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Decreasing Your Average Handle Time May Be the Worst Thing You Can Do in Your Contact Center

Often the default goal of contact center optimization is lower average handle times (AHT). With the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) tools specifically designed to help agents handle calls more efficiently we are seeing a new emphasis reducing AHT. The real question organizations should be asking themselves is “How do I create more meaningful interactions?”


The most obvious question is how to measure meaningful interactions. Here are some tips of other metrics to consider:

First call resolution – according to a SQM study for each 1% improvement in FCR a company can expect a 1% improvement in CSAT and a 1-5% improvement in ESAT.


With benefits like these do you care if your AHT doesn’t improve? Do you care if it increases?


This is why having a complete view of your contact center metrics is critical. What does a 1-5% increase in your ESAT scores do for retention? How much lower is your turnover in that scenario and how does that correlate to a decrease in expenses associated with employee turnover?


How does an increase in CSAT correlate to customer retention? How about how much money a consumer is willing to spend? Their willingness to refer friends and family to your company. The online reviews they will leave?

Answering all customers questions – a recent study from CallMiner and Forrester suggests that answering all of a customer’s questions can lead to between $50 and $324 more revenue per customer.


It seems an obvious conclusion is that answering all a customer’s questions likely will take longer than answering some of their questions. Are your agents asking open ended questions to ensure any customer concerns are resolved or are they following a closed ended script with the goal of extracting yes/no answers from the customers to shorten the call?


The good news here is that this calculation is much more straightforward. Take the number of customers serviced by your contact center by the anticipated revenue increase and compare that to any labor savings from lowered AHT and see which goal makes more sense to pursue answering all questions or lowering AHT.

Net Promoter Score – “While perhaps initially surprising to some, we discovered that there’s a definite correlation between NPS and average handle time—but it’s not what you might think. Calls with a higher average handle time led to higher NPS. Building a relationship with a customer takes time, and while everything in the sales world points to the need to always strive for a low AHT, our study reveals that there is definite value in spending the time and money to turn a customer into a promoter.” – Adam Mergist, COO, Clearlink. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.


Cross sell/upsell/revenue recapture – if agents are actively cross selling and upselling, naturally calls take longer. We would venture to guess that if you measured the AHT of your most successful agents when it comes to cross selling and upselling, they would have a much higher AHT than your least successful agents.


You may be asking what is revenue recapture? This is what Eclipse calls the measurement of the amount of revenue you save during a customer interaction that would decrease revenue. Think of returns, cancellation of services, etc.


Any interaction where a customer intends to complete an action that results in money being returned to them from your company. It takes time to determine why a customer is returning an item and finding a suitable replacement product that may better meet their needs or to explain the benefits of a service they want to cancel.

We are not advocating that contact center leaders don’t monitor and optimize AHT. We are suggesting that measuring other metrics may be more meaningful to your contact center.


The important thing to measure is the movement of these metrics in relation to AHT. Does lowering your AHT also lower your FCR or NPS? What about your ability to cross sell and upsell? You must understand those tradeoffs and proceed with caution. Improvements in labor costs by improving AHT can be quickly offset by customers spending less money with your organization due to a rushed experience.


Struggling to get your hands around measuring these metrics? Not sure how to move the needle on the metrics we recommend monitoring? Contact us here and we can help align you to tools that can do both measure and improve these metrics.


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