One of the most important metrics contact centers measure today is Average Handle Time (AHT). Recently, we wrote about AHT best practices and how contact centers should shift their thinking from seeing AHT as an agent metric to an overall contact center KPI. In this blog, we outline a few practical steps you can take to improve average handle time in your contact center.
1. Create a Knowledge Base
Equipping agents with a healthy amount of information at their fingertips is one of the best ways to reduce Average Handle Time. A strong knowledge base that lets agents easily search for answers and troubleshoot problems will reduce the amount of time spent resolving issues or forcing agents to escalate to their managers. Once you build a knowledge base, continue to update it as new problems and solutions arise.
2. Record Calls
If you’re not recording and analyzing calls, it’s going to be difficult to get a grasp on where your team is hitting bottlenecks. For instance, recording calls can help you zone in on particular customer questions that eat up agents’ time, so you can figure out ways to train and educate your team.
3. Shorten Greetings
Greetings are important for starting a customer interaction off on the right foot, but long greetings can increase overall Average Handle Time. Even shaving just a few seconds off agent greetings will add up. Consider eliminating the formalities that often come with agent greetings (like listing his or her title or department)and leveraging CRM screenpops that enable agents to see important customer information automatically (rather than having to ask for it).
4. Speed Up Call Routing
One surefire way to waste time and increase AHT is to send customers to the wrong agents. Not only will you have to worry about a non-qualified agent fumbling with a customer’s question, but there’s also the amount of time it takes to transfer the call to someone else. That’s where automatic call distribution (ACD) software can assist, by routing the call to the agent best equipped to handle a customer’s query from the start.
5. Strategize Your Staffing
It’s a fact that certain agents are more productive during specific times of the day. Figuring out which agents would be most effective for certain shifts can be a huge step in boosting team performance and reducing Average Handle Time. Each manager may have his or her own way of maximizing staff, but workforce optimization software can take some of the guesswork out of the process.
6. Agent Consistency for Call Backs
When an agent can't complete a customer’s request on the first attempt, a follow-up call may be necessary. In these scenarios, it’s always preferable to have the same agent who handled the original call complete the second attempt. That way there’s no time wasted on either the customer or agent’s side by having to reintroduce the original problem.
7. Optimize Your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System
IVRs are great for self-service. Customers can solve their questions and concerns on their own which can significantly reduce the call load on agents. An optimized IVR can also minimize script-reading time for agents and reduce the amount of information that agents are tasked with relaying to the customer directly. Also, if your contact center has other channels for customer support— such as chat, email, or social media—make sure they’re being promoted within the IVR as well.
8. Prioritize Expediency in Training
A lot of issues related to high AHT can be traced back to training. Making AHT a focal point in induction training, and as an ongoing priority for coaching, will help keep it top-of-mind in agent performances. Think of agent training, whether paired with specialized software or not, as an ongoing investment you’ll be making in keeping your AHT rate low, which will pay off in greater efficiency over time.
By following these 8 steps, you can lower average handle time while improving both the customer and agent experience.