How AHT (Average handle time) can be reduced at Call Center?

Chowdhury Fatima Rokon Tuli

The Author

AHT(Average handle time) is so important metrics in Call Center that where matters of efficiency & competency of business are co-related.The control & manage in communication not only require for more opportunity to customer for call but also need for cost utilization also. And of course efficiency in call control must not compromise with service quality & customer satisfaction.

In this article, we will give brief highlight of what is Average handle time & its top 5 strategy followed by 23 tips to control AHT.

What is AHT:

Average Handle Time (AHT) is a call center metric that calculates the average duration of contact between a customer and an agent. This includes both hold time and talk time. However, ring time and queue time are not a part of AHT; these fall under Average Call Duration as they are not related to the time spent attending the call. A low AHT translates into good performance, while a high AHT signifies improvement needed.

How it measure:

AHT Calculation:The formula for calculating AHT is:

Average Handling Time = (Total Talk Time + Total Hold Time + Total Wrap-up Time) / Number of Calls Handled

Top 5 strategy of AHT:

Prioritization – call center agents have a lot to do each day, each hour and even on each call. It can be overwhelming if you don’t work with them to help them better understand what needs to take priority during a given day. AHT does play an important role in all metrics, as well as forecasting and scheduling. When they understand this role and how to prioritize, they’ll not only bring numbers down, they will do so without upsetting the process

Coaching – every call center agent needs ongoing coaching, regardless of their abilities or success. When AHT is made a part of standard coaching, agents better understand how to approach this metric and how to manage it according to expectations. Call recordings can help in the process, providing supervisors and agents the opportunity to review calls together.

Workforce management – there are only so many variables that the agent can control to affect AHT. The rest needs to be a focus for call center management. With an effective workforce management solution in place, the center can leverage tools like skills-based routing, which is a proven means to reduce AHT

Improving – the overall focus for call center management needs to be one of consistent improvement. In other words, never stop improving. Coaching, quality monitoring and gathering feedback all play into this initiative to ensure everyone is focused on the same target.

Rewards – it’s important to never forget to reward excellent performance. When an agent lowers their AHT, it’s important to point out the success and deliver praise and perks. It reinforces what you want to see and motivates other agents to follow suit.

Top 23 tips of AHT reduction tips:

Gather all information at the start of the call(We encourage agents to gather as much information as possible at the start of the call. This should be relevant and about the situation, in order to best resolve the issue instead of getting information filtering throughout the call)

Be there for your team(Be there to answer your team. If you can save them from searching through an online resource you will save them time. Be accountable for them.Always TL remain in floor)

Let agents listen to examples of low AHT (Allow agents with a high AHT to listen to calls of their colleagues with a low AHT to identify where they can reduce their own AHT.)

Identify silence on calls(identify calls with a lot of silence, Train agents who generate silence, Reduce AHT and increase FCR & CSAT)

Buddy-up agents(Buddy-up agents with high AHT with agents that have low AHT to listen in, gain tips and share ideas.Quality control is obviously important, so ensure that you have calibration between agents with low and high AHTs.

Make sure agents have the right knowledge(Professionalize the workforce in their business area. The more knowledge agents have of their whole business, the easier it is to answer customer questions and reduce time to get the correct answer.)

Get the basics right on the call(Ensure people follow a predefined call structure. People need to listen; question; clarify back; use hold; give overviews and deliver the solution effectively..In short, follow SOP)

Make your knowledge base searchable(Put a search engine on the knowledge database. It will make it much easier to find information.)

Don’t scrimp on induction training (Invest in your staff’s technical knowledge, rather than rushing them through a short induction. Invest in educating staff over a period of time, teaching them background information. This should remove the need for referrals to team leaders and help the staff member take ownership of their customers’ needs.)

Acknowledge, Answer, Ask” can make each call more efficient(We recommend my team use the “Acknowledge, Answer, Ask” method.Acknowledge what the customer says to indicate understanding, Answer the customer’s question in a positive and direct way, and then Ask the question that can logically move the call forward.This systematic and focused approach can help tackle AHT.)

Cut down on after-call work (ACW) instead of customer talk time.(Focus on reducing the time spent in after-call work (ACW) instead of talk time.)

Aim to resolve every customer query on the first contact(If you place emphasis on First Contact Resolution (FCR) then your agents will spend just one call on a customer’s issue – rather than five.)

Mini briefing sessions((Conduct mini briefing sessions in small managing groups to update on changes in service.)

Coach agents on what defines the beginning, middle and end of a call(During coaching sessions, break the call down into 3 elements (beginning, middle and end)

Don’t confuse quality with efficiency((Never jeopardize call quality for AHT as you will not only provide bad service but also encourage ‘bad behavior’ in the agent population.)

Share information on repeated questions(Staff should share information to minimize repeated questions. Collate frequently asked questions and share good answers within teams)

Target wrap time as a percentage of talk time((When not wanting to jeopardize customer experience and quality, I find it more effective and less detrimental to target wrap time as a % of talk time.)

Keep the customer in the loop( it is absolutely necessary to go silent when processing things, agents should keep the customer ‘in the loop’, e.g. “Sorry to keep you waiting, I’m just updating the account.” That way the customer doesn’t feel the need to fill the silence with conversations that can ultimately prolong the call and distract the agents.)

Quicken Customer Greetings(Opening and closing customer greetings matter a lot when it comes to creating positive customer experience. Agents should ensure that greetings are short and pleasant)

Strict break management(control scheduled break management with proper manner one turn by other.

AHT control by viewing web-viewer(TL will monitor constantly the high AHT agents & if it exceed 60 sec then instantly go to agents & ask reason of high AHT & continuous pushing agents)

Call transfer of problematic customer (in case of problematic customer call will be transferred to TL for reducing AHT)

These all are very basic attempts for effective communication for Call Center environment which ensure systematic & diligent service. As now business quest for incessant process optimization, so AHT is one the important metrics for process improvement.

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