Average Handle Time (AHT) has become a metric that drives quality and efficiency and improves your customer and agent experience.
An important KPI (Key Performance Indicator) for judging your customer support staff is their Average Handle Time. It is a popular metric whether they are phone, email or live chat agents. But let’s take a step back and think about this for a minute. Instead of motivating them by saying “You gotta get faster!” or “Why did you hang up on them so quickly?” maybe you should try these techniques instead:
Review some of the longer interactions and identify reasons why they went long. You may find that agents are placing callers on hold because they don’t know the answers. Maybe they have difficulty handling upset customers. This will reveal areas where you can empower and train your agents to be more efficient. Perhaps you will find that there are issues with the website that cause confusion for the customers or that are contrary to what the customer service agents have been taught. It could be that your AHT is too short because you’ve added on an upsell that agents have had success when they’ve offered it.
Look at the short interactions and make sure the quality of the customer service being provided is where you expect it to be. Don’t forget to evaluate your customer service tools. How many different programs are you requiring your agents to use during the typical support interaction? You may find that there’s additional technology or equipment that can help improve this by adding short surveys, upsells, or ensuring customer satisfaction before ending the communication.
Quality conversations might not exactly match your AHT.
Listen to the content of the interactions. This is a great tool for better understanding the energy and attitude that your customer support agents portray to your current and potential customers. Do your agents sound happy when they talk? Do they add smiley faces to live chats when appropriate? My daughter was in the top 3% of all live chat agents during the year she worked for a call center. She said that one of the keys to getting good reviews by customers was to simply add exclamation points like “Hi!” “Thanks for calling!” and smiley faces. As mentioned in an earlier article, depending on the size of your business you could use a friend to call them pretending to be upset. You could record their transactions and/or use a mystery shopper service.
In any case, don’t let the AHT be the only factor in determining whether or not the customer/agent transaction was mutually beneficial. Take a step back and look at all the angles.