce AHT without compromising on customer satisfaction and other KPIs:
Record Every Call
It is easier to analyze the performance of an agent if each and every call gets recorded. Managers can measure the productivity of the agents and identify their trouble areas which hamper their quality of output. The recorded versions of the calls enables managers to access the desired insights and single out the reasons that increase handle time.
Focus on Agent’s Training and Coaching
Call center agents should be trained at frequent intervals in order to help them reduce AHT. They should know how to use the contact center software and tools such as CRM and chat to ensure that the call is answered in the lowest time possible leaving the customer satisfied. Agents should know whom to contact in case of any doubt and from where to extract any relevant information. They must thoroughly understand the company’s product and services to resolve the issue at the earliest.
Coaching them with the help of call recordings is the best way to improve their performance. Teach the agents by making them listen some of the good examples of calls wherein the customer’s problem was resolved and the handling time was less. Also, play recordings of their own to indicate where they are doing well and what needs to be improved.
Streamline Agent Workflow and Processes
AHT can be drastically reduced if agent’s workflow and processes are tailored to optimize their productivity. Managers should work hard to spot inefficiencies and cut out anything that inflates handling time and doesn’t lead to a good customer experience. For example, by automating all their manual tasks can minimize their busy time to a great extent.
Go in for a Knowledge Base
One of the easiest ways to successfully close a call efficiently and quickly is to support them with enough knowledge material. It allows them to instantly access any information they need. Instead of thinking about the tough questions asked by the customers, the agents can quickly check the knowledge base to find the right answer, hence reducing customer’s hold time and enhancing customer satisfaction.
Upgrade Call Routing
The best way to reduce AHT is to route the customer to the most capable and suitable agent available to deal with his/her respective query. In order to ensure that the most qualified agent picks up the call and call transfers and customer frustration are avoided, your call center should be equipped with an efficient call center software with features such as ACD, intelligent IVR system and skill-based routing.
Quicken Customer Greetings
Opening and closing customer greetings matter a lot when it comes to creating positive customer experience. Agents should ensure that greetings are short and pleasant. Instead of asking questions like “Good Morning Sir..How are you today”, replace it with “Hello Mr.XYZ, how may I help you?”. This would instigate the customer to come directly to the point and would definitely get impressed with the brand’s friendly attitude. To make the conversation personalized, ensure that the customer’s data is always up-to-date. Using an effective CRM solution will help you in making smarter customer interactions.
Use Robust Technology
For delivering top-notch customer service and improving the call center’s performance, it is crucial to make sure that the technology systems and other infrastructure are operating efficiently. Agents would take longer to finish a call if the system response time and speed is low. Call center managers must keep a check of the system’s efficiencies as in the load time, number of window tabs that could be opened at one time etc. They need to ensure that the agents are availing proper telephone connectivity with appropriate voice clarity and menu options.
Use IVRs and Auto-attendants
These self-service technologies can significantly reduce AHT by enabling customers to access some of the information themselves without getting in touch with a human. The system is also intelligent enough to route the calls to the right agent, which saves a considerable amount of time.
Evaluate Call Types
A call center is loaded with many types of calls. Some can be related to payments, billing etc and others might deal with complaints or general queries. The AHT for all these can’t be same and hence the agents must be judged upon by the nature of calls handled by them. Some set of calls may need longer than usual to cater to the customer’s requirement and some might take lesser time. Thus the type of calls handled by an agent is crucial to determine his/her productivity when taking AHT as a KPI into consideration.
Always Value Experience
Although all the agents are endowed with equal amount of training on the processes and ways to achieve lower AHT, some of them might be doing a real good job than others. Managers must identify the ones who manage to maintain low AHT and deliver exceptional customer experience and try to uncover the tactics they use. Those agents must be motivated to share their tips and techniques with others to improve the performance of the call center as a whole.