If you manage a Call Centre, you know that this can be a big hot-button. In fact, I recently completed a consulting engagement where this was indeed, a heated topic. For those of you managing and/or working in a Call Centre, you likely have an opinion on whether or not to measure call length, including time spent on hold and wrapping up with a customer - in Call Centre terms this is Average Handle Time (AHT).
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:
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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