Jack is running a successful million-dollar company that makes an annual turnover of about $100 million. But over the past few months, he and his colleagues have been receiving a lot of mixed reviews for the company’s products and services. Diving deep into the situation, what he found was unanticipated. While a number of customers were happy with their services, a lot of them were not satisfied and shared negative reviews due to reasons like delayed customer service and query resolution, excessive hold time and a long Average Handle Time (AHT).
Average Handle Time (AHT) is very accurately defined by this term, as it is the time taken by an agent to handle a call from a customer. This time includes not only the time taken by the agent to talk to the customer (Talk time), but a few other factors of the interaction as well such as updating notes and comments (Wrap Time), hold time, etc. The average handle time is one of the key metrics tracked and managed for any voice or transaction-based process and usually has an impact on other organizational KPIs like CSAT, productivity and quality.
As per the industry standards, AHT should be as low as possible. However, the definition of “low” might vary from industry to industry. For instance, AHT for an insurance company would be different from that of banking institutions. Wondering about how to attain the required score? Mentioned below are some of the important tips that may help:
1. Recording Every Call
The messages that play at the start of any call from a contact center such as, “This call may be recorded for quality and training purposes,” aptly holds true. This is because any call between an agent and the customer is recorded and reviewed later by the contact centers to get an insight into how their agents are handling the calls, the problem areas and the scope of improving their AHT.
2. Streamlining The Agent’s Workflow
To help agents deliver an improved productivity, it is important for the managers to determine a well-defined and planned workflow for them. It is the responsibility of the managers to identify any factors that are leading to their inefficient performance, which, in turn, is resulting in an increased AHT and hence, a poor customer satisfaction score. Automating all the repetitive manual tasks and helping the agents with a predefined process to follow can be a great idea to lower AHT.
3. Build A Knowledge Repository
Having a knowledge base ready to handle all the customer queries can be a great idea to reduce AHT. A good knowledge repository at one’s disposal can serve as a great help when the customer asks some out-of-the league queries or is looking for an immediate resolution. Moreover, having a knowledge repository ready at one’s disposal enables the agent to give an appropriate response and also reduces the average waiting time of the caller.
4. Shorten Customer Greetings
It is certainly important to greet your customers at the start and end of every call. But this should not imply an unnecessary delay in query resolution. The greetings should always be short but pleasant enough to convey the agent’s positive attitude towards handling customer queries. Saying something like “How may I assist you today Mr. XYZ?” would not only keep the communication friendly but also allow the agents to jump straight to the point, hence, reducing the total AHT.
5. Employ Robust Technology
To enable an optimum performance of the contact center executives, it is important to make the best use of the latest technology. This includes everything from updated systems, company infrastructure to the telephone lines. It is also important for the agents to be sure that the information shared by them is 100% accurate, his/her voice quality is clear and the customer on the call is satisfied with the resolution offered.
6. Implement IVR Technology
IVR technology serves as a blessing in this era of high competition. A type of self-service technology, adapting it in a contact center can significantly improve the agent’s AHT score and customer service as well as reduce their overall call burden. The technology is also helpful in collecting the basic customer information and quickly resolving their basic queries such as address and hours of operation in the minimum time possible.
7. Evade Low Service Level
Tired and exhausted contact center executives are another major factor leading to a higher AHT. This situation typically arises when there are many customers waiting in queue to get connected with an agent and the agent is completely exhausted handling call after call. To avoid poor performance score of the customer service agents and improve AHT, it is recommended to motivate the agents to take breaks between the calls and in turn, deliver an improved performance.
8. Take Advice From Customer Service Agents
To ensure the success of any process being developed for the contact center agents, it is recommended to take their advice on it as they are the ones who would work on it. This would provide you with the requisite inputs on the features that would and would not work to attain a specific target.
9. Evaluate The Type of Call
The type of calls handled by an agent has a direct impact on his/her AHT. For instance, if an agent handles all the billing related calls whereas another agent handles form-related queries, the ATR for both these agents would be different and so, no single number can be used as a basis to judge their performance.
10. Try to Improve FCR
One must understand that lowering the FCR or First Call Resolution would imply that the customer queries are handled on time and hence, in turn, lead to an improved AHT. FCR implies that the agents’ queries are resolved during the first call itself, hence, ending the need for repetitive calls for the same query.
Attaining Lower AHT Should Not Impact Call Quality
It is true that aiming to attain a lower AHT is important but that should not be done at the cost of call quality. The agents should be motivated to resolve customer queries in the minimum time possible but they should also be told that a lower AHT should not be attained at the cost of call quality. This is because a lower call quality tends to leave the customers dissatisfied, hence, leading to a negative brand image. Therefore, AHT should be the aim but not at the cost of customer satisfaction score.