7 Ways to Reduce Average Handling Time in Your Call Center

7 min read
Apr 25, 2016
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Average handling time in call center

“But I didn’t get the answer to my query. This is the second time I am calling you people for the same problem. Why don’t you just put me through somebody helpful?” - John shouted at the agent.

“We appreciate your endurance and feel sorry for the inconvenience Sir. But this is the best we can do right now regarding your problem.” - Agent tried to convince John.

“How can this be the best if it doesn’t solve anything?” - John was losing his patience now.

“I will check again if I can do something. Please hang on.”

John cut the call curtly after waiting for few minutes when he didn’t get any response. In the meantime, the agent was trying her level best to find a solution for John.

In the given scenario, what comes out is an effort made by the customer who ended up without an answer. On the other side, the agent invested her time with nothing productive in it.

Call centers face such scenarios on a daily basis. The key point that plays a significant role in this is ‘Average Handling Time’. Just another metric to measure the efficiency of a call center. Lesser the number better the efficiency. Definition wise, it is just the total time invested divided by the total number of calls. As simple as that but the whole picture becomes a little tricky because of its complex nature.

Let's take a look in the perspective of a call center and check out the means to make it lesser or rather desirable.

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Speculate the “Why” Behind a Call

This is sheer preparedness. Figuring out beforehand what could be in the minds of the customers. What can bother them, what can make them seek help from the call center. If these questions have already been thought over in advance then, there will not be much phase difference between the occurrence of a question and it being answered, promptly. So prepare a glossary of problems that may occur related to the nature of business. Also, make ‘Quick How to’ guides that help to get the things done speedily.

A prompt and efficient call center is a sheer work of preparedness.

Not an Agent but an Equipped Listener

This asks for sincerity. If an agent is equipped enough with the needed knowledge base then it makes the whole process a lot easier. Repeated questions from the agent kill a lot of time. And such questions not being answered properly become a vicious circle in themselves. So it is necessary to understand what is necessary in one go. Holding the line unnecessarily is never a good gesture. It shows sluggishness.

Expedite the backend process if you have to hold the line. Be ready for a situation that is unfamiliar in the context of a new problem. The gap between the arrival of a new problem and the same turning into a promising challenge depends on how well informed the agent is. Information directly relates to efficiency.

Build a Team that has Answers

This is simply making a team that is cross functional. Because when a team works in a cumulative form then available answers definitely overpass the number of questions. A cross-functional team deals with the different aspects of the business together. One person may not know everything so the person who has the right answer should be available while the call is on.

The hold time should not be wasted behind questions like “Hey, who could possibly know about this?” Avoid such instances. When the team is ready the process gets accelerated on its own.

To make a cross functional team it is necessary to assign different specific areas to particular individuals and further train them, monitor them for a good number of hours. This will prove to be very productive in very short period of time. You will have a cumulative approach for a problem irrespective of its type or weight because the whole team is there to deal with it.

Man and Machine, Working at Tandem

This is building a man – machine framework. It makes the work go on smoothly. Introduce mediums to route the calls to the right person. IVRs save a lot of time if they are well worked upon. They are intelligent enough to route the calls to the right agent. Use them.

Record the calls for further analysis and analyse these calls for some meaningful output and bring some immediate changes if necessary. A call center should be equipped with ongoing technologies. Make them work best for your needs. They are there to be utilised.

Judge the Query according to its Weight

A customer asking about the ‘Account Balance’ and another one asking about ‘how to balance an account’ have different intention and intensity. If the same number of minutes is invested in both kinds of queries then it defeats the purpose. If the customer is satisfied with a short answer then don’t draw out the call unnecessarily. Keep marketing things away from a conversation that is already complete.

‘Slow Go’ Areas: Get them Zeroed in

Every call center has it. And most of the times it is not very conspicuous. Highlight them as they come by. Highlight them to get a good hold of your time investment. They show up when they are thought over. Lack of a well prepared Glossary that holds all about the business or lack of a workflow chart makes the delay unavoidable.

Identify where too much time is being spent. Because that will help to maintain first call resolution. A very structured format of troubleshooting should always be close by. Observe the responding pattern of your agents.

Understand your Agents Well

Agents should be studied well for their nature and behavioural patterns. Engage them according to these results only. Some of them are extroverts, some introverts and others could be analytical. This should be well defined in the process of recruitment of the agents. And further they should be given things to handle that are aligned with their intrinsic natures. It helps to save hell lot of time because in this way both the parties are on the same frequency and the customer finds himself connected with the ongoing conversation.

For example, some people are good with numbers and others are good with words. Words and numbers both are used as cues to end up on a convincing note with the customers. If any query occurs that needs a lot of data analysis and intelligent deductions whereas another query may just need a good skill of negotiation.

Now deploy the particular agents for the different tasks according to their strengths, you already have known who can handle what in a better manner as you know your agents very well in terms of their behavioural patterns.

It also shows that the call center has a sense of concern for its customers as well as agents.

Another important thing is, don’t make your customer repeat himself from the beginning. It happens when two different agents deal with the same customer on two consecutive calls. Employ one individual to one customer. Build a relationship. Maintain a thorough call history. It does help a lot.

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The Key Is: Utilize Every Bit of Your Time

Find the factors that delay day to day operations. They may lie beyond the factors already mentioned above. They could be relative factors including the geographies and economies. It could be many, but start with just any. The efficiency of the call center is built by enhancing the efficiency of an individual.

So by focusing the ability and calibre of an individual the average handling time can be reduced, noticeably. Although, don’t miss out on the contemporary technologies and innovations. You will see major changes in near future at your call center.

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