In a contact center, average handling time (AHT) is one of the key aspects to measure its overall performance. It provides insights into the contact center agent’s performance, and, also, what can be done to enhance the same. If AHT increases, it means the workload on the part of agents increases, too. This may need reinforcement to handle your customers. But, at the same time, it is significant to know why it increases, and what measures can be adopted to optimize, and thus know your staffing requirements and ensure smooth contact center operations.

There are various ways to decrease it, though, either by asking your agents to speed up the conversation, but it has its issues as some customers might not like agents over-managing the calls, or by way of increasing the number of agents to handle the calls, which may impact your bottom line. For many contact centers, augmenting the workforce is not always feasible. Therefore, they often resort to asking the agents to reduce the amount of time spent on a call by various methods such as speeding up the calls, cutting on unnecessary conversations, and directly getting to the point. But all these methods ultimately impact the customer relation continuum, which is not a good long-term strategy for a call center looking to grow. What is worse, all these tactics or methods to manage calls to reduce average handling time (AHT) often result in lesser repeat calls and new demand. Furthermore, in their resolve to reduce AHT, contact center agents often try to focus away from resolving customers’ queries, thereby lowering the First Contact Resolution (FCR) rates. Here, investing in sound contact center software solutions can be a good idea.

Below are the 15 things that you can do to reduce average handling time (AHT) and keep your customers happy and satisfied as well as your agents less burdened yet more enthusiastic during calls –

1. Automate Responses:

Often, some customers are only looking for information that may not require contact center agent intervention. All such responses can be automated by adopting a smart contact center solution that can reduce the burden on contact agents. Though this might increase the AHT on individual calls, in reality, it will have a positive impact as the workload on contact agents will reduce, allowing them to focus more on resolving customer queries at the first contact itself, thereby improving customer satisfaction.

2. Give More Time to Customer Calls than to Any Other Thing:

Most of the time, contact center agents look so particular about keying in certain information related to calls after the call is over that they tend to rush through the talk they are having with customers. The result is a dissatisfied or annoyed customer, which may also result in increasing AHT instead. Therefore, during a call, it is a much better approach on the part of contact agents to focus more on customer talk than anything else.

3. Focus on Resolving Customer Queries at the First Contact:

By emphasizing First contact resolution (FCR) will help your agents to resolve customer queries in the first call itself and avoid repeated calls from the customers for the same issues, thereby reducing the AHT.

4. Encourage Contact Agents to Suggest Ways to Improve the Process:

Your agents have the first-hand experience of talking to your customers. Though it may not always be possible to provide satisfactory resolutions to your customers’ queries given the limitations of your current process, you can always ask your agents to pitch in and suggest ways to improve the responses for a satisfactory resolution.

5. Make Use of Call Routing as an Effective Tool to Resolve Queries:

Make use of IVR or any other appropriate system to route a particular query to the best-suited team or agent trained to resolve any such query is a great way to reduce AHT and increase customer satisfaction.

6. Identify Time-Consuming Things with the Help of Your Agents:

Let your agents listen to their conversations and help them find what makes them spend more time on some calls.

7. Make AHT Part of Your Training:

Developing an understanding of average handling time (AHT) on the part of your agents through training will help them know its significance and increase their efficiency.

8. Focus on What is Not a Part of the Customer Experience:

It is also important to focus on things that don’t add up to the overall customer experience. Reducing such instances from your productive time will help in lowering the AHT.

9. Listen, Answer, Ask Method can Make Your Calls More Productive:

With this method, your understanding and responses will look more efficient. Furthermore, asking your customers will help move the conversation towards a logical end to reduce AHT and increase customer satisfaction levels.

10. Promote Cross-Team Working:

It will help to develop an understanding among various teams in your organization and bring in the much-required synergy and coordination in the working of the organization. This will reduce bottlenecks impacting the process and improve customer satisfaction.

11. Realigning Your Script to Reduce Time Spent on a Call:

Realigning the script from time to time by reducing unnecessary portions will help you cut down on average handling time. Therefore, it is a good idea to have a sound scripting tool in place. If you might also need to go for a contact center interface/software that can be updated to provide smart responses on as and when basis, do consider an upgrade.

12. Focus on Wrap-Up Time:

Focusing on the wrap-up, which is part of average handling time, can help you understand how to reduce the AHT. There are several ways by which you can reduce the wrap-up time % from your AHT. Speed up your system, use abbreviations, and try completing some part of your after-call-work (ACW) during the call.

13. Train Your Agents on How to Conduct a Call from the Beginning to the End:

Your agents need to get the basics of a conversation right by focusing on what things constitute the beginning, middle, or end of a call. This will help them keep the element of average handling time in mind.

14. Use Your Official Website as the First Point of Contact to Reduce Incoming Calls:

It is a very effective tool to drive down the incoming calls and reducing the burden on your system.

15. Promote Self-Help:

Encourage your customers to use the self-help method to find answers to their queries with the help of a How-to guide or through FAQs.

Of course, to reduce the AHT to a respectable level, you might also need to invest in a sound contact center software that can help get the most of your customer interactions for highly satisfactory customer relations.