“I loved being on that long call with customer service, and I wish it could have taken even longer!”
Chances are, that’s a sentence that has never before been spoken. No one in customer contact has ever gotten a review that asked for a longer interaction. Customers want their problems resolved quickly, which is why Average Handle Time (AHT) is one of the most important metrics for contact center success.
AHT is a reflection of a lot of things – some of them out of your control, but most of them that can be managed by smart, targeted training. Reducing AHT is one of the main goals of every contact center, but doing so can be a challenge. Every employee has to feel confident in their interactions in order to reduce or eliminate the factors that increase AHT.
Training is key to reaching your AHT goals. Employees who are well-trained move through interactions more quickly, and find a solution to the customer’s issues. An AI coaching platform can give employees the training and confidence they need to resolve any problem while reducing AHT.
Why Reducing AHT is Crucial for Contact Centers
AHT reduction is key for a number of reasons. When calls are shorter and resolved in a more efficient manner, your operation sees many benefits. These include:
- More interactions handled per hour
- Reduced waiting time for customers
- Less stress on employees
- Fewer complaints
- Better reputation
Reduced AHT has the immediate benefit of operational efficiency, and the long-tail benefit of improving your reputation and increasing your Customer Satisfaction Scores.
The Hidden Factors That Increase AHT
Average Handle Time involves a lot of factors. Some of the factors are influenced by things outside your control, but almost all of them can be shortened by better training and more efficient service.
These factors include:
Total Hold Time
Total hold time starts right when a call/chat starts. In almost every instance, the customer will be placed on hold “until the next service representative is available.” There are a lot of reasons why hold times might be unfortunately lengthy, and some of them are out of your control. Factors like a sale, a recall, staffing issues, or other factors outside the skill of your employees can cause excessive hold times.
How Training Reduces Total Hold Time: even though you can’t directly control how many people are calling all at once, you can control how efficiently you cycle through calls. Employees with comprehensive training can move through more calls per hour, reducing the wait time bottleneck.
Total Transfer Time
Transfer times are one of the most frustrating aspects for customers. Not only does waiting to talk to someone else add to the time they spend during their interaction, but it increases their sense of not being heard. When customers are passed around between departments or to a supervisor, they feel like a problem, not a person. And if they have to start over explaining the issue to a new person, it increases that frustration and adds to the total AHT.
How Training Reduces Total Transfer Time. If an employee can resolve the issue without having to transfer a call, they already can have a huge impact on reducing total time. There are, of course, times when an employee has to transfer a call or kick it upstairs for resolution approval. But knowing the right avenue for transfer, and knowing how to transfer knowledge so that the interaction is seamless, reduces AHT and increases customer satisfaction.
Total Interaction Time
How long is it taking your employee to resolve the issue? How long is the customer actually talking to the employee? How quickly can they understand the issue and figure out the best way to solve it? While waiting on hold or waiting to be transferred can be frustrating for a customer, having to explain their problem over and over again is even worse for their patience. If an agent can quickly resolve the problem, the customer is happy and more likely to be loyal to your company.
How Training Reduces Total Interaction Time. Well-trained employees can recognize the issue quickly, even if the customer doesn’t know how to explain it. We all know that customers don’t always know your product names and don’t have in-depth knowledge of your lingo. They are interacting with employees from their frame of reference. Well-trained employees have the ability to translate customer language into company-specific solutions.
This is one where the customer doesn’t notice, but still takes up employee time. Logging calls, reporting difficulties, and more are a standard part of every interaction. At some level, these can’t be helped, of course. They are mandatory. But when calls go better, the post-contact activity is shorter. A routine interaction makes for easier paperwork.
How Training Reduces After-Interaction Time. Simply put, better training leads to more routine interactions. More routine interactions mean less time spent logging and talking about difficulties. And that means a reduced AHT and more time spent being able to help more customers.
How AI Coaching Leads to a Positive AHT Cycles
Shorter interactions with positive resolutions mean fewer after-interaction activities. That leads to more time on interactions. When those interactions have fewer transfers and quicker resolutions, that leads to the ability to handle more calls or chats. People cycle through quicker, and they are happier. If each employee can handle 2-3 more customers an hour, or even more, you reduce hold times. Every aspect of AHT improves another aspect.
The best way to improve AHT is through training. Employees who are trained well can understand complex or confusing issues, and can move toward a resolution. They can reduce bottlenecks by not needing a problem explained multiple times and not needing to transfer. This kind of expertise comes through real-life experience, not from lectures or scripts – it is the difference between active and passive learning.
The problem is that it’s hard to have real-life training without risking slower interactions by trainees. That’s where an AI coaching platform, like the one created by Zenarate, comes in. The platform can use thousands of real-life interactions to simulate customer calls or chats in all their human unpredictability. The employee will learn empathy, how to think on their feet, and how to cut through confusion to find a solution.
The best part is that they can have real-world experience without any risk. This way, when they are ready to go out on the floor, they are used to challenges. You can use AI to speed up training and, more importantly, to make them experts without hurting your AHT. The result is a reduced AHT, which leads to a better reputation and more organizational success. It’s how you reach your primary goal.
Contact our team today to schedule a demo to learn more about how you can incorporate Zenarate AI Coach into your agent training program. We will answer your questions and show you how you can help your organization develop confidently prepared agents while delivering exceptional experiences to the ones that matter most – your customers.
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