Time plays a key role in customer service. Customers seek meaningful yet quick responses, while companies need to deliver quality experiences while avoiding long and costly service interactions. For this reason, average handling time, or AHT, is often considered an important metric to measure in the contact center, as agents strive to offer great customer service while keeping their interactions as short as possible. Here are seven essential tips that enable brands to reduce AHT without compromising quality customer service.
Train and inform agents
Agents should be properly trained to use different resources. For example, they should be able to use a CRM database effortlessly, understand how and when to route customers to other agents, and know how to use call scripts effectively. In addition, brands must keep agents informed of company updates such as new products or services, product recalls, or promotional offers. Keeping agents well-informed is essential to reducing average handling time.
Give them tools for success
A CRM database is essential to organizing customer data and empowering agents to deliver efficient service. Agents are able to understand customer history quickly and provide faster and more accurate responses based on current information that may be updated in real time.
Give customers a chance to explain
While a CRM may provide key customer information and make an interaction progress faster, agents should always invite customers to explain their problems fully at the start of each interaction. Listening to customers closely enables agents to understand their situations better and eventually saves time, as customers will not have to repeat information later.
Optimize IVR menus
IVR menus reduce average handling time by connecting customers quickly to the most qualified agents or information sources. However, brands need to keep their menus up to date by making sure that the IVR options reflect current brand events, such as product recalls or promotional offers, for example. Visual IVR options can connect customers even more quickly to the answers they need.
Keep customers informed
Whenever agents need time to find or process information, customers should be kept informed. Silences can be confusing to customers, as they may think they have been disconnected. Agents should explain what steps they are taking and provide approximate wait times.
Identify and analyze pause times
When pauses occur during service interactions, it’s essential to find out what is happening during those moments of silence by recording calls and monitoring all other channels. Is the CRM database lacking critical information? Is the agent waiting for a response from a colleague? Understanding pause times helps brands improve service and further reduce AHT.
Ask for agent feedback
Agents have valuable insights to share, so brands should make sure to solicit their feedback. Peers may discuss their experiences, and the most productive agents may share their advice with those who have longer AHT. Such feedback may also be used to revise call scripts, optimize routing practices, and devise best practices for the contact center as a whole.
Reducing average handling time is critical to delivering great customer experiences and cutting costs. However, a smart and strategic approach can achieve this goal without compromising the great experiences customers desire.