Top 10 Tips for Reducing Average Handling Time

Contact center agents have to strike a delicate balance when it comes to delivering excellent customer service. On one hand, quality should never be compromised and customer satisfaction is always top priority. However, time is of the essence for both companies and customers alike: it’s costly for businesses when agents spend too much time with a single customer (especially on the voice channel), and customers want service fast. So what practices should brands embrace to reduce average handling time, or AHT, without compromising the quality of the customer service experience? Here are ten top tips.

Acquire all relevant information at the beginning of the call.

As soon as agents are connected to the customer, agents should obtain all important information regarding the customer’s concerns that may not have already been obtained from IVR or a CRM database. This prevents the agent from wasting time with too much back-and-forth questioning throughout the interaction and helps him/her get straight to the point of the matter.

Give agents the proper skills.

Agents should be deeply knowledgeable about the company, from products to services to promotional offers and, of course, solutions to customer issues. They should also be highly trained in all technical aspects such as using a CRM database. This ensures that they can provide accurate answers and resolve issues faster.

Monitor your IVR.

It’s important to make sure that customers are not wasting time looking for the right options on an IVR menu. Make sure the IVR is accurate, up-to-date, and easy to understand so no time is lost.

Share customer information with staff.

If it becomes necessary to transfer a customer to another agent, pertinent customer and case information should be communicated swiftly and efficiently in such a way that time is not lost asking customers to repeat information.

Allow for feedback among agents.

One way to improve agent efficiency is by allowing agents with high AHT to learn from the habits of agents with low AHT. Agents should be permitted to buddy up and listen to each other’s calls while providing positive, constructive feedback.

Record calls for quality monitoring.

All calls should be recorded for quality monitoring purposes and to determine which areas need improvement-an agent who needs more training, call scripts that need revision, and the like.

Identify silent times.

It’s also critical to find out what is happening during pauses. If an agent is spending too much time looking for information, if switching a customer to another agent is taking too long, or if there are any technical issues slowing down the agent, all these points need to be evaluated for improvement.

Provide agents a searchable knowledge base.

As agents are in conversation with customers, it’s highly useful for them to have a search engine where they can look up topics as needed. It’s also very important to provide agents with a call script featuring most frequently asked questions as well as answers to those questions. While agents should offer a personal touch as well, providing them with the facts will certainly reduce AHT as they can provide faster, more accurate responses.

Keep the customer posted.

Whenever an agent needs to put the customer on hold or simply needs a moment to retrieve information, it’s important to let the customer know. Silence can be uncomfortable and confusing for the customer and may lead to less relevant conversation which may extend the interaction longer than truly necessary.

Be efficient, but remember that quality counts.

While reducing AHT is important to running a contact center smoothly and providing efficient customer service, do not forget that quality matters. It’s better to have one quality interaction with a customer which lasts longer than anticipated than several interactions that ultimately take more time and cause the customer to lose confidence in a brand.Reducing average handling time can be achieved through different approaches, but companies should always remember to make the customer experience a quality one. Learn about Vocalcom contact center software solutions optimized for efficient customer service .

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