June 10, 2019 | By

The Death of Average Handle Time: Now What?

Average Handle Time (AHT) has long been a key metric associated with driving down costs. But AHT doesn’t measure the big picture of customer satisfaction, which drives up revenue: A 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75% , according to Bain & Company.

It’s time to get comfortable with AHT increasing if it’s in service of driving metrics associated with prioritizing the customer experience (CX), like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT).

But the reality is, call centers still need to keep costs under control. So how do you do both – save costs while still providing a differentiated customer support experience?


1. Automate what’s possible.

Think about the tools that you use. Many may offer powerful ways to automate like scripts, or snippets of code, that can trim down the routine tasks that your agents are doing manually. For example, a customer of ours was spending an average of 11 minutes on note taking, so instead they created a wrap-up template with very clear fields and dropdowns to save time, and therefore costs, without sacrificing NPS.

Predefined responses are another powerful way to save time when answering commonly asked questions. I shadowed a customer and noticed agents were manually typing out, “How can I help you?” That question can easily be added to the original automated greeting.


2. Give your team super powers.

At one call center I shadowed, the managers didn’t have access or permissions to reporting. How can leaders help teams improve if they can’t even benchmark performance? It’s important to trust the people who know your tools and give them the permissions they need to get the job done.

And look out for red tape. After shadowing another customer, I found a lot of little ways to gain efficiencies, which given their volume of sessions, added up to significant savings. But their process doesn’t support optimization agility. They’re still working on one little configuration change a year later.


3. Be where your agent is.

On average, an agent has 17-40 tools open at once. We’d all like that single pane of glass, but that’s probably not going to happen. That said, there are ways to consolidate applications by taking advantage of out-of-the-box (OOB) integrations/APIs for the tools you already have. This allows your agents to work more efficiently without leaving the application where they spend the bulk of their time.

For example, a lot of Rescue customers use Salesforce as their CRM – and that’s the place agents spend most of their time. By leveraging Rescue’s OOB integration with Salesforce, agents have a way to launch a session or even generate a PIN from within Salesforce instead of opening up another tool. There’s a lot of cost savings associated with leveraging these integrations.

If you have a tool that doesn’t offer an OOB integration, check to see if your vendor has an API for building that integration or Professional Services to do it for you.

4. Map their journey.

It’s a healthy exercise to periodically audit your customer journey with a cross-functional team. Look for any roadblocks that can be removed to create a more positive experience without hindering your process. Then, take it one step further: Can you differentiate that experience based on criteria like being a premier customer or a specific product associated with that customer? Maybe you can create a Calling Card to offer a differentiated, branded experience.

Really this is about keeping customer empathy front and center. I’ve seen some customers that even have a “Customer Empathy” visual reminder on their desktops. It sounds silly, but it helps agents build this ethos into their everyday work.


5. Leverage your partners.

Extract more value out of the tools in your portfolio by leveraging the Customer Success experts at the companies you partner with who want to ensure your success with these tools. I know we’ve helped a lot of customers improve their NPS 10 points or more, which is nothing to sneeze at.

If your point of contact can understand what you’re trying to achieve they can offer suggestions and solutions, from branding to integrations to optimizations. Ultimately this will empower your agents, making their work more satisfying and reducing agent turnover.


To learn much more about this topic with more details on how you can economize in your call center, view the webinar Death of Average Handle Time: Your Support Experience, Reimagined.

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