A study by Microsoft states that 56% of customers have ditched businesses after a bad customer service experience & 39% will avoid your brand for an entire two years. And it goes unsaid that long handle times top the customer support grievances.
As customers, we have all called a company's customer service line to resolve an issue. While mostly the call starts pleasant enough, 15 minutes later, you have been passed to the fourth agent, and they still can't figure out how to help you.
Among many other call center metrics, including First Call Resolution, Churn rate, Net Promoter Score, Customer Satisfaction Score, and Customer Effort Score, Average Handle Time is a crucial indicator to help maintain a high level of customer service.
This call center KPI is important because valuing your customers' time is the basis of providing an ideal customer experience. But, a constant dilemma call center leaders face is the ongoing struggle of balancing costs with a high-quality customer experience.
However, the key is to make your prospects & customers happy by winning their trust & resolving any issues they have as quickly as possible.
But how do you achieve that? One significant way to do this is by bringing your Average Handle Time (AHT) as low as possible.
If you want to learn ways to reduce your call center's average handle time without compromising on the quality of the customer service provided, keep reading this article.
In this article, we'll cover:
1. What is The Average Handle Time?
2. Why is AHT Important?
- Improve Customer Satisfaction
- Win Loyal Brand Advocates
- Shorten Your Sales Cycle
- Increase Revenue & Profitability
3. What Causes a High AHT?
- Long or Unstructured Call Scripts
- Irrelevant Probing
- Repetitive Queries
- Unnecessary Hold or Transfer Time
- Lack of Training
4. How to Optimize AHT in Contact Centers?
- Creating a Knowledge Base
- Enabling Automation
- Revamping Call Scripts
- Improving Call Routing & Prioritization
- Empowering Agents With Adequate Training
What is The Average Handle Time (AHT)?
Average handle time or AHT is the average time needed to resolve a customer or prospect's support ticket or service request, starting when a customer initiates the call until it ends. This includes time spent on holds, delays, call transfers, or follow-up actions to fulfill the customer's needs.
AHT depicts how well equipped the agent is to handle customer queries. That’s why consistent monitoring and taking action on AHT is an essential KPI for any call center.
Calculating AHT is a simple procedure. Here's how you do it:
- The first step is adding up all the time your call center agents spend speaking to customers.
- Next, sum up the wrap time, i.e., the time spent in-between calls on support duties.
- Divide by the total number of calls taken per day to figure out how much time is spent handling each customer interaction on average.
Every business, with all its complexities, is different. Thus no one standard fits all. The AHT benchmark varies from industry to industry.
According to a report by Cornell University, a good Average Handle Time ranges between five to 8:48 minutes.
Why is AHT Important?
Research reveals that 66% of adults believe that the most important thing a company can do is value its time. Thus, AHT is one of the most critical call center metrics because it relates to the customer’s most valued commodity, time.
Some of the benefits a reduced AHT entails are:
Improve Customer Satisfaction
A survey conducted by Bain & Company states that only 1 in 26 unhappy customers will ever reach out to your customer support team about a negative experience with your brand. The rest will churn without any response.
Customers understand it is natural to expect issues occasionally, but they will only continue to do business with you if the problems are resolved quickly. Thus, increased customer satisfaction is the most significant benefit that a lower AHT offers.
Win Loyal Brand Advocates
A study by Esteban Kolsky, a CX researcher, states that an average of 72% of customers are likely to share positive experiences with a brand with six or more acquaintances. On the other hand, 13% of your unhappy customers will go out of their way to tell 15 other potential customers to stay away.
The main aim of optimizing AHT is not about taking calls as fast as possible but about offering a positive & customer-friendly experience that helps you bring back customers.
Delighted customers can thus share their positive reviews online, where potential customers researching your brand can find them with a simple Google search.
Eventually, a reduced AHT time will add more positive experiences to your customers & turn them into evangelists that advocate for your brand by word of mouth.
Shorten Your Sales Cycle
Depending on your industry type, the sales cycle can range from a few weeks to more than a year. It also depends on many other factors like the number of stakeholders involved in the sales process or average deal value.
If you successfully optimize Average Handle Time, you can save time on exchanges between your stakeholders & prospects. Thus, it can help you accelerate your sales cycle, leading to more profitability.
Increase Revenue & Profitability
A Progress Report by Walker suggests that 86% of customers don't mind paying more for a better customer experience. It includes, among many other factors, a lower waiting time to get transferred between agents on calls.
Thus, a shorter sales cycle coupled with satisfied customers & confident prospects will help your business increase revenue & profitability to an all-time high with minimal effort.
What Causes a High AHT?
Among other call center metrics, a relatively higher AHT can be detrimental to the growth of a call center. This can be due to several factors, including:
Long or Unstructured Call Scripts
Trying to create a bond, using long opening or closing statements & paraphrasing information can contribute to long scripts.
A non-optimized & long script can significantly increase the Average Handle Time as multiple client interactions can lead to arguments. This is a non-value-adding activity, leading to the deflection of customers.
While the customer wants to inquire about a particular issue, asking irrelevant questions can prove to be a huge turnoff.
It happens because agents ask for unnecessary customer information that can be traced from customer data. This can slow the resolution process, impact customer experience & increase the AHT.
The failure to present the customer with all information at once can be disastrous to the entire customer experience.
Even if the customer doesn't churn, it will eventually lead to repeated queries by the customer, thus increasing the call duration & AHT.
Unnecessary Hold or Transfer Time
Often, putting the customer on hold for a long time or transferring the call to another section may bring out a solution to the customer's query.
But it will eventually lead to a considerable wait time, including the time consumed by the first agent. Consequently, the AHT will increase.
Lack of Coaching
Agents lacking adequate training are most likely unsure of the essential information, thus taking longer to resolve customer queries.
This will eventually lead to a higher Average Handle Time & impact the service quality negatively.
How to Optimize AHT in Contact Centers?
Despite complicated challenges, it is possible to reduce the Average Handle Time of a contact center without compromising service quality.
It may seem like a difficult task. But, identifying the causes that delay response times & diagnosing with a robust customer experience strategy can thus ensure the right approach for businesses towards AHT.
Below are five tactics that will help you reduce call center metrics like Average Handle Times without impairing the quality of conversations your call center agents have with prospects and customers.
Creating a Knowledge Base
Research by Forrester reports that 53% of adult shoppers in the US are likely to abandon a purchase if they fail to discover a quick answer to their question.
So, the biggest reason why customer conversations drag on & increase AHT is that they can't find quick answers to their queries on your website or other content assets.
Building a knowledge base of articles & FAQs that are easily accessible can bring down search times. It also helps empower agents with adequate procedural knowledge.
Even if the customer fails to find it, this will still decrease the AHT by eliminating the need for your call center agents to travel multiple platforms to consolidate customer information.
As the number of support tickets keeps reducing, agents can better manage the average handle time for each call while ensuring high-quality customer support.
AI-powered recommendations to help analyze ongoing conversations and predict the adequate resources to support the agents assisting the customer.
Call Center Analytics record each agent's time on conversations, including wrap times and gaps (if any) during the discussion. The contact center managers can then segment this data to highlight those who need more coaching to reduce their handle times.
Conversational AI can also help customers with a wide range of suggested resources & and connect them with a skilled agent if they still can’t figure their issues out.
The main aim of automating customer interactions isn’t to entirely remove humans from the loop. Instead, automation in the form of call center software can help your agents engage customers better and solve their issues faster.
Revamping Call Scripts
Recorded calls can also serve as references on what worked the best during previous conversations & what is to improve to help agents reduce their handle times.
In that case, you can revamp a call script based on insights provided by recorded calls to help serve customers better by reducing the Average Handle Time.
Improving Call Routing & Prioritization
Most support calls take longer because the agent doesn’t know enough about the issue or the customer’s account to be able to provide the support customers need.
That issue can be resolved by routing calls to the right agent based on the issue or the agent’s expertise.
This can minimize unnecessary exchanges between agents & customers by helping the latter connect with agents with the background to help them instantly.
Empowering Agents With Adequate Coaching
It is imperative to create viable opportunities for agents to take up new skills & improve their existing ones. This helps augment their efficiency to deliver excellent customer service with reduced AHT.
Moreover, gamifying the learning experience for agents & tracking their journeys can also lead to improved agent engagement & reduced AHT customer-friendly calls.
Reduce AHT But Take Care of The Quality
While reducing AHT is vital to providing efficient customer service, it is imperative to remember that quality counts above all.
At Convin, we help businesses like yours reduce AHT with a more streamlined approach, thoroughly tested scripts, and perfectly qualified agents who can avoid the contact center pitfalls.Try to supercharge your customer experience without compromising quality for FREE.
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