What One Metric Do All Frontline Call Center Leaders Need To Focus On To Drive Agent Performance

Call Center Agent

The one metric all front-line call center leaders need to drive agent performance is Average Handle Time (AHT).  AHT is a vital, operational indicator of your call center. To make this point clear, scheduling and calculating staffing needs rely on accurate, AHT data. A slight reduction in AHT in a high call volume call center can significantly impact your bottom line: lowering operating costs.

While AHT is the measurement to describe the servicing process, focusing on optimizing said process to improve AHT is the place to start.  It is inconceivable that a call center leader would make any changes toward the improvement of call center outcomes without considering the impact of the customer service quality of every call handled in the call center.

So, this rationale begs the question: how is the AHT lowered without compromising quality call service?

Let’s back up, shall we?

What exactly do we mean when we say, “AHT.”  According to searchcrm.techtarget.com, Average Handle Time is “the total amount of work time related to calls, including average talk time (ATT) and average after call work time (ACW), divided by the number of calls handled.” In other words, AHT is the time agent is investing in each call, including any time spent on that customer’s behalf after the call has concluded. Therefore, enhancing the performance of your agent is paramount to decreasing AHT.  But, how do you do it without compromising quality, customer service?

CCT125x125If you strictly manage to a lower AHT, what will happen?  You know what will happen.  Your agents will figure it out.  Invariably, they will hit the mark you are asking them to hit, by lowering their AHTs.  Unfortunately, lower AHTs for the sake of lower AHTs leads to a poor quality of calls, lower sales and higher call volume.

“Houston, we have a problem.”

What to do?  What is the solution?

Since your AHT is the outcome of the servicing process, the solution must center on the quality of the servicing process.  In order to approach this solution, you must analyze the existing process by mapping the contact flow.  Through close examination, you will be able to identify components in the process that can be maximized, minimized or eliminated.  More specifically, to begin, you must identify the effectiveness of the servicing process. Your agents must utilize a process that sets up a frictionless interaction between them and their customers.

The next step to take is one of efficiency.  By employing technology to assist agents, call center leaders can considerably effect the process without adversely effecting call quality.

Coaching your agents through CTI (Computer Telephony Integration) will allow you to minimize valuable, wasted seconds on the phone by scripting an introduction that will begin each call efficiently. Finally, a comprehensive, educational program of the products and services to be sold will build the effective knowledge of your agents so that they can have a working knowledge.  Each agent having a working knowledge of the products and/or services can add a personal touch to the quality of each call that fosters an interaction between agent and customer that is relational and thus, a comfortable experience for the customer.

In the final analysis, AHT is an important operational indicator.  Does it tell the “whole story?”  No, but it is a tip of the iceberg that tells you where to go from there.  As you know, like any iceberg, you can’t see most of the iceberg because it lies under the icy-cold water.  In using your AHT as an indicator, improving your agents’ AHT relies on tweaking what you can’t see in one, raw number.  So, to drive agent performance, start with your AHT.

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To Your Success,

Greg Meares

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About the Author: Greg Meares

As a Sr. Consultant for Performance Connections, Inc., Greg's primary objective is to provide value to organizations that are focused on raising brand awareness. Additionally Greg works on improving the customer experience, through business process re-engineering, and call center best practices. Greg is an industry expert and is often called upon to provide his analysis and solution oriented approach to improving performance in the BPO and Call Center industry.

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