Is your call center using average handle time as the sole measurement of agent performance? Open Access BPO explains the harms of giving too much priority to this call center metric.
In a contact center setting, average handle time (AHT) is used to measure the duration of the time spent by a call center agent in dealing with a customer. The measure commences the moment a caller reaches the line, hangs up the phone, and includes even the time consumed by the agent in handling escalations, holding the line, and other procedures. This means that AHT is not limited to the duration of the call alone; it also includes post-call processes done by the attending agent.
For many call centers, reducing call time may mean lowered costs. This mentality has led to the trend of prioritizing AHT in evaluating agent performance. Worst, agents are led to think that cutting the call shorter will make customers happier. But the truth is, customers, don’t really care about the time you spent on solving their problem. What they care about is that it was given correct and effective solution on the first try.
The harms of prioritizing AHT
Most call centers value their agents’ AHT because it reflects their efficiency in dealing with customer issues. Although commonly used among contact centers, AHT is also believed to be an inaccurate representation of one’s efficiency since it is insensitive to the difficulty of cases being handled by the agents. An agent may have a long AHT because he handled a complicated case, while someone who handled a simpler information retrieval task will naturally merit a more impressive AHT.
It also does not take into consideration the possibility that agents may be rushing their work just to have good AHT figures, while sacrificing quality of service given to customers. Forcing call center agents to monitor their AHT can lead them to cutting customer calls short. And this has a serious impact on sales efforts, customer satisfaction, and overall customer service delivery.
When customer concerns aren’t solved properly because agents are only after having a shorter AHT, several problems can potentially happen. For one, call volumes can go up because of unresolved issues. Customer satisfaction will definitely go down because of frustration felt by callers. Then costs may increase because of repeat calls. And lastly, upselling and cross-selling opportunities are eliminated since agents no longer care about keeping the call as short as possible.
Should you completely forget about AHT?
If you include AHT in your agent evaluation program, the key to preventing it from affecting your call center productivity is by striking a balance between efficiency and effectiveness. Since you have AHT measuring the efficiency or quickness of your agents, you need other metrics to cover other performance areas.
First contact resolution (FCR) is arguably a good yardstick of both agent efficiency and the solution’s effectiveness. If a concern was handled properly the first time it was raised, customers will be more satisfied. FCR also prevents customers from calling back to raise the same issues, thus reducing the servicing costs on the part of the call center. But since call centers simply can’t, for obvious reasons, allow agents to talk to customers on the phone forever, it makes sense to include AHT in the picture.
The metrics used in measuring your call center agents’ productivity can greatly affect how they behave on the phone. Since agents are the call center’s front line, it’s important for you to choose wisely what indicators will be utilized in assessing their performance. Being quick in helping customers may seem to be a nice goal to reach, but being efficient is a more productive end goal worth achieving.