Reducing average handle time

Reducing Average Handle Time in a Contact Center

Average Handle Time (AHT) is critical to measure the efficiency of a contact center. AHT is the calculation of the average period of contact between an agent and a customer. The seemingly simple measurement of time will help improve the productivity of the center. Additionally, customer satisfaction is more likely to get better after learning about which areas need enhancing. The Time Doctor Website says that 93% of customer service teams believe that clients have higher expectations in 2021 (and will continue to have higher standards in 2022) than in previous years. 

When a contact center can maintain a low AHT, their performance gets better reviews. As we all know, a better reputation means better SEO, more clients, and long-term customer relationships.

How can a call center achieve and maintain better handle times and improve customer satisfaction? KPI Connect has over 25 years of experience, and we have a few tips and suggestions to offer!

Why is Average Handle Time Important?

Average Handle Time Calculation

As previously stated, the AHT measures the time of a phone call between an agent and a customer. Therefore, AHT data can assist a company with achieving goals and identifying issues.

Efficiency

A low AHT shows that an agent is better at problem solving and communication. The company can help by adding common complaints or queries to a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. Time Doctor says that 40% of businesses use this tactic to resolve customer issues, making their center more efficient. 

If the customer can find answers for their questions themselves when call volumes are high, they won’t have to wait. Having more FAQs for the public eye can give the customer a choice to problem-solve themselves or contact the center directly. As MyCustomer says, giving customers a few options will make them feel happier and in control. 

Customer Feedback and Satisfaction

Indeed, companies need their customers. If a contact center has high AHTs, their customer satisfaction is likely lower. Collecting the time of your calls can give you a higher level of analysis regarding your customer service. With correct data, you can get customer feedback and handle time analytics. According to the Time Doctor website, 67% of companies have grown through collecting customer feedback. Moreover, customer responses can elevate brand value and online reviews for a call center.  

Happier Agents

If your systems and programs are running smoothly, your handle times can become lower than if your programs and phones are outdated. Furthermore, updating technology creates a better work environment for the agents. The Warwick website quotes a 2021 study that found happiness can make individuals 12% more productive. Moreover, employees are more loyal to a work environment that treats them well. Having faithful employees means that you do not have to spend the time or money on training and staff turnover.   

Lower Support Costs

As the age-old saying goes, time is money! Finding different ways to make answering or making calls better will ensure the entire team is more productive. 

Continuously reducing your handle times will help you see what works for your company and what does not. 

Is The Company AHT Too Long?

Unhappy customer waiting on hold

Observe.AI mentions that calculating a suitable AHT relies on the industry. Quoting Cornell, the benchmark for telecommunications is just over 8 minutes. As for financial or IT services, the handling time should be just below five minutes (depending on the complexity of the calls, of course). 

There are different ways to tell if your handling time exceeds an ideal number. 

Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is a common theme throughout this article. Truly, customers are among the most vital factors regarding the success of a business. Even if they are not filing complaints, they are not required to use your service again. To separate your center from other agencies, you need five-star reviews and low handling times. Monitoring calls can give more insight into your center’s handle times, the amount of transfers, holds, and more. 

Hold Times

As stated in the previous paragraph, if your hold times are long and the customer has to bounce between agents, your handle times will increase. Plum Voice surveyed over 2,500 clients and found that nearly 60% of respondents believe that going on hold for one minute is too long. If the company has multiple holds or transfers, one should look into possible issues and find solutions to rectify the AHT. 

Repeat Calls

If a customer has to call a team repeatedly to handle one issue, not only will customer satisfaction suffer, but also the AHT will likely increase. Clients will feel happy with their received services if their customer complaints and questions have quick handling. If your contact center has a poor AHT, confer your repeat calls. 

Fixing your AHT

Smiling contact center agent

Know the product 

If an agent is not trained properly regarding the product they have to support, or knowledgeable of how a specific company works, they have to take time out of their call to find answers. Both handle times and hold times are at risk of increasing. 

However, as products and companies constantly evolve and update, staying on top of changes gets difficult. Employers can help agents with regular training and coaching. 

Prioritize training and coaching

Ensuring that agents are familiar with their software, computers, company standards, and other critical aspects can better prepare the employees for quick problem-solving. As we said before, continuous training will help cultivate your team and improve AHT.

Record and monitor

Recording calls (inbound and outbound) will give you plenty of important information. The given data will show the areas that need improvement. If you have excessive call transfers or common problems eating up time, your calls will show you.

Make sure the client goes to the right agent

Call routing is yet another way to reduce AHT. If a call goes to the correct representative the first time, you don’t have to worry about transfers, hold times, or poor customer service ratings. There are automated systems that can help direct callers to the right agent.

Update technology

Time Doctor says that 29% of businesses have installed live chat software to improve customer support. In turn, agent workloads get reduced. If the bot can help the customer, the client doesn’t have to call. 90% of the businesses using live chats found the software helped streamline the centers’ operation.

Summary

There are plenty of ways to reduce your Average Handle Time. 

An acceptable AHT means happier customers and agents, higher productivity, and lower support costs. 

If your hold times are excessive or if agents have to make too many transfers, you may want to consider methods to reduce your handle times. There are multiple ways to fix your AHT: know the product, put effort into consistent training, record and monitor calls, work on your call routing, and keep the technology updated. 

Those tasks may seem plentiful, but your company, agents, and clients will benefit. KPI Connect knows better than anyone! 

KPI Connect

Our company has received more than 12 awards, but there are a few that mean the most for our AHT: best technology, best training and performance, and highest employee satisfaction. KPI Connect trains our agents to be ready for any problems and help them by giving them updated software, technology, and coaching. 

The KPI philosophy is three words: collaborate, communicate and connect. Along with understanding your business, we want to become an extension of the company so we can help customers quickly. We can help you reach goals if your company needs improvement on customer service, profit, or productivity. 

Our English and French-speaking business has a wide variety of services: outsourced customer care, inbound customer support, product support, overflow services, and more. 

Contact us if you require assistance. We always look forward to working with new clients and helping solve company issues!

KPI Connect

Why Outsourcing Your Loyalty Reward Program Support Makes Sense

Just about any business owner or manager has an understanding that gaining customers is very difficult. They also know that keeping them is even harder. That is where a loyalty reward program can make a big impact.

According to MaCorr Research, 6 percent of Canadians change where they shop to get reward points. The program can bring in new customers looking for that added bonus of doing business. Moreover, it can retain those customers with incentives they enjoy.

However, running your loyalty reward program can be a daunting task, especially when you are already running your business operations. That is why outsourcing your loyalty reward program makes perfect sense.

There to Respond to Customers

While your staff goes about their daily business, customers may be contacting you with questions about your loyalty reward program, or redemption of their benefits. That can take valuable time and effort away from regular business duties.

By outsourcing those obligations, you can have a dedicated team of professionals ready to handle that inflow of calls or emails so you do not have to. On your end, it is business as usual. As far as the customers are concerned, they have a seamless outlet that specifically manages their loyalty reward program issues.

Strengthening the Customer Bonds

Because your loyal customers are receiving prompt attention from reliable professionals, your business can thrive in two ways:

  • You will be free to continue pushing your business forward without the distraction of dealing with incentive programs. With that managed for you, the focus can stay on your work.
  • Satisfied customers will have the great experience they are looking for from your company. They will want to return not only for more loyalty rewards, but for the excellent service too.

Your loyal customers can be engaged immediately rather than waiting on hold for a long time or waiting for a response. They will feel gratified and appreciated instantly, which can only set a good impression for your business.

Global Appeal

Every business starts out locally, but a customer loyalty program can move your business to a new frontier. That means different cultures and languages to deal with. Your internal team may not be able to handle such an inflow, but the right outsourced specialist can give you the quality service you want for your customer base in multiple languages.

Imagine keeping your customers happy in their native language instead of trying to communicate in yours and ending up with misunderstandings.

As you can see, outsourcing your loyalty reward program has great advantages that can keep your business operating smoothly. But it can also allow you to continue growing your business through efficiency and dedication to keeping your customers happy and returning. You can have all this without adding any extra workloads on your staff. Trust the professionals with your loyalty reward program and watch your business soar.

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Good and Bad Customer Service Trends

New customer service trends emerge all the time because everyone is looking to improve their company’s customer service. Your customers are the lifeblood of your company, so adopting new customer service techniques and mediums can vastly benefit your company. However, just because they are trending does not mean that all of these techniques are effective. Here is a look at both good and bad customer service trends.

 

Good Customer Service Trends

 

Text Messages: Studies and surveys show that most customers prefer a text response. They are great for communicating with customers quickly, with little to no hold time. The only real caveat is that your responses have to be precise and accurate. Your customer service agents will need to be highly trained, in order to think and solve problems quickly.

Rapid Response Times: Customers are getting used to customer service response that is nearly instantaneous, and they come to expect it out of every company. So, no matter which medium you use for customer service responses, the faster your response times are, the happier customers will be.

Social Media Outreach: More and more customers are reaching out to companies through social media. It is usually one of the fastest ways to get in contact with a company, and people are taking advantage of it. You are missing out if you are not responding to customer service inquiries on your social media, because companies that are responding publicly are getting a lot of customer satisfaction because of it.

Follow Ups: Customers do not like to think that you solved their problem and then forgot about them. So, a follow-up contact to check in and make sure they are not still encountering a problem can go a long way towards increasing a customer’s satisfaction level. Follow-ups can be done in the form of phone calls, emails, texts, etc., so they are pretty easy to implement.

Scheduling Apps: In this fast-paced world, customers do not want to wait on hold to schedule an appointment. It is far simpler for customers to schedule the appointments themselves. You can implement this system in a couple of different ways: you could add a section on your website for DIY scheduling, or you could use an app like Schedulista.

FAQ Videos: Customers tend to like to solve their problems themselves before breaking down and calling customer service. So, having a large list of FAQs is a great way for customers to troubleshoot. However, they like “how to” videos even more. Short videos that explain how to use features or fix common problems give your customer step-by-step instructions, along with visuals. It is easy to upload such videos to YouTube.

 

Bad Customer Service Trends

 

Negative Online Contacts: Just because celebrities get into arguments with their followers online does not mean that your business can afford to. Anyone who represents your company should maintain a positive online presence. Treating a customer badly in such a public way can have a drastically negative effect on your company.

Using Only Facebook: People are turning away from Facebook as more types of social media sites and apps are emerging. So, if your only social media presence is on Facebook, you are missing out on a large customer base.

Exclusively Telephone Customer Service Support: Customers are evolving to use new technologies, and we now have other ways that they can contact us. Text, chat, and email customer service make up a lot of customer service contact volume today. If you are only using telephone customer service support, you are really missing out.

 

 

This is the age of the informed consumer. They can see a good business when they see that others like it too. So, when you treat them well, they are really good at writing rave reviews online. So, if you provide good, fast customer service, not only will your customers be happy, they will sing your praises to others. Since the majority of people now rely on the reviews of a business to make decisions on which company they will choose, a great review will hopefully result in even more customers.

 

 

What Are Appointment Setting Services?

In the competitive modern marketplace, staying connected with clients and customers is more vital than ever before to the growth of a business. With the rise of the internet and the online world, consumers now have more choices available to them than at any previous point in history – literally at their fingertips. As with any relationship, steadfast communication is the key to fostering a positive and long-lasting bond with customers and clients. One method of keeping in touch with clientele is through Appointment Setting Services such as those offered by KPI Connect.

 

What Are Appointment Setting Services?

 

For businesses everywhere, scheduling, confirming, and rescheduling appointments are essential daily tasks that can eat up a significant chunk of time. From multinational corporations to local start-ups, sales offices, and medical clinics, countless hours of productivity are lost each week due to this monotonous process. Traditionally, these duties have been handled in-house by existing staff members whose time could be better spent elsewhere or by the hiring and training of additional staff. Rather than dealing with the hassle themselves, many companies have chosen to outsource this basic business need to a reputable contact center experienced in providing a range of appointment setting services.

 

A Friendly Voice

 

When you use professional appointment setting services, you can rest assured that customers and potential customers alike will be pleasantly greeted by a friendly and helpful voice who will be able to fulfill whatever needs and also answer any questions they may have. As an extension of your office, appointment setting specialists undergo extensive training in order to accurately represent your business using customized scripts and services tailored to suit your requirements. In addition to setting up, confirming, and rescheduling appointments with existing clients, specialists can help to generate sales leads through cold calling, resolve customer service problems, issue automated reminders, and provide information about the products and services your company offers.

 

Experience the Freedom

 

By outsourcing your appointment setting services, your talented in-house staff can focus their efforts on more crucial aspects of the daily operation of your business. Without the added responsibilities of scheduling appointments, your office can run more efficiently on a day-to-day basis. Thanks to the extended hours offered by KPI Connect, customers can enjoy the freedom of communicating with a representative of your company outside of traditional office hours when it is most convenient for them.

 

Who Uses Appointment Setting Services?

 

While the short answer is that virtually any business could stand to benefit from appointment setting services, they are particularly valuable to smaller companies and independent start-ups that have neither the budget nor the physical space to devote to an in-house department. Because the services offered are so versatile and adaptable, almost any industry can make use of them, including financial firms, health care clinics, real estate agents, and any others who rely on appointment setting as a core element of their business model. Regardless of industry, clients appreciate the ease and convenience afforded by these services, ensuring complete satisfaction and long-term customer retention.

 

 

The Nearshore Experience

Map_Blog_Nearshore_Outsourcing

What do you get when you combine the cost advantages of outsourcing offshore services with the quality and control achieved from outsourcing onshore? "A Nearshore Experience”. The term first introduced by Softtek (a global provider of process driven IT solutions and global nearshore operator) in 1997, is defined simply as a form of outsourcing that refers to services delivered from a nearby location, very close in geographical proximity.  Businesses willing to venture into such strategic partnerships do so with the mindset of gaining access to World Class Capabilities. However, the achievement of world class capabilities and competitive advantages in some instances isn’t met without challenges and concerns that operators (both vendors and clients) must seek to address before engaging in any form of exchange.  These concerns include (but are not limited to):

  • Infrastructural challenges
  • Cultural differences
  • Accents
  • Language ability
  • Contractual constraints
  • Possibility of reductions in service levels

The Nearshore model seeks to address and remedy these concerns as a strategic alternative to achieving business excellence through process outsourcing. Nearshoring primarily allows business consumers gains in the following three main areas:

  • Proximity: close geographical locations
  • Close cultural affinity
  • Cost savings

While additional benefits of this type of engagement include:

  • On par hourly rates with offshore labour
  • Lower travel expenses
  • Time-zone advantages
  • Highly skilled & talented workforce
  • Lower political risks
  • Comparable IT skills & infrastructures
  • Considerably lower attrition rates

 

Let’s take the experience a step further. Nearshore operators enjoy the added benefit of having a lower Total Cost of Engagement (TCE) than offshore operators. What is this? TCE evaluates the total expenditures of offshore engagements. It is easy for an offshore vendor to advertise or boast lowest costs and lowest hourly rates in comparison to onshore based vendors. But what about the additional costs they incur making them essentially more expensive than a nearshore choice? Hence, the term TCE was coined, highlighting the competitiveness of opting for a nearshore vendor.

Additional costs include:

[photo credit: www.sciodev.com]

graphEngagement Managers: These managers are tasked with the responsibility of liaising with the outsourced vendor ensuring programs are run in alignment with the organization’s goals. This more than likely includes travel to the remote locations at least twice a year, or as the client sees fit given the program’s duration.

Team Leads: The bigger the contact center the more team leads are required. It is recommended that there be a team lead for every 6-10 center agents. These leads primarily connect directly with the client (Engagement Manager), where all reporting is done. This being the case, team leads need to be highly competent and proficient to ensure constant effective and relevant communication to the engagement managers. Not having the right employee fit in the role may result in time wastage, deviation from functional and operational goals and a slow-down in the decision-making processes. Thus it is expected that a team lead is hired at a higher pay grade than your agent seats.

Staff Turnover: The monetary costs as well as time cost invested to recruit and select a skilled competent workforce adds its weight to the concept of TCE. High staff turnovers usually seen in offshore operations increase the overall costs incurred by a company. When training is constantly repeated as a result of high attrition, it frustrates the productivity of a company when benefits to be gained from the learning curve effect cannot be fully realized.

Travel: Increases in global fuel prices, have caused travel to become an expensive luxury, especially to locations not within a close geographic proximity.

Where's the focus at for 2014?

Industry professionals report that one of the growing trends for 2014 is that increasingly more businesses currently outsourcing their customer contact operations will shift focus from cost savings to realizing higher quality in the delivery of customer service. Companies are now willing to pay more to have their process outsourcing services onshore or nearshore.

KPI Connect has recognized the industry’s need for the provision of world class capabilities and has thus aligned operations with this trend. We exist to provide world class support that seamlessly integrates with our clients, enabling growth through enhancement of the experience of their customers.

 

Author: Dexter R. Norville, Director Marketing (KPI Connect)