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Blog

Jan 02, 2017

How to Improve Average Handle Time in 5 Simple Ways

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[Estimated read time: 4 minutes]

When measuring agent performance, most contact centers use average handle time (AHT) as a metric. Essentially this metric is meant to indicate how long the agent speaks with one specific customer.

When AHT is low, it signals an increase in productivity among agents. When the agent is encouraged to solve issues as efficiently as possible, they can work with more customers. The more customers they work with, the more problems they can solve. This may not sound like a bad idea when considering efficiency, but consider the most important person in this equation: the customer

Even though it is an important metric, AHT can fall flat in oversimplifying customer interactions by failing to account for whether the issue was actually solved. While you want to measure agent performance with AHT, focusing on it alone could cause overall customer service to suffer. It is crucial to provide each customer with the help they desire. 

How can you improve your agents' handle time and also provide a truly great customer service experience? Provide them with the tools, training, and resources they need to succeed. Here are five steps to improving AHT, while still providing quality service.

1. Optimize agent training in the CRM

Your agents are the face of the brand, so if they're frustrated or can't find answers, it contributes to a negative customer experience. But the right training and CRM software can address the issue. 

When shopping for software, make sure you choose a CRM that shortens training time. In-context guidance is a key feature that can be tailored to each agent's experience level, keeping the newest employees moving swiftly through cases without having to follow a script. Another feature to look for in a CRM is an integrated knowledge management system that provides agents with fingertip access to product and company information, as opposed to making them memorize it.

2. Streamline the workflow and processes

The more applications the agent has to use, the longer the customer has to wait for the answers they need. By presenting the information on a single, integrated interface, agents can see everything that matters about that consumer in one place. Also take into consideration how much stress multiple applications can cause agents. ICMI noted in a survey that 71% of contact center leaders recognized system and tool inefficiencies and difficulties as the top factor in making agents feel stressed out.

Streamlining their process of data entry with the right technology improves efficiency based on the issue the customer is having. With dynamic field configuration, you can configure the CRM to gather only the information pertinent to the interaction or issue. This not only improves quality of data, but reduces call handling time. 

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3. Recommend next steps

When customers are talking with a live agent, they are looking for immediate help from someone knowledgeable about the product or service. By using a CRM that guides agents through interactions by recommending the next best action, you are not only ditching the scripts but are simplifying follow-up. This improves speed, accuracy, and consistency as the tool reviews existing customer data to anticipate their next move and provide the appropriate response. With this tool, agents are able to be more efficient in their interactions and ultimately reduce AHT.

4. Monitor agent performance

Monitoring how your agents are performing will identify areas of improvement and will give them the feedback they need to improve their interactions. This will go a long way towards increasing their comfort, competence, and job satisfaction. 

Recording your agents' calls is one measure you can take to monitor performance. This way, you will be able to fully understand their style of communicating with customers as well as how long it takes them to handle each call. For example, while listening to an agent's recent phone call with a customer, you notice they have many moments of silence during the conversation. You can address this with the agent to determine if they were lost for words, updating the CRM, or experiencing a moment of technical difficulty. The you can discuss how to best resolve those moments in future conversations.

5. Provide just-in-time access to information

The CRM software you choose should make sure they have easy access to all information when they need it. This should be done in an unobtrusive way that keeps them focused on the customer. Visually it should be contained within one section of the interface instead of pop-up that needs to be resolved and closed. This helps the agent have smoother, more efficient conversations without technology getting in their way. 

Want to see how Astute's ePowerCenter™ CRM can help improve your agent efficiency? Schedule a personalized demo today.

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