Historically, AHT is used to ensure front line employees are mindful of how long they interact with customers. The challenge is that this often results in calls being rushed without the customer inquiry being resolved. The customer then has to call back and is probably frustrated with his/her initial experience. If keeping AHT below a certain target is for the purpose of increasing operational efficiency, it may not work if customers end up calling again - this is more expensive than if the initial call was handled with a longer than normal AHT. Also, customer satisfaction has likely eroded because of having to make a second call.
Proponents of AHT measurement may argue that without a target in place, employees may take excessive liberties regarding how long their calls take, even if in some cases the time was truly necessary to resolve the customer inquiry. This may result in calls that have no real reason to be extended, being longer than necessary - increasing the cost to take calls. And in some cases, it may also negatively affect the customer experience, as most of us look for speedy resolutions to our inquiries.
Another consideration is the importance of AHT in forecasting how many calls you expect to receive and the number of employees needed to handle them. This is a crucial part of effectively running a Call Centre and needs to be considered. Also, let's please remember the inherent stress that develops with employees who feel too much pressure to finish calls within a given period of time - this can substantially impact their engagement.
And so begins the conundrum of what to do with this key Call Centre measurement. This corner will encourage you to only measure leaders on it, and avoid using it as metric for front line employees. We find the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and having worked for an organization that proved this theory, I stand behind it.
Here's our rationale for using it as a business measurement, but not for the front line:
- Measure all Leaders on a Centre wide target (may vary by line of business). This encourages Leaders to track its performance overall by collaborating with one another, and by looking for common themes that may drive it up or down. Front line employees who are far away from the target may still receive extra attention, but it will have a much different feel than the pressure inherent with being measured on AHT directly. Also, it promotes more strategic thinking regarding what could impact AHT, beyond the employees who take the calls, e.g. change in type of calls, system issues, etc.
- Make the use of and measurement of AHT clear to all employees. Everyone should understand why the measurement is so important and the various parts of the Call Centre it impacts, e.g. capacity planning, call forecasting, speed of customer inquiry resolution, etc.
- For employees struggling with AHT, focus on the non talk elements such as hold and wrap time. These are typically easier areas to address and keep the message of trusting employees to use their best judgement clear, when considering how long to talk to customers.
- Leverage your internal quality assurance and coaching programs. This is essential for any great Call Centre. Help employees learn how to best approach a customer conversation - ensure there are specific actions shown that when used, will lead to a better and more effective customer conversation. Let employees listen to their own calls - this helps them participate in their learning!
- Be mindful of the inherent stress of taking 35-50 calls a day. It is difficult work, and requires a ton of patience, discipline, and positive spirit to be successful. Customers are not always happy when they call an organization, and the first person he/she speaks to may not be treated all that well. This can make being patient, pleasant and resourceful difficult.
AHT is a key metric to track and measure in a Call Centre. We simply believe that consideration should be given for how to best do that while building trust with your employees and more effectively resolving customer inquiries along the way. The steps above are proven and do work - just please be patient.
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