Contact centers evaluate their efficiency by measuring and continuously monitoring key performance indicators, or KPIs. These metrics allow agents to better understand if they are being productive and offering the best customer experiences possible. One of the most important KPIs both inbound and outbound contact centers monitor is the AHT, or average handle time.
To define the average handle time, we must first take a look at two other KPIs—the average call duration and the after-call work rate. The average call duration refers to the average conversation time which takes place between an agent and a customer. A high average call duration may mean that an agent is spending too much time interacting with a customer and therefore losing productivity. The after call work rate refers to the time an agent spends finishing up a customer case after a call. The agent may make notes or updates to the customer’s file, such as noting the reason for contact, updating service or sales information, writing follow-up plans, or speaking with other agents about the call. A low rate ensures that agents place more calls for maximum efficiency and service.
The average handle time, or AHT, combines the average call duration with the after-call work rate. Generally speaking, contact centers aim to reduce the Average Handling Time to increase customer satisfaction and reduce costs. A high AHT may indicate that call center agents are spending too much time with customers, which may mean that they lack the proper skills or tools to offer efficient and optimal customer experiences. The AHT therefore enables contact centers to understand the time needed to handle contacts across multiple channels. By understanding this information, contact centers can determine how agents should be allocated across channels to handle both inbound and outbound flows efficiently. They can also decide how each individual channel needs to be handled—from phone to email to chat—depending on the complexity of the requests received on each channel. For example, level 1 requests that are simple and do not require special expertise tend to have larger contact volumes and may require more agents. Level 2 requests, on the other hand, are more complex and often require specific knowledge and more time—demanding the attention of fewer agents with special skills.
The average handle time in a contact center may be reduced in different ways.
One way is to design contact center practices around fixed goals. For example, you may decide that you want your agents to handle a specific number of calls, thus reducing the AHT. With your agents, you may define these goals and discuss ways to achieve them so that every person has a personal goal that ultimately benefits the contact center as a whole.
Agents may also reduce AHT by following call scripts. These scripts can help them focus on pertinent information when discussing with customers while also enabling them to use the conversational language that will lead to a faster and more efficient resolution.
Contact center agents may also be assigned to roles that match their particular expertise. For example, agents with the specific skills for handling high-level customer questions might be assigned to channels or tasks that require these skills. Agents with less specialized knowledge may then be assigned to level 1 tasks that do not require the same attention. By using artificial intelligence with smart pairing technology, your contact center can also route customer requests intelligently to the most qualified agents available. These technologies ensure that customers are routed according to your contact center’s predetermined configurations, so that customers are always speaking to the agents who are most likely to resolve their problems quickly.
With regard to agent skills, your contact center can also make sure that agents receive ongoing training so that they remain qualified for their specific roles. Certain agents, for example, may wish to learn skills that allow them to work on a wider range of tasks. Supervision tools may also be used to better understand agent behavior and assist them in performing at their best.
Lastly, providing agents with robust technology and user-friendly tools is essential to driving their success. For example, giving agents access to a CRM that provides real-time, updated customer data helps them save time, as they will not have to ask customers for information that is already at their fingertips. With the help of strong call scripts and supervision tools, agents will be prepared to work efficiently and thus reduce average handle time.
With careful planning, robust contact center technology and tools, and a commitment to supporting agents in their work, your contact center can reduce average handle time and increase customer satisfaction.
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