When it comes to customer turnover rate, average handling time (which we’ll call AHT from here on in) can make a huge difference. Depending on its duration, your AHT may be the driving force in what’s making your customers stick with you and what’s causing them to leave in droves.
A low AHT is a sign of strong performance and customer satisfaction. But if your AHT is currently higher than you’d like it to be, then it sounds like you may need to make some adjustments here and there.
To help slash the time it takes your agents to handle calls with their customers, here are some handy tips and advice.
What does average handling time mean?
A metric that’s traditionally used in call centres where the point of contact is immediate (i.e., phone calls or live chats), AHT measures the average time agents spend on a call or chat – including hold time and conversation time.
To calculate AHT, call centres use the following formula:
AHT = (total talk time + total hold time + after-call time) / total number of calls
We can break down the elements that make up AHT as follows:
- Talk time: the total time that agents spend talking to customers
- Hold time: the time customers spend waiting for agent to deal with their issue(s)
- After-call time: the time spent on tasks (such as making notes, sending emails, or categorising the conversation) that a call centre employee needs to perform to resolve a query before handling another call
The formula can be used to calculate AHT for specific agents, entire departments or for the contact centre as a whole.
Why is Average Handling Time important?
So, just why is AHT an important KPI for call centres? Well, for one, it shows you respect your customers’ time which is the cornerstone of any solid customer experience. With that said, you shouldn’t make all your decisions based on this metric alone. You’ll more than likely have to factor in other metrics alongside it.
For example, you may end up improving the customer experience by lowering AHT, but at an increased cost. These competing factors create dilemmas that many call centres will be familiar with. As we’ll show you later, however, there are plenty of ways you can improve AHT without compromising on other areas.
But for now, let’s take a look at some benefits that underpin just how important low AHT is:
Better customer satisfaction
No customer ever said, “I wish I was on the phone with that team for longer”. Fast responses – that are of high quality – are something that every call centre should be aiming for. The quicker a team can deal with the tickets in their queue, the more customers will appreciate it.
With that said, it’s all about balance. Speedy responses that are unsatisfactory can create a negative customer experience compared to a high-quality response that’s a little longer.
Reduced support costs
A team that can answer tickets more efficiently is more productive. Once you investigate how you can improve your AHT, you can begin to identify the pain points of your current processes. And once you know the issues, you can begin removing them one by one.
Improved team engagement
If your agents are working with outdated processes and software, then it’s easy for them to disengage from their duties. Instead of expecting them to soldier on, using tools and systems that are user-friendly and make for speedier results is one way of creating a happier workforce that’ll stay with you – just like your customers will.
How to reduce average handling time
Automate your FAQs
If your agents find themselves being asked simple questions that can be answered by other means, then automating answers to these queries is the way to go. An automated system that can route these kinds of calls elsewhere so a computer can answer your customers can help massively.
Record and review your phone calls
By recording your agents’ phone calls, you’ll have a huge bank of information to review and pick apart. Listening back to your previous phone calls gives you the chance to uncover weak areas and pain points which you can then set about rectifying.
Make sure your staff are trained up
Employees that know their stuff will be better prepared to deal with whatever they encounter on their calls, which can have a positive effect on your AHT. Make sure you’re scheduling in plenty of training sessions that feature things like role playing, case studies and more, so that your staff can correct behaviours that may be slowing down AHT.
Your training should also involve getting your staff up to speed on your products and services as much as possible. If your agents don’t know what your customers are talking about, then your AHT is bound to shoot through the roof.
Put IVR in place
Your customers don’t want to go on a wild goose chase just to find the right department that can help them out. Implementing a voice response system can overcome this, sending customers to specific departments without issue.
And since your team members won’t waste precious seconds (or even minutes) trying to deal with questions they don’t have the answers to, it drastically cuts down on AHT.
Assess your workflows
A thorough look at your current workflows and processes can be key to unearthing bottlenecks, roadblocks and other things that may be slowing your agents’ handling time down. If your current systems are proving to be an issue, then use your findings to work out how to improve things going forward.
Get feedback from your customers
You rely on your customers to purchase your products and services, so it stands to reason that they should be able to let you know how you’re doing. Draw up a customer satisfaction survey and send it out to them so you can find out which areas need improving the most.
Try to resolve with the first response
When your agents are in the habit of resolving tickets with their first response, it not only cuts down on your AHT, but it means the team can function like a well-oiled machine. How can this be done? For starters, proactively collecting information means your agents won’t need to seek out additional information from other areas. A thorough contact form can help with this, as can custom integrations that pull in relevant data from internal systems – making crucial information easy to access within support tickets.
Your agents should avoid providing customers with multiple options whenever possible. When customers have too much choice, it can often confuse them. By offering the single best answer in the clearest possible way, you can drastically cut down on the need for further questions and clarifications.
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