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Contact centers are always concerned with performance and metrics. Call center agents have to be fast in both handling customers and solving technical issues. Even though these issues are sometimes complex, they still have to maintain their productivity and ensure customers are satisfied. As such, one of the Key Performance Indicators in a contact center is average handle time (AHT).

Tips on reducing the handle time in calls centers across the globe.

Average handle time is the measure of how long a contact center agent speaks to the customer. Assessing the average handle time helps to improve agents' productivity. It also ensures customers are satisfied while placing the company at a competitive table.

Start with Agent’s Coaching

Contact center agents are the face of your brand. Customers will meet them, not you, at the first step. This means they should be highly trained on customer handling and time-saving tips.

Agents have to understand what contact center solutions are and how to use them to serve customers faster. They should also know from whom and where to source relevant information regarding the customers’ requests. By learning these secrets, call center agents will understand the company’s products and services and how to solve technical issues efficiently.

Streamlining Agent Workflows and Processes

Another way to lower handle time is by optimizing agents’ workflows and processes to maximize their productivity. A contact center manager should focus on spotting inefficient agents and eliminating anything that increases handling time yet does not lead to positive feedback.

A good way to streamline agents’ workflow is using customer service solutions and hosted contact center solutions. With these in place, managers can automate all manual agents’ tasks to reduce their busy hours and improve productivity.

Analyze Agent Performance with Recorded Calls

Recording every call handled by your agents is another great way to analyze their performance. By using call center software, managers can now measure the productivity of contact center agents and identify challenging areas. The software also facilitates call recording and helps managers to access their desired insights and eliminate things that might increase handle time. Call recordings can also be used during agent training.

Use Focused Customer Greetings

How agents use opening and closing customer greeting matters a lot when measuring their performance and handle time. To reduce average handling time, call center agents should use focused and quicker customer greetings. For example, instead of using "Good Evening Sir? How are you? How may we help you?, use a direct greeting like "Hello, how may I help you?

Going directly to the service request also instigates the customer to move directly to the issue while still feeling welcomed and “heard.” Agents can also personalize the conversation by ensuring the customers' data is always up-to-date. This can be achieved through effective CRM solutions which improve customer interactions.

Utilize Robust Contact Center Technology

With the adverse contact center digital transformation, every company is now rushing to improve its technical efficiency. Therefore, a call center should ensure service solutions and other internal infrastructure work perfectly to have high-quality customer service.

Average handling time will increase if the system response time and the loading speed are low. This means a contact center director should always check the system's efficiency and ensure the contact center dashboard runs smoothly. Such efficiencies can be gauged from the number of windows opened at one time, telephone connectivity, and voice clarity.

Check on Every Call Type

A contact center receives different types of calls. While some customers may be calling for payment issues, others will be calling regarding system complaints and other issues. All these calls have different average handling times. Therefore, agents' performance should also be measured based on the type of calls they handle.

While some calls may take a shorter time to reach a solution, others may take longer to satisfy customers. The call types and the contact center experience with different issues should be considered when calculating average handle time.

Don’t Overlook the Agent’s Experience

Contact center agents may have an equal amount of training on the processes and tips to lower AHT. However, when it comes to service delivery, some agents might be better at customer handling than others. Managers and directors should identify different levels of agents' performance and grade their experience based on customer satisfaction.

Experienced agents need to be motivated and encouraged to share their tips with others to achieve improved performance. Alternatively, a company can employ a contact center advisor to teach inexperienced agents how to lower AHT and maximize customer satisfaction.

Using an Effective Knowledge Base

Lack of an effective knowledge base in a contact center can also increase handle time and reduce customer satisfaction grading. A call center should have supporting material readily available for the agents. This helps them to quickly access information needed and answer customers’ questions faster. Instead of thinking about technical questions raised by customers, which may increase AHT, agents can read the information from the knowledge base and answer the customers.

Sending Out Regular Updates

Ensuring agents are up-to-date with the trends is also the easiest way to reduce handle time in a contact center. By sending out regular emails and notifications, agents are equipped with efficient call center forecasting and can handle customers much easier. Being updated with the regular information helps agents to predict what they should expect from customers.

Contact center managers should notify agents of any promotion and offer for them to be alerted in case a customer calls regarding the information.

Listening to A Full Explanation of The Problem Before Giving Solution

It may sound almost counterproductive for contact center agents to ask for a full explanation before offering a solution. However, if the agent takes time to listen to the problem, they will find a solution faster than an interrupted conversation.

Listening to the customer first also ensures the agent does not ask the customer to repeat the question or information later. As the agent listens to the explanation, they can quickly identify a reliable knowledge base that will provide quicker solutions. Of course, active listening is one of the qualities outlined in a contact center agent job description.

The Bottom Line

Minimizing average handle time in a call center is not only about measuring an agent's performance. It also impacts the overall customer satisfaction and improves the company's key performance indicators.

Therefore, as a contact center representative, you have to balance the speed and quality of your service. You should also ensure the happiness and satisfaction metrics of your customers are always high. Reducing handle time also saves money on all company operations.

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