contact center

Picture it. Your customer service agents are busy, then comes a new wave of callers. Hold times are increasing. People are frustratedly waiting. Your team is getting tired. What do you do? Here we explore strategies to reduce average handle time in your contact center. These ideas can be applied to more than just telephone calls!

1. Track Average Handle Time (AHT). AHT is a metric you should know well. It includes hold and talk time. If you’re not tracking AHT, now is the time to begin collecting data. Here’s the formula to calculate this statistic: (Total Talk Time + Total Hold Time + Total Wrap-up Time)  Number of Calls Handled = Average Handle Time.  

By simply knowing each team members’ AHT metrics, you can monitor for changes and make adjustments as soon as you notice a problem.

2. Training and Coaching. Your customer service representatives will handle more calls if they are trained in efficiency and closing techniques. Make sure each agent knows how to use the customer relationship management system (CRM) and troubleshoot issues on the fly. Provide refresher training and verify their knowledge of products and services.

Watch out for antsy agents eager to resolve issues quickly. This behavior can negatively affect the call’s resolution, which will lead to repeat calls.

3. Streamline Workflows and Automate. Eliminate unnecessary steps to reducing your AHT. If your agents are providing the same information time and time again, it’s likely your customers had looked elsewhere for the information but could not find it. Work with your communications team to modify information on the web and in acknowledgment and follow-up emails. Get with your software design team to look at ways to cut out unnecessary clicks and entry of repeat information. Use artificial intelligence to provide basic self-services.

4. Shorten Greetings and Closings. Opening and closing statements tend to get lengthy trying to squeeze in extra information or providing prompts which lead to unnecessary chattiness. Extra time on the phone irritates your customer and exhausts your employee, plus it reduces the number of calls your agents can resolve. For example, asking customers ‘how are you doing?’ is opening the door for a lengthy off-topic conversation.

5. Have a Backup Plan. If your call volume fluctuates at predictable levels, you can plan for this and have more staff on shift. For those days where waves come out of the blue, consider keeping staff on reserve on-call status. These would be trusted employees who can be called in to help during peak call volumes. With telecommuting becoming more popular in contact centers, you can quickly meet these peak fluctuations and provide greater flexibility to your workforce.  

Average Handle Time is a great metric to help identify issues and make adjustments to improve customer service and agent productivity.