How Can Reducing Average Handle Time Improve Contact Center Efficiency

24-09-2017

Average Handle Time (AHT) measures the average time span of contact between a customer and a call center agent. It is considered to be one of the most vital call center metrics that gives you a direct assessment of the efficiency of a call center.

With the help of this evaluation of AHT, a call center company can make improvements in the productivity of the agent and customer satisfaction.

When the assessment shows a low AHT, it indicates that the agents are performing really well and the customer satisfaction score (CSAT) gets a boost.

Formulation To Calculate AHT

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Hold time and talk time are both an integral part of AHT, however, it excludes queue time and ring time. So what is the formulation for calculating AHT?

The efficiency of an agent to answer more calls per day will see a boost if the company trains them to close the calls from the customers efficiently and successfully.

It naturally will reduce the waiting time for the customers and lead to higher cost efficiencies. Although it sounds simple, reducing AHT is quite challenging for most of the call center managers.

It is because the intention to settle the query of the customer quickly can have a negative effect on the first call resolution and may lead to an escalation in the number of repeat calls.

Here are a few tips that can help you reduce AHT and improve contact center efficiency:

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1.    Use Recorded Data To Analyze Performance

If you are using the latest call center software with call recording features, then you can easily make an analysis of the agent’s performance.

Call center managers can assess the productivity of the agents and find out the trouble areas that are stopping them from coming out with quality output.

By listening carefully to the recorded versions of the calls, the managers can get a detailed insight into the trouble areas and the reasons that are causing an increase in the handling time.

2.    Frequent Training And Coaching

One of the effective ways of reducing AHT is to arrange frequent training and coaching sessions for the call center agents.

It is very much important that they are aware of the most effectual ways of using the various customer service tools and solutions such as the chat and CRM.

When you train the agents to handle these tools, they become skilled to answer the call in the lowest time possible thereby increasing the number of satisfied customers.

Training is also important because the agents should know whom to address their problems or doubt whenever they are required to extract relevant information.

When you train the agents properly they are equipped to resolve any issues related to your product or services at the earliest.

One of the best ways to coach them is by using the call recordings and letting them know where they are failing. Instead of just pinpointing their faults, the call managers should rather help them in overcoming their weaknesses so that the handling time is reduced.

3.    Automating Manual Tasks

It is possible to reduce average handling time by customizing the processes and workflow of the agent so that the productivity is optimized.

It is the duty of the call center managers to spot inefficiencies of the agents and cut off anything that leads to inflation in handling time and does not result in good customer experience.

The managers can easily achieve it by automating the entire manual tasks that are regularly carried out by the agents so that their busy time is minimized and they can focus more on the calls and resolve the queries of the customers.

4.    Supply Adequate Knowledge Base

At almost all the call centers, one of the parameters for measuring the efficiency of the agent is how quickly and efficiently they close the call.

You can ensure that your agents fulfill this condition by making it easy for them to access the adequate knowledge base.

When the agents can instantly gain access to any information they require, they become more confident.

Also, since they have something to fall back upon while answering tough questions from the customers, they can provide a right and exact answer immediately thereby reducing the hold time for the customer and improving the customer satisfaction ratio.

5.    Upgrading Call Routing

Each agent is bestowed with the task of answering different queries. So if you want to cut down on AHT, you must invest in upgrading call routing so that the call is directed to the most suitable and capable agent available for answering the query of the customer.

To make sure that your most qualified agent takes the call and appropriate transfers are made so that customer frustration is kept away, you should equip your call center system with the latest technology similar to CX.

This technology provides advanced features such as intelligent IVR system, ACD, and skill-based routing.

6.    Creating Positive Customer Experience With Greetings

The first impression matters very much. So the way your customer care agent greets the customer while opening and closing the conversation makes a lot of difference when it comes to creating a positive customer experience.

Train your agents to keep the greetings short yet pleasant and avoid asking regular questions. Instead, saying Hello and asking, “How may I help you?” instigates the caller to directly come to the problem.  Moreover, such attitude also sounds friendly and makes a positive impression on the customer’s mind.

The agent should be adept at making personalized conversation and for that; he must have an access to the up-to-date customer data. With the help of effective CRM solution, agents can make smarter interactions with the callers.

7.    Use Latest & Advanced Technology

In today’s competitive world, nothing but the best can ensure that you sustain and stay ahead. And nothing can beat the edge the latest and advanced technology can provide.

So, if you are keen to deliver the top-notch service to the customer and also make revolutionary improvements in the performance of your call center, it is imperative that you ensure that the customer service solutions and the infrastructure you are using are operating at its optimum efficiency.

If the agents are taking longer to complete a call due to slow response and speed of your system then it can lead to higher AHT.

Call center managers should continuously keep on checking the workability of the call center system during the high load time when multiple window tabs are opened at one instance.

Also, make sure that the agents are provided with ideal telephone connectivity that offers proper menu options and voice clarity.

8.    Evaluating Types of Calls

A call center gets all types of calls. Some of them are regarding billing, payments whereas some of them are related to general queries and complaints. Hence when it comes to evaluating the performance of the agent, they should be judged based on the type of calls they have handled.

Some of the queries can be tough to answer and may take time whereas payment related issues can be handled quickly. So the nature of the call handled by an agent should be taken into consideration while determining his/her level of productivity for AHT.

Case Study

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Reading through the above analysis of AHT has given you an idea how important it is for a call center company to have a low handling time.

The above information also makes it clear that using the advanced and latest call center software solutions can make a big difference when it comes to achieving your target of improving call center efficiency and increasing the number of satisfied customers.

Even then to understand the topic of AHT in detail, ways to achieve it and how efficacy in handling a call can directly have an impact on the overall credit of the company in the market let us study the case of a call center company called Digital Brains.

The company works as a telemarketing support system for established companies who outsource the task of taking care of the customers to Digital Brains.

In this case study, we will try to evaluate the problems faced by the call center company, and the way it came out of the crisis.

It will help you understand how small changes in the customer support system and software can make a big difference to your customer care service.

The Problem

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One of the insurance companies that have hired Digital Brains to take care of its customer care work has just introduced its new product.

The new risk cover plan was very much awaited as the insurance company used all the media platforms to create the right kind of anticipation and hype for it.

Naturally, the insurance company is expecting a good business. And it did receive an overwhelming response. But since the plan was a short-term risk cover plan, within one year there were lots of maturity claims and queries for the settlement.

That is when the call center suddenly started getting a huge number of calls regarding their claims and complaints about some of the unsettled policies.

More than 90% problems were related to the claim settlement whereas some of them were from the callers who were not satisfied or were confused with the return they were getting on maturity.

Although the call center was using the best call center software, they were unable to reduce the number of calls per day which escalated from 100 regular calls to more than 6000 calls a day.

Major Challenges

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More Calls Per Agent : The call center had around 150 agents to handle the regular requirement of calls. Now with growing number of calls, it became difficult for them to handle more than 100 calls per day as the logistics did not allow it.

Disorientation in Quality Service: The overall orientation of the call center company of providing quality service to the customers took a dip as the employees had to cut short their calls so that they could answer more callers waiting in the queue.

Bad Impression On Customers: It put a bad impression on the minds of the customers who thought that their calls were not welcome.

It in turn directly affected the credibility of the insurance company which was annoyed at the drop in the efficiency from the Digital Brains.

The call center company was now on the verge of losing one of its biggest clients and was facing a do or die situation.

Solutions

With more and more calls being left unanswered due to the overwhelming increase in the number of calls, it was high time that the call center company reviewed its working, staff efficiency and the software and technology used for providing service to its esteemed clients.

Based on its review, the call center manager decided to introduce the following solutions:

Enabling Call Routing Function: The company introduced the latest call center solutions in its working that allowed call routing so that the calls were directed to the agents who were skilled and informed enough to answer the queries from the customers properly.

Regular Training Sessions: The call center company immediately made training and coaching an important part of its regular work.

Weekly couple of hours was dedicated to discussing problems of the agents, training them in the new technologies and also informing them about the new products from the clients and their features in detail.

During the training session, the agents were trained in ways to start and end the calls and how to immediately take the caller to the main point without wasting much time on the greetings.

Database Creation: The call center manager also focused on creating a knowledgeable database that the agents could easily access.

It helped the agents to make personalized interactions with the customers which increased their comfort level and confidence about the company.

Result

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The call routing process immediately showed results as the customers got the right reply to the query immediately during the first conversation. It reduced the number of callers calling per day.

The training sessions also worked in the favor of the company as it increased the efficiency of the agents in answering the calls.

The agents were now more confident while picking up the calls as they had easy access to the database and were well aware of all the information related to the product.

It reduced the Average Handle Time for agents as they did not have to keep the caller on hold for getting the right solution for their query thereby improving the overall efficiency of the call center agents.

Conclusion  

It is easy to overcome all the problems including reducing AHT and increasing customer satisfaction ratio by using the advanced software and technologies for the call center.

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