Thomas Rødseth, VP of Product & Marketing at Intelecom, takes a closer look at Average Handle Times in multi-channel contact centres

With all the talk of Customer Experience Management and Customer Effort, it’s easy to forget that customer service managers don’t have bottomless pits of money.  Best practice in contact centre management isn’t just about being effective, it’s also about being efficient.  That is why many traditional measures of call centre performance, such as Average Handle Time (AHT), are as relevant as ever.

But how do you deliver consistently strong performance when handling multiple customer contact channels?

While every organisation would love to think they could deliver first time fixes (FTF), each and every time, with great customer experience scores and a low AHT, it’s not always that easy.  Targeting a low AHT can sometimes result in contacts being rushed and that can negatively impact both customer experience and first time fixes.

Here are 6 ways that we believe contact centres can reduce AHT without impacting the customer experience:

1)         Analyse customer demand – use demand categorization to analyse which contacts:

  • Deliver value effectively to both parties
  • Create opportunities to develop new products/services
  • Occur when a process or product/service went wrong
  • Represent waste or demand generated by third parties

By categorizing demand, you can improve contact handling processes in a more structured way, while focusing on goals such as improved customer experience, lower cost or shorter AHT.

2)         Review business process – after tackling demand categorization, address inefficiencies and fix broken processes that are inflating AHT by:

  • Removing agent requirements that don’t directly impact the customer experience
  • Examining scripts and removing time-wasting questions
  • Reducing time wasted during wrap-up by using wrap-codes to categorize contact “types”
  • Streamlining agent workflows and processes to improve efficiency.

3)         Switch customers to intelligent self-service – introduce web and ‘phone self-service where customers need simple and repetitive information (eg opening hours, account balances etc).  By enabling customers to self-serve, you can get them the answers they require quicker and allow agents to handle more contacts, leading to lower AHT.

4)         Create more efficient contact routing – enable customers to self-select the best routing option by providing menus regardless of the channel used.  Use natural language speech recognition technology to allow people to describe their own issues and create contact routing rules that take into account agent skills and knowledge.  Ensure that your contact handling technology can support a broad range of routing options (from agent hunt groups to least idle, least occupied, skill level and service level routing).

5)         Provide agents with a single view of customer conversations – invest in omni-channel technology that gives agents a single view of customer activity across all channels and time periods.  If you can immediately identify customers with unresolved service issues (from phone numbers or email address) then route them to the agent that’s been handling their query or a suitable skilled agent.  Also consider giving agents easy access to customer relationship management (CRM) data – such as purchased product details and previous service enquiries.

6)         Shorten customer greetings – especially those that have no real impact on the customer experience.  So rather than “Good afternoon madam, how are you doing today?” try “Good afternoon Jackie, how can I help you?” This will encourage customers to get to the point quicker.

Follow these six ways to lower AHT and increase customer satisfaction while delivering greater personalisation. The technology is available so what’s stopping you?


About Intelecom

Intelecom is a leading provider of cloud-based contact centre solutions.  With approaching two decades of experience, Intelecom was one of the first to develop a cloud-based contact centre.  Highly flexible and scalable, Intelecom can be adapted to accommodate one to several thousand concurrent agents using any device, in any location and integrates with multiple applications seamlessly.

Intelecom is one of the few contact centre solutions that is completely multi-channel.  Intelecom agents can respond to Phone, Email, Chat, Social Media and SMS enquiries all within the one application.

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