Average call handling time is one of the most common metrics that call center managers use to measure the performance of their teams. It’s an easy metric to measure and provides a clear indication of how efficiently the call center is operating. Reducing average call handling time can lead to significant gains in productivity but if you’re not careful this can come at the cost of customer experience. In this blog post I’d like to suggest ten ways in which you can reduce the average call handling time in your contact center without negatively impacting on customer experience.
- Review your IVR system – If your IVR system is poorly set up with unclear menus or poor messaging then your agents can find that they spend a lot of time dealing with callers who have been routed through to the wrong department or aren’t sure who they should be talking to. There’s more advice on how to ensure a positive IVR experience for your customers in this blog post here.
- Record calls and share examples of good and bad practice with agents – Call recording can be an invaluable training tool and there’s no better way to help agents understand how best to reduce call times than to enable them to listen to examples, both of it being done well and also done poorly. Listening to others’ calls can help agents to identify examples of best practice and things that they could be doing to reduce their own AHT. We also have advice on best practice for call recording in this post.
- Web chat can enable agents to deal with more than one customer at a time – Whether this is appropriate will obviously depend on the nature of your customers and the types of enquiries with which your agents are typically dealing. However web chats can be an excellent way of increasing efficiency as a skilled agent can handle several different web chats simultaneously and thus get much more done than could be achieved in the equivalent amount of time spent on the telephone.
- Screen-pop customer records – Make sure that agents have all of the information that they need at their fingertips. Caller details should be immediately available to agents on their screens so that they don’t have to waste time taking details from callers, looking things up or waiting for screens to load. This also significantly improves customer experience as the agent is able to get to the real purpose of the call much more quickly.
- Let agents know how they’re doing – To be able to reduce AHT effectively, your agents need to know how they’re doing and how they’re performing against the call queues to which they are assigned. Make sure that your agents have real –time visibility of their own performance stats.
- Automate processes wherever possible – Think about all the processes that you’re handling in your contact center and consider whether you have tasks currently being done by agents that might be better off being automated. Things such as taking card payments, checking balances, subscription services and so on can all be very effectively handled by automated systems, leaving your agents free to deal with more complex enquiries.
- Limit internal call transfers and on-hold time – It’s particularly important to try and limit ‘cold transfers’ to other departments as much as possible. Time spent looking up the customers’ details once again or familiarising a new agent with the details of the call is time wasted as well as being annoying for the caller themselves.
- Route calls to the right agent first time around – Related to the previous point, you can save a lot of time by making sure that the caller is talking to the right person from the start. As already discussed, a well-designed IVR system can do a lot of the work for you here. You can also use skilled-based call routing, or route the caller based on what you already know about their previous call history or what they’ve been looking at on your website prior to calling, using a system such as Syntec’s ResponseTrack.
- Identify repeat callers and address reasons for repeat contact – If you have a high number of repeat callers then it’s worth spending some time understanding why that is. There may be perfectly legitimate reasons for this but sometimes a high number of repeat calls can indicate that there might be problems with the way calls are initially being handled.
- Implement auto wrap-up – Automatically putting agents into After Call Work once a call is completed, and enabling them to put themselves back to being Available once this work is done means that they’re more likely to be fully prepared for the next call and able to concentrate on it when it comes, rather than still being mentally engaged with the previous call.
Implemented carefully, these techniques can help you to significantly reduce the average call handling time in your contact center, whilst helping your agents to feel more in control of their work and substantially improving your customer experience.