By Chris Recio, Dir. Contact Center & Advanced Applications
Today there are a number of givens in every contact center. We know that it is very likely that a contact center agent will use an application to address and document a customer’s inquiry into the contact center. More and more applications are in use today. The use of applications, and its impact on contact center users, is one of my most enjoyable aspects of working with contact centers. I have seen my fair share of environments attempting to provide process efficiencies with applications that are not really designed for the user in mind. This always fascinates me.
A critical aspect of a contact center agent’s ability to be agile and efficient is the level of effort required to move through desktop and web-based applications to handle the customer inquiry. This presents a challenge at times and an opportunity to create an environment with both customer satisfaction and contact center agent efficiency in mind. I am often surprised at how much work the contact center agent must attend to in order to find data associated with their caller.
All of this has a direct impact on an important metric within the contact center – Average Handle Time. While Average Handle Time is important to monitor and manage, I am completely in favor of not exchanging quality over quantity. Today’s customer service demands finer attention to quality. Those that understand this are gaining strides ahead of their competition.
However, Average Handle Time is an important process to know and understand as it has a powerful impact on staffing. I recently had a client that moved from a model that required customers to place numerous calls to resolve differing items, to a model where every customer would be handled to completion, regardless of how many inquiries they might have.
The goal here is quality and convenience. Of course, the average handle time moved from approximately 2.5 minutes to 3.5 to 4 minutes, and this will have an impact of staffing needs. However, the long-term benefits to overall customer satisfaction will pay dividends for retention and loyalty.
When it comes to Average Handle Time, it becomes even more valuable that a Supervisor or Team Lead spend more time monitoring and discovering the details about how calls are individually managed by each agent. In reviewing the dialogue and process, Supervisors and Team Leads can assess where agents may need further training and direction in keeping clients on point while simultaneously being mindful of creating a great experience. This is where the true value for improvement becomes an ongoing strategy.
Average Handle Time
Industry Guideline: 4 minutes
This is the amount of time the agent dedicates to assisting the customer. This includes talk time, hold time, and after call work time. It’s important to fully understand the actual amount of time that is necessary to handle any interaction, and despite having an “industry guideline” it is important to take your operation into consideration before resting upon a final, acceptable metric to follow. When attempting to establish a baseline, I always err on the side of quality over quantity. Among the items that might be considered in addressing this time are:
- Obtaining and presenting caller information to the contact center agent – can this be automated?
- What are the steps to qualifying the caller before beginning the application process for handling the customer interaction – can this be automated?
- Work Flow Process – are the desktop applications streamlined to ease the burden of the contact center agent having to “manage” applications instead of managing calls? This is a common obstacle to agent performance and the agent usually does not bear the burden of responsibility for this process. I see this quite often.
- Agent Morale – is the agent taking less time to handle the call at the start of the shift than towards the end of the shift? This could point to possible agent burnout and should be considered.
- Agent Product Knowledge – is the agent sufficiently trained for the task at hand, including communication skills, negotiation skills, etc.?
My main point is this – for every metric there is an underlying cause. The cause should be considered before addressing the performance issues at hand.
It is also important to understand which pieces of the performance pie are not within the agent’s control when assessing contact center agent performance. I have seen environments where agents were held to a standard, despite their not having control over key pieces of the puzzle. When one of those obstacles is the application itself, removing those obstacles can greatly improve contact center call handling efficiency, agent performance, and agent morale.
A key focus here at Inflow Communications is, in addition to providing contact center products and tools, to provide the right products and tools for the specific contact center environment. We too, provide contact center recommendations to our clients through ongoing assessments, training, and dialogue to assist our customers in becoming contact center experts themselves. Our Contact Center Success Manager program is tailored to each of our clients. This includes an onsite Contact Center Boot Camp for Managers, Supervisors, and Executives that would like to better harness the power of their contact center solutions to gain maximum results. We look at the operation at the business level, the manager level, the technology level, the configuration level, and the agent user level. This can be an ongoing engagement or a single need engagement. Our goal is to provide the best services possible to help our clients in providing the best services possible to their customers.
Don’t miss our complimentary trainings and webinars – check here to see the latest. At the end of this month, we’ll hold a webinar reviewing these contact center metrics we’ve been reviewing in our recent blog posts and more. And be sure to look out for our final installment of The Art of Reporting in a couple of weeks.
Founded in 1997, Inflow is one of the nation’s top Unified Communications and Contact Center consultants in today’s market. Pioneers in cloud unified communications and cloud contact center success, Inflow is the first company to provide contact center consulting and training focused solely on helping you elevate your customer experience.
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