Every call center wants to know how to lower average handle time. When call centers evaluate their service, average handle time (AHT) is one of the key metrics they look at. AHT measures the average amount of time that a call center agent speaks with a customer. By reducing average handle time, call centers can provide superior service.
How to Calculate AHT (Average Handle Time)?
AHT is the average time each agent spends on the phone with each customer/client. AHT includes all the time an agent spends talking to a customer, as well as any amount of time in which a customer is put on hold. However, ringing or queuing is not included. There is an easy AHT call center formula that can be used to figure out your agents stack up.
Average Handle Time = (Total Talk Time + Total Hold Time)/Number of Calls Handled
Basically, take all the time an agent spends talking with a customer or keeping them on hold, and divide that total by the number of calls the agent has handled. So if an agent has spent 200 minutes in total speaking with clients and has handled 40 calls, then your agent has an AHT of 5 minutes (200 total minutes divided by 40 calls).
Why is AHT Important to a Call Center Operation?
So why is it necessary to look at average handle time call center metrics? The biggest reason is that AHT can be a good metric for determining the quality of service you provide. Call centers are dealing directly with customers and the public. When customers call a business, they want quick, prompt resolution of their issue. Since no one likes being put on hold or tied up on the phone for a large part of the day, AHT is a good way to measure the level of service a call center is providing.
As well, AHT gives a good indication of the costs of a call center. The lower AHT is, the more calls can be handled and resolved. If a call center has a high AHT, each agent is spending a lot of time on calls, which means that there will be a backlog of calls and that more call center agents are needed.
10 Tips on How to Reduce Average Handle Time for a Call Center
For call centers, it’s important to learn how to improve average handle time. Here are some tips that can help you lower AHT.
The easiest way to highlight weak points and areas for improvement is to record calls. Afterwards, recordings can be used for evaluation by both agents and their managers, helping determine where improvement can be made and what was done effectively.
When you greet someone on the phone, the way you phrase your greeting can have a big effect on call time. “How are you?” can prompt long, irrelevant responses, while “How may I help you?” is just as friendly and cuts straight to the purpose of the call. Use the correct phrasing to help shorten call time.
Use Trained Staff
AHT often comes down to the skill level of an agent. An experienced call center agent knows how to guide a conversation and quickly find a resolution, while an inexperienced or poor agent can allow customers to control the conversation and keep call times high.
Determine Call Types
One of the best ways to shorten call times is by evaluating different call types. By classifying incoming calls, you can resolve them more quickly. As well, some types of calls may actually require more time to resolve, so taking this information into account can add more nuance to your AHT metrics.
Tailored Call Center Agents Workflow and Processes
One way to significantly reduce handling time is by tailoring the workflow and processes of agents in a way that optimizes their productivity. Managers need to first recognize where inefficiencies can be streamlined and then remove any part of the process that doesn’t elevate the customer experience. Finding ways to automate manual tasks is one way to make this happen.
Monitor Call Center Agents’ Performance
By recording agents’ phone calls, managers can better identify areas in which each agent can improve. Managers will more accurately spot flaws in an agent’s approach with customers and point out areas where handle time can be reduced.
Try to Resolve Customer Query on First Contact
It’s always best if agents can find a way to resolve a customer’s query on the first contact. The more a customer has to call back to resolve issues, the more frustration builds and the less likely they are to be completely satisfied. Some instances may actually require a customer to have several interactions in order to solve a problem, but those instances should be few and far between.
Identify Silent Times
Silent times mean agents are not engaging with the customer. This can happen for a number of reasons, but typically it means the agent is retrieving information they don’t know. It’s important to avoid instances of silent times, however, because it prolongs handle time and leads to reduced customer satisfaction.
Use a Knowledge Database
It would be helpful to agents and important for reducing handling time if agents had access to a knowledge database. Customers sometimes ask tough questions, and if agents had an accessible knowledge database rather than having to think too long while the customer is on hold, handle time will decrease and customer satisfaction will increase significantly.
Keep Customer Profiles Up to Date
Having up-to-date customer profiles means agents can quickly identify what the previous issues were for any specific customer. It becomes aggravating for a customer to be forced to repeat their issue on each new call, which increases frustration. Keeping up-to-date records is key to helping agents reduce their handling time.
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