Why contact centres shouldn’t worry about rising call handling times - Valur Svansson - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
Reports of increasing average call handing times (AHTs) have caused a stir in the contact centre world with brands fearing that longer call times mean a failure by the contact centre team to resolve a call.
Indeed, the time that an agent spends on the phone with a customer – the call handing time – is a crucial step in the creation of a seamless customer journey. The industry standard 6 minute AHT – which can vary depending on the sector – provides a key metric to understanding and measuring the performance of a contact centre. By monitoring AHT, road bumps in the customer journey such as inefficient processes and gaps in agent knowledge can be identified and resolved to help improve the customer’s relationship with a brand.
Given that the contact centre can often be the customer’s first port of call for a query or complaint, it’s essential that the service they experience is to a high standard. Transgressions like long wait times and inexperienced agents are to be avoided at all costs if a brand wants to deliver the best possible customer experience.
Increased AHTs may just be inevitable
But a long call handling time isn’t necessarily a bad omen and may be a sign of things to come. Indeed, there are a number of key reasons why AHTs are increasing, and they aren’t all bad:
Self-service and digital transformation: With the rise of chatbots and intuitive, comprehensive knowledge bases, fewer customers need to make contact with the call centre to resolve simple, single-issue queries. The customers who do pick up the phone are therefore more likely to be calling with complex and challenging issues which require more time on the phone.
Resolution on the first call: Whilst longer AHTs mean customers are on the phone for longer, it could also indicate that agents are working to provide a call resolution of more complex queries the first-time around. Customers would rather be on the phone for just a bit longer if it means their query is dealt with the first time they call.
Agents are striving for a better customer experience: As contact centres are increasingly training their agents to listen to the customer, rather than stick to a script, in order to deliver a better customer experience, longer call times are inevitable as agents strive for a personalised customer journey. Not only will the customer feel like they are being heard – the reason they picked up the phone in the first place – it also boosts customer satisfaction when their issue is dealt with smoothly and efficiently.
Providing an excellent customer experience is more than AHT
Whilst longer calls could mean that customers are being given plenty of time to speak with an agent to deal with increasingly complex queries, it could also be a sign that agents are poorly equipped to support customers, or that agents have to wade through complex processes to complete routine tasks. What’s more, a low AHT is not necessarily always a good thing either, as short calls could indicate that customers are getting frustrated, cut off or not given enough time to resolve their query.
But the AHT’s part in the success of a contact centre and its role in the customer journey should not be considered as a standalone metric. There are many aspects that make a great contact centre and of course the primary focus should be on delivering quality customer service. With agents providing an excellent experience, then everything else should follow suit.
Publish Date: June 13, 2019 10:59 AM