Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

In this article we talk about Contact Centre Average Handling Time.

So put your feet up on the couch and tell the Dr. – for heaven’s sake, why are we all still talking about Average Handling Time?

The more you talk about Average Handling Time, the less you talk about Quality

I have a theory that’s been proven out over the years.

The more a Centre and its inhabitants talk (or fret) about Contact Centre AHT – the less they talk (or fret) about Quality.

Sure – Quality gets lip service (who’s going to bash Quality?) – but it’s AHT that reigns supreme.

And for some inexplicable reason, it’s almost always about the Agents.

Yeah – you know – those Agents who brush their teeth in the bathroom mirror every morning and plot how to sabotage AHT.

A young man brushing his teeth“Hmmmm (they say to themselves) – how could I drag the calls today?”

“A few more holds and a bit of nonsensical small talk and I’m sure I can knock AHT out of whack.”

Really?

Any Quality Assurance professional will tell you a simple truth

Average Handling Time flows from Quality.

Exhaust coming from an automobile tailpipe

Think of it as an output…a byproduct…an emission.

You know those Monitoring Forms with the checklists and standards that QA likes to hand out to let you know how you’re doing with regard to Quality?

Those Forms dictate – to an important degree – your Contact Centre Average Handling Time.

Want Agents to use the Customer’s name 3x? Ok – that’ll be about 15 seconds.

Want Agents to say “Is there anything else I can do to help you today (and mean it)?” – that easily adds 7 more seconds.

Need Agents to conduct 2 levels of verification – yup – takes time.

Are you fearless enough to put First Contact Resolution on your Form? Well that’s gonna cost you too (in time that is).

If your Agent scores 100% Quality on their call and you still have to talk to them about their Average Handling Time something’s wrong with the Form or something’s wrong with your Quality process.

A guru floating in the air As I like to say when I transition into ‘guru’ mode – when your Agent achieves Quality – and it just feels right – then Average Handling Time will be what it will be.

Contact Centre Average Handling Time flows from Quality.

But most assuredly Quality does not flow from Contact Centre Average Handling Time!

A delicious piece of chocolate lava cakeDid you ever order chocolate lava cake for dessert in a restaurant? It’s delicious.

But the menu often says “please order early, or just be aware it will take about 20 minutes for us to make you this delicious chocolate lava cake”.

I’ve never seen it happen that a Diner bangs the table and says – “Hey, Chef baby – make me one of those delicious chocolate lava cakes in 10 minutes – you hear? ”

So what’s the best way to correct Contact Centre Average Handling Time at the Agent level?

The best way has always been – and it will continue to be – conducting root cause analysis at the Agent level.

Watch the Agent at work, listen to calls, correct what needs to be corrected (sometimes it’s a piece of equipment, sometimes it’s knowledge or skill).

When you fix Agent Quality – you automatically fix AHT. It’s an outcome – not a driver.

Of course having a guideline helps.

Contact Centre AHT lends itself beautifully to measurement as an ‘acceptable range’.

A graph showing acceptable range

For example an ‘acceptable’ range for your Centre AHT in the mornings might range from a low of 3 minutes to a high of 6 minutes.

I’d set my ‘acceptable’ range based on my high performers in quality – if your call is great quality-wise – then by default the AHT is acceptable. (if something isn’t broken in how you measure Quality).

Armed with a range, you can track performance across your Team Members and identify outliers – for example those who are consistently above or below the acceptable range for that time period.

This approach allows you to focus in on folks who may have some barrier in their way.

Do remember though –

Acceptable ranges are not consistent throughout the day – some Centres see longer AHT in the night hours as compared to the morning hours (for example).

You have to adjust your ranges based on your call mix, Customer mix and the like.

If you’re in WFM Average Handling Time matters

Have you made it this far? Cool.

If you are in WFM (Workforce Management), Average Handling Time is super important. You need accurate figures and thinking to forecast well.

And WFM folks – like the best Contact Centre Managers – understand that the biggest improvements in Average Handling Time come from technology and process improvement.

Not bashing Agents.

As you’ve figured out, this article is about Agents and Average Handling Time.

What they control. Versus the other drivers of Average Handling Time which lie largely outside their control.

When you consider all the factors that drive Average Handling Time, Agents themselves have relatively minor impact overall.

Their impact comes through the application of their Knowledge, Skills & Abilities as selected, trained and coached by their Organization.

Making this a shared responsibility.

Industry wide, Average Handling Time for voice calls is going up

Children in front of a fun-house mirrorAs the world increasingly becomes digital, Customers reach out to voice channels when their issue is complex.  Or they are confused or unhappy with something.

Coupled with the digitization of ‘simple’ inquiries the outcome is clear,  While voice volumes may be stabilizing in volume for some Centres, Average Handling Time continues to climb.

Feel better? I do

It won’t do you or your Team Members any good to have an artificial clock ticking in their ear while trying to listen, empathize and resolve a Customer enquiry.

If you’re a Manager or Team Leader who still harps on individual Agent Average Handling Time rethink your value.

It’s not 1973 anymore.

https://www.omnitouchinternational.com/what-lessons-contact-centre-folks-can-learn-from-cx-folks/

Thank you for reading!

Thank you for taking the time to read this article.

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Daniel Ord

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

Daniel Ord teaches social media in Fiji

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