How To Reduce After Call Work In A Call Center Without Losing Productivity?

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The operation of call centers is a highly profitable and valuable activity for every business. To orchestrate pursuing every financial goal and ensure the endeavors of call center agents, you need to tackle the most demanding customer issues.

Source: Average duration of the call in the UK in the private and government sector, Statista Research Departement

What is ACW in a call center?

After-call work is the activity of an agent regarding the call that encompasses filling data in a CRM system, customer card, or database. Mainly ACW call center routine consists of filling in the information in the database. 

The information is valuable for other departments or agents within a company. Proper filling of the database and customer card guarantees up-to-date insights about customers and lasting business relationships. It is a short answer to the question of what after call work definition is. Below you will see the big picture and define the real value of ACW.

What is the most frequent after-call activity?

The most frequent after-call activity is finding a solution for the customer's request within one call and making records about this. Yet the most frequent activities regarding customers are:

  • Updating Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system;
  • Making notes about conversations to make them useful in the future;
  • Noticing feedback;
  • Closing a sale, filing database, 
  • Sending an email or calling to department/transferring a call to another agent; 
  • Regarding an issue, scheduling follow-up calls to customers;
  • Updating accounts, etc.

Measuring and calculating ACW time

Measuring ACW time gives you valuable insights into how to tackle an agent's after-work time. To measure this time successfully, take the Automatic Call Distribution system (ACD) as a source for collecting data about each agent and how they use their billable time. 

Most ACD systems keep agents in a (not ready) mode while they take time to fill information in a database. This mode ensures agents are free from being included in a queue line so customers can call them. 

Frankly, the system highlights the seconds and minutes that agents spend in that mode. Managers of call centers easily observe data about their activity. Thus gathering insights from the ACD system about the (not ready) mode you can calculate the average ACW. 

And it’s easy to calculate the average after-work time for a particular agent. Use this formula for calculations: Total after call work time/ Total number of calls agent handled = Average ACW time for an agent.

How ACW impacting on average handle time (AHT)

Average handle time is the activity of an agent that includes all necessary routines regarding calling and filling in information about the customer or account until the agent will be free for the next call. 

Average handle time encompasses Average Talk time, Average hold time, and After Call Time. To find out real AHT time, use the formula:

AHT= Average Talk Time + Average Hold Time + After call time/number of calls.

From this formula we conclude, the higher after work time, the higher the average handle time.

Notice that AHT ranges from industry to industry. One of the industries has a high AHT time and others don't. Among all industries, the average handle time is 6 minutes. The technical support teams have the highest AHT time in the call center industry. 

Virtually the more your AHT, the more cost per call you have in your call center. But this is only a small view on the situation with the AHT. Depending on the industry, call center, technology, and staff it may range from low to high.

Solutions on how to decrease AHT time

There is no blueprint for each call center on how to decrease AHT time. Frankly, there is no necessity to do it unless you reduce time without damaging the outcome. However, here are some tips that you can use to reduce AHT time:

  • Have the reps search in the knowledge base while talking with a customer;
  • Have the reps put a customer on hold while getting an answer;
  • Have reps transfer a customer to a senior colleague or expert.

The After call time significantly depends on the industry your company is in:

  • Finance, technical support, health care, insurance, IT, and real estate has the lengthier periods of ACW;
  • Retail, for example, has on average short ACW periods due to the short phone conversations;

The more experienced the agent in your call center, the lower usually ACW time. Experienced agents know more about customers and their requests, how to address them, or who transfers. They also have explicit knowledge about technologies and software in a particular call center.

On the contrary, newbies naturally need more time for handling calls, on-hold time, finding a solution or transferring information, and time for filling CRM systems and databases. 

Consider that these cases do not show the big picture about ACW time because every call differentiates with its uniqueness and the agent that handles it. 

How does ACW influence productivity

The question about high ACW time and the good or bad impact it brings is tricky. It’s because each call center has a unique goal and corporate culture. 

Take a look at these two real scenarios:

  • For experienced agents. The agent talks with the customer for 120 seconds, while the agent fills the database and CRM system with valuable notes about customers. No additional time is needed.
  • For newbies agents. The agent talks with the customer for 120 seconds, and after the call, spends another 120 seconds filling the database about a customer. There is a necessity for additional time.

The factors that increase ACW time:

  • Unique information about the customer or solution;
  • Logging the outcome that impacts on account of a customer;
  • Financial information about customers or updates;
  • Occupancy of calls more than 85% within 20 seconds;

Factors that decrease ACW time:

  • Logging while talking with a customer;
  • Obvious logging already filled in forms, so agents need to copy and paste them into the form;
  • Increased speed of typing notes or updates;

Reviewing routine on filling documentation and database there are some tips: 

  • Are filling materials, cards, documents in this way still applicable? 
  • Could these routine tasks be reduced in terms of less writing, using abbreviations, or be completely excluded?
  • Is there any duplication that could be excluded?

The reasons for increasing ACW

There is a natural reason for increasing ACW time, and one of them is the overwhelming and burning out of agents. When the occupancy of customers is higher than 85%, it starts to overload agents, and they instinctively try to spend more time in the ACW routine.

Remember that the golden standard for call centers is 80% of customers processed in 20 seconds (80/20). Some of the top call centers increased that rate to 85/20. But those call centers that increased occupancy by more than 85% within 20 seconds create a tight room for agents and inevitably put them in the burnout position, and they start to seek relief. 

The second reason for the big ACW time is a technical issue. Call centers without proper technologies and software are incapable to handle a high incoming volume of calls, even if there are highly experienced agents. Call center software, for instance, drastically eases the work of agents and thus reduces after-calling work. 

It’s just doing the routine for the agent, so they concentrate on what they do and are energized during the day. Instead of paperwork of any kind, use a CRM and a database embedded in the call center’s software.

The third reason is an unpleasant one, it's the intention of particular agents to increase their idleness through slow typing or filling the database. 

It’s pretty easy to define those agents that use this unfair tactic. Managers need to observe their activity, and when they catch them by hand, interview them on the cause. Preventing all these reasons will significantly give you decent productivity in ACW time.  

Reducing after call time for the contact center 

Pressing ACW time is possible, yet it brings positive or negative impact to the call center. Put an after-call work timer in front of the eyes of agents. When agents start to make their ACW routine, the clock starts ticking and reminds them about time. The surveys show that this method is workable and increases productivity without reducing quality. 

Other managers are eager to press ACW time by limiting ACW routine through establishing exact seconds or minutes for the work. They try to establish the hard coding ACW time model. For example, they're limiting after-call work for 30 seconds. These are the most effective after call work tips regarding pressing ACW time: 

  • Pressing is possible, for agents that spend little time on conversations with customers it is appropriate;
  • Pressing is harmful to agents that need to solve challenging issues, this time could be too short because agents are incapable to handle these requests or filling data in a database;
  • The incapacity of agents to make ACW work with quality causes frequent calls from customers. During the shift, agents will be stressed and start to make critical mistakes. As a result, pressing ACW time in that way brings negative impact, and overall productivity decreases.

Encourage detail note-taking

Taking notes is important in any industry call center work. Frankly, it's no matter whether your contact center operates as a private, government or a third party. Notes in a database about each customer, influence on other departments of a company.

If the quality of these notices is poor or irrelevant, it diminishes all work of a contact center afterward. And this is the way contact centers must not work. 

So managers must encourage agents to make detailed notes or notes with abbreviations as long as these notices are possible to interpret by other departments and agents. All notices must mirror the real situation with the customer and not mislead other agents or departments of a company. 

Optimizing agent training

Training of agents towards improving after-call time will be useful. In fact, trained agents in a long perspective will significantly reduce the cost per call for a call center by reducing ACW time.

The ways agent can significantly improve their ACW time is by taking these steps:

Making notices while talking. It’s the practice when your call center’s agents start to make notices while talking with a customer. The mechanism is that the agent asks relevant questions, takes small pauses, making notices without hanging up. 

The technique works extremely well because if there are any doubts, agents can ask again for a particular issue during a call. 

Fast typing notes in the database. If your agents are really fast typewriters, they can make notes within seconds. Thus, they will save time for talking with other customers;

Copy and Paste. If agents meet the common solutions on a customer’s issue, they can copy and paste it. By doing so, it will significantly reduce the speed of ACW time;

Managers show how to. Managers in particular call centers observe the most common mistakes agents make during a shift and show resolution during meetings. For managers, it’s critical to arrange meetings and provide live training sessions to eliminate those mistakes from work.

Managers need to use their power to eliminate all mistakes that they define from the work of agents. And prevent escalations when it brings lower productivity to all agents. The other cause of the negative impact of the mistake is that the longer it will last, the more time managers need to re-train agents for the right way of work.

Other agents, especially newbies, can copy the same mistake from agents and start to do the same way.

Teaching abbreviations. The most common words in a database of call centers must be abbreviations that reduce typing activity. For example, CUS: customer, TECH: technology, INFO: information, SAT: satisfied, DISS: dissatisfied, etc. 

Teaching vocabulary may be the solution for a call center and the benefits in saving time and money are tremendous. 

Discussing with staff and experienced agents. When you arrange the meeting, you need to gather all the staff to talk about after-call time. Discuss, with experienced and newbies agents, what ACW time will be the most appropriate. Of course, experienced agents need less time, and newbies have to make notices longer. 

The result of that discussion must be whether a call center needs a pressed ACW time or not. 

Ensure technology usage. While you train agents to make notices in ACW time, you need to ensure that anyone in a call center has the skills to use software, databases, and knowledge bases effectively. It happens all the time when agents pick up the phone, and make successful conversations, but are incapable of using all facets of the software.

Managers must ensure that every agent knows how to use CRM, database, knowledge base, and other activities regardless of their work. Sometimes to ensure successful work, they need to take agents (especially newbies) and tell them to demonstrate their skills in real-time by opening CRM, databases, filling cards, and using knowledge bases. A manager must define what agents have decent skills in using software and what agents have something to learn about it.

Eliminating redundant processes in your work

Eliminating redundant processes not only consumes less time, but it’s much easier to implement work without any additional typing, sending, talking, even clicking. 

Managers must define redundant processes and teach agents how to eliminate them from their work.

  • For example, managers can eliminate such processes as:
  • Filing documents;
  • Use long words, instead of abbreviations; 
  • Duplication of the same information in different sources; 

Integrate call center software with business tools

To make work much easier you need call center software. It eliminates the chore from the work of agents and provides them with easy-to-understand insights about each customer in the database. 

Agents are able to concentrate only on the work and not give any second thought to dialing, searching, and updating different applications of their workplace.

To make it successful every manager must ensure 100% integration of their business tools, CRM, and databases with call center software. 

Automate tasks

It’s easy to automate most of the tasks in a call center. All you need to do is to arrange time and data for a particular task in the call center and make this information accessible to agents. So every agent will see when they need to work on a particular assignment and what time they need to delegate to it. 

Gather and analyze feedback

Gathering and analyzing feedback from your customers, agents, and other departments agents work with is crucial. When customers complain that information they gave to agents previously is different from today's, it gives you ideas on how to tackle this issue. 

The same thing with other departments. If technical or sales departments frequently complain about information from agents, particularly that information is irrelevant or poor, managers need to revise the activity of particular agents and define how to solve this issue. 

These issues are possible to solve through:

  • Identifying particular agents;
  • Training them on how to avoid these mistakes;
  • Showing them examples of how to avoid these mistakes in the future. 

Use knowledge bases and scripts

Using scripts and knowledge bases for agents will significantly improve their activity. When agents meet difficult questions in most stressful situations or customers are nervous, scripts will give them ideas on how to win more time for finding a solution and searching for the answer.

Scripts must be written by experienced agents and managers. In writing scripts, firstly, you need to write about the most frequent questions that agents meet. And then move the less frequent questions. By doing so, you’ll create a complete scripting base that will be crucial in the most stressful moments. 

The same thing with knowledge bases for agents. This base must be completed and revised by managers and experienced agents for mistakes and possible rewriting. Sometimes these bases operate terminology or vocabulary that is not on the agent's vocabulary. 

There has to be a way to correct these types of chunks of text, so everyone in a call center could use them effectively in conversations. The knowledge base must be readable for agents, so their eyes will not be irritated during the working shift. 

It’s useful for example to make such steps in improving eye relief:

  • Using 12 or 14 pt for body text in your documents. It’s much easier to read and it is helpful for agents with fading eyesight.
  • Using white background on black body text. Black words on a white screen provide the best readability. All other colors reduce the attention of the agent. 
  • The most relevant information must be highlighted. It’s easy to lose in the database when you have chunks of text without highlighting. 
  • Subheads on the most useful information are crucial, it helps to fast and easily find the necessary text. 
  • Visuals or photos. If you include visuals or photos it must work in tune with information because any visuals will distract the agent from the content.

Call disposition

Call disposition code is the vital information that agents put into the database for future usage by the company. In fact, this information includes:

  • Phone number of customer, account (e.g. +1 720-352-5005, Mr. Smith);
  • Purpose of the call. Making order of product or service, technical assistance or consultation;
  • The outcome of the call. Order of the product resolved the technical problem, achieved consultation;
  • Actions requested by customer or company for reaching specific results. If there is no option to resolve the requested issue within one call, the agent puts it to action in the schedule or transfers information to other departments for specific actions. 

How to improve ACW time in your call center?

For more than a decade, Voiptime Cloud company creates and delivers top-tier software for call centers over the globe to ensure less ACW time as possible and increase the productivity of agents by tenfold. Using ACW call center metrics will significantly ease your tracking of after-call work.

Our expertise in different types of call centers gives us a decent knowledge about constructing call centers for small and mid-sized businesses. 

The Voiptime Cloud team is constantly updating and improving software to make your call center work perfectly. Would you like to try this software in your call center? If so, click the get a quote below, fill the form, and our team will contact you for additional details. After talking with our team, your call center starts to work within 48 hours.

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