Keep AHT Low Without Sacrificing Call Quality
It would be great if your company could afford to spend endless amounts of time pleasing customers. If you’re selling very high-ticket items such as personal jets or Ferraris, maybe you can afford it. But for most other organizations, there are a finite number of hours in the day to cope with what seems like infinite customer demands. Most companies recognize that call center scheduling is important, and average handle time (AHT) is the metric most likely to preserve the integrity of schedules.
Average handle time is the metric that keeps track of the duration of each transaction, typically measured from the customer's initiation of the call and including any hold time, talk time and related tasks that follow the transaction, and aggregates this information into an average. While of course you don’t want to cut customers short before their issues are handled, it’s important to keep call time under control if you don’t want the contact center turning into a cost center. It’s therefore a benefit to companies to find ways to keep AHT under control without hurting customer relationships.
In a recent blog post, Chuck Ciarlo, CEO of workforce optimization solutions provider Monet Software (News - Alert), lists a few ways companies can trim AHT without negatively affecting customer relationships.
Streamline your scripts. Sure, the marketing department has written a snazzy 200-word intro that every contact center agent must read before they help the customer. But is it doing anything but annoying the customer and leading to longer calls? There’s nothing more insincere sounding than a stranger reciting the words, “We value your business and look forward to introducing you to our new line of widgets.”
Route your calls effectively. It’s possible AHT is high because customers are being transferred excessively due to a lack of efficient routing.
“A workforce management solution can route specific types of calls to the agents most qualified to handle them efficiently,” wrote Ciarlo.
Train your agents better. Poorly trained agents are going to make mistakes or engage in redundant tasks that add to average call time. Ensure your agents have the right skills to handle customer calls and use the technologies available to them.
Streamline agent desktops. If agents are having to toggle back and forth between a half-dozen or more applications and databases to find answers, calls will be three times longer than they need to be. Ensure your agents’ desktops are unified with all the information and screens they require in one place.
Consider an “anti-babble” strategy. Yes, there are some customers that simply can’t or won’t say what they really mean, and agents become responsible for dragging it out of them.
“Sometimes callers just won’t get to the point,” wrote Ciarlo. “Have you come up with ideas on how agents can politely but firmly take charge of the call and keep them on track?”
It’s a good idea to consider asking agents for their input on keeping calls shorter. After all, they are the ones who deal with customers day after day, and they already know where the biggest road blocks to providing good customer support are.
Edited by Alicia Young