Reduce Call Center Average Wait Time To Profit Today

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It’s presumed to think that average handle time is the top-notch metric for your call center. There're many claims over the internet that each customer service representative screwed up unless the average waiting time on picking up the phone is 20 seconds or so.

However, the Voiptime Cloud company discovered something critical about the connection between poor customer experience and waiting times that will benefit the heads of each call center, no matter the industry. 

Take your time to read about these facts in this article, and you’ll know for sure how to use wait times to ensure a high customer satisfaction rate for the most demanding customers. Even they're forced to wait longer.

Source: FinancesOnline

What is the Average Wait Time? Hint: It's not what most managers think

Before we jump to the subject right away, let’s clarify once and for all one of the most common frustrations about several call centers' KPI. Did you hear that the key agent performance indicator such as the average speed answer (ASA) is similar to the average waiting time (AWT, or Average Time in Queue in a call center)? Well, that’s not true, and many laypeople mix these two definitions.

The Average Wait Time(or Average Time in a Queue) is the period of time the client spends in the call queue before linking to the operator. 

Now, remember this, the average speed of answer refers to the speed at which your call center agent picks up the phone. In other words, this is the time of the phone ringing. The matters of abandon rate, missed customer calls, arranging callbacks, and other KPI, refer to the average waiting time. 

The average waiting time of customer calls starts when the caller enters the queue line. And ends at the moment of connection with the live agent, callback option, or hang up. 

The call center average wait time on non-voice channels such as live chat, messengers, social media, email, or letters, calculated deliberately for each channel.

Hint: Always collect the records about average waiting times on customer calls and non-voice channels to observe the big picture in your contact center.

Now, it’s critical to clarify what’s the difference between missed calls, refused calls, and when they’d become abandoned calls. These bits of information will be useful in your calculations and planning.

Missed calls are calls either disconnected by the ACD system of a call center when the time for ringing is too long. In the case of using call forwarding to another extension or phone number, a particular phone call is considered answered.

Refused calls - routed calls from the queue to an extension until a connection with the agent or hanging up. The refused call becomes an abandoned call if none of the agents pick up the phone or the customer hangs up. The impact on abandonment rate when refused calls are frequent and untracked is unpleasantly high. 

Distinguish these different calls from each other and never mix them to have more accurate data for the calculation of your call center KPI contact center metrics.

What is the Average Wait Time (AWT) for Customer Service Calls?

Across the market, it is an extremely popular practice to focus on the old 80/20 rule, which says us to take at least 80% of calls during the 20-second threshold. But as always happens with industry standards, this rule doesn’t represent the real situation and essence of call center average wait time and its influence on abandonment rate and customer satisfaction. As you know, the most vital metric for most call centers is customer satisfaction, and the 80/20 rule has a poor correlation with it. Another fact is that the deadline that makes customers abandon their calls strongly depends on the purpose of the call, industry, customer persona, and other factors that can’t be determined or covered by the blind implementation of the 80/20 model.

If we move to the definition, we will say that the average wait time for customer service calls is the contact center metric that shows how much time a customer spends waiting in a queue until he will be linked with the agent. Thus, the average wait time is similar to the average time in a queue. 

To close the topic, every business has to allocate time and effort to discovering its own most suitable average wait time, as every firm has its own target audience with specific needs and wishes. Thus, the 80/20 rule can’t be acceptable for every enterprise. 

What are the top contact center standards beyond average wait time for customer service calls?

For instance, if you apply versatile sources of communication with customers, you should know these golden call center wait time industry standards across voice and non-voice channels:

  • Phone – 80/20, the 80% of calls within 20 seconds; The gold contact center industry standard;
  • Live chat – 80/40, 80% of messages from customers within 40 seconds;
  • SMS and Whatsapp, other messengers – 80% answered in 40 seconds;
  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc – 80% of contacts answered in 20 minutes;
  • Emails – 95% of emails within 4 hours;
  • Business letters – 95% within 3 business days.

If we try to implement a more thoughtful and personalized approach to measuring acceptable waiting time for customer service, let’s take into consideration that it can be easily counted by determining the moment of call abandonment. 

Firstly, you have to select the abandonment limit for your call center - in most cases, it would be from 3% to 5% of overall calls. The next step is determining the moment when 50% of call abandons happen - as the study says, for sales calls it’s around 45 seconds of waiting time, while for customer support requests it is nearly 100 seconds.

So, when the abandonment rate limit is set, and you know when the abandons start, you can easily determine the maximal wait time. Nevertheless, don’t use mentioned 45 or 100 seconds as standard - try to handle calls faster to avoid unnecessary abandons. 

Source: Global customer satisfaction rate with live chat usage from 2015 to 2020, Statista

It’s startling when a call center adheres to the 80/20 model and handles the inbound calls. Yet why not reduce wait time and huge calling peak times through versatile digital channels? Especially during the seasonal or week picks to free up the capacity for effective customer interaction, closing more sales, and retaining nearly 100% of customers?

Sure, different channels reduce both inbound calling volumes and average waiting times. Plus, a huge percentage of customers prefer live chat instead of a phone call. 

Take care about a call center average wait time for customer service calls in these cases

Since April of 2020, when the pandemic hit the most, a couple of industries have had an unexpected increase in calling volumes. However, other industries experience a decrease in inbound call volume. Take a look.

  • Each call center in these industries has the highest calling volume pick today – banking, emergency, private clinics, telecom, delivery, supermarkets, and alike.
  • There are call centers with the lowest calling volume in niches like luxury goods, car insurers, real estate, etc. 

Sure, industries such as travel agencies or retailers experience high calling volumes during New Year, Christmas, and summer vacation time. Like electric heaters retailers during wintertime. 

The experts indicate that finance and health are niches where long waiting times mean frustrating customer experience. For instance, the more money involved in relationships between company and customer, like in real estate, the more likely you answer the phone or message as fast as you can.

For instance, take the payment confirmation call where customers are willing to wait longer no matter what. 

Calls with the most emergency issues, like ambulances, clinics, firefighters, and police, must have the lowest average waiting times. So whether you move toward the more tightening or relaxing model of the average waiting time depends on your niche and the seasonal calling picks.

The proven ways to reduce average wait time for customer service calls in 30 minutes of your time

Yeah, there are proven ways to reduce your average wait time for customer service calls in the call center. Sure, gather the data on your previous shifts for one week, one month, or even 6 months.

Collection of data and planning

Take notes about days of the week when you experience the most number of inbound calls. Take a look at the seasonal picks and a customer base. Is it a time for a seasonal call volume?

Collect precise numbers about the average wait time for customer service calls, abandon rates, the average speed of answer, average handle time, on-hold time, first call resolution, refused calls, missed calls, etc.

Now, what you should do next is very important for your future strategy of reducing the average waiting time. You pick up each metric and accurately look for the causes of average wait time for customer service calls, ASA, abandon rates, etc. Remember, the cause lies either in your staff's performance or the techs you use (hardware, software, you name it). 

Need an all-in-one cloud contact center solution that would cover your needs and offer you everything to handle both inbound and outbound calls, and perform communication via various contact channels? 

Notice the shortest and longest average wait time your customer spent in the queue and define the reason for these calls.  

Failure to implement this process causes a lack of accurate planning in the future. Almost every head of a contact center presumes that the cause of the long average waiting time occurs in their sight of view. 

Try to ask the experts in the call center industry about this subject, and you’ll find out that data about previous metrics and their causes and effects is crucial for planning your future shifts. 

Now, if you take a short time, for example, the previous week, it’s much better than doing nothing and jumping to the planning big. And it's so easy to take these data from the previous week to anticipate the future calling volumes. 

Plan big your schedule at least for a week. Now you have the critical data at your fingertips, and you understand nearly the cause of the previous long waiting times. Hint: Devote at least 30 minutes or 1-hour of your time for planning before your working week gets started, and positive customer service will bring large returns 

During the planning, ask three major questions: Is there high calling picks expected on certain days and hours? Is there a marketing campaign or seasonal pick I need to prepare? Are there enough qualified agents in their places? 

Perhaps your agents are doing well in a contact center. Then is there a problem with the customer service team regarding the working place hardware or software? 

Customer service team shaping and preparing

Your customer service agents must be trained/experienced and knowledgeable to provide an A-class customer experience. You see, there are only two reasons why agents constantly extend the talking time, burning out and diminishing customer service performance. As a result, they extend the queue and overall average times.

It’s their knowledge about the subject or experience. They are just unable to know what to do or how to do it right. So hire the best agents you can find or constantly train and feed your own team.

And the second reason is the training from the call center manager if they’re newbies. Or the experience of handling different types of requests.

It’s easy to fulfill the knowledge competence by giving materials for studying and checking the process. 

Checking is critical in training one skill that can easily help an agent today, yet forbidden tomorrow. Revise your agent’s training achievements one time in two weeks. Force them to study better when you notice the skill is not developed. 

The only proven way to achieve the experience and make the customer service team perform is to give the challenging assignments to agents, raising their edge. Plus, arrange a weekly meeting for coaching agents and show them the main mistakes, forcing them to perform.

Calculation of Average waiting time is easy though. Just use the formula for the accurate period you wish to define. The formula is: 

Take the periods such as 8-hour shifts, 1 week, etc. Then summarize the waiting times of customers for 8 h shift, 1 week, etc. Then divide the number achieved by summarising on the number of calls for the period 8 h shift, 1 week, etc. Thus you deliberately achieve the accurate waiting time for the voice or non-voice channel.

Improve service level by managing contact center call queue

Your queue must be user-friendly to meet customers’ needs, and this is so easy to fulfill. For instance, the 5-star customer experience move is informing about the approximate time they have to wait in the queue for connection with the live agent.

Some heads of contact centers never do it, yet it will be the indicator of the 5-star customer service, not the downfall.

Instead of on-hold music, deliver the relevant information to customers. For instance, information about the option of the callback and different digital channels. 

The callback is better to offer promptly at the moment customers enter the queue. Chances your customers switch to the live chat or messengers are tremendous as soon as they are informed or experience a long queue time.

Remember to provide messages regarding their products and services instead of on-hold music. Believe it or not, until messages deliver the relevant info it positively influences customers’ behavior in the queue and impacts on abandonment rate.

Contact center techs that help you improve queue and service level

Interactive voice response (IVR) and Automatic call distribution (ACD) are two tools for increasing customer satisfaction rate and AWT reduction. The IVR menu gives the self-service options to achieve a callback, resolve the issue on the client’s own, or enter the queue. 

On the other hand, in the case of entering the queue, an agent will be routed to the relevant department or agent. Both systems exceedingly well help to manage the queue and provide excellent customer service. Specifically, you will achieve:

  • more options to customers;
  • increase customer satisfaction;
  • assess accurate customer satisfaction score;
  • route to relevant agents;
  • and reduce abandonment rates.

Monitoring service level, managing, and timely actions are all you need

First call resolution is probably the best customer service you can deliver to build strong relationships with a company. The FCR originally derives from the knowledge and experience of an agent and never accidentally. As a supervisor, you need to monitor calls and pick up the longest calls or chats.

These types of frustrations are triggered by some type of problem that an agent is unable to solve. Take over the conversation with a particular customer and help the agent. Afterward, the situation will be the subject for training for this agent or for all agents in a contact center.

The fast resolution within one contact grants the low average time in a queue of call center customers in a queue. This positively impacts both agents and customers.

If the solution is not found in the first call, it surely must be in the second. There’s the situation when an experienced agent is unable to solve the problem from the first contact. However, he must know how to do it the second time.

Supervisors must take an eye on these calls and figure out whether they need to aid or give the agent a second chance. 

The third call on the same issue must be handled by the supervisor or call center manager.

Put agents in their places to establish great customer service. Certain agents in your contact center solve better issues through phone or chat. It's risky to put newbies to handle phone conversations until they reach a common level of competence and performance.

Ease the workload of contact center agents when you can

The adherence to the standard of 80/20 must be reconsidered when possible. Especially, if you need to economically spend resources. The surveys indicated that there’s no problem for customers to wait for more than 20 seconds. 

They gladly wait for 60 seconds and up to 2-3 minutes. Of course, if you extend the waiting time to 4 or 5 minutes, expect negative customer feedback and frustrated customers.

Yet depending on your niche, it’s possible to extend the standard 80/20 to 80/60 and more. There are two huge benefits of this:

  • The more time your agents have for picking up the phone, the fewer agents you need in a call center, and the pace of their work is stable;
  • Agents have to solve issues faster in the 80/20 model and pick up the next customer from the queue. On the contrary, extended time grants an adequate workload and less stress.

Why is reducing the average wait time beneficial?

Ideally, your customers want to receive the fastest service, yet the quality is the top priority. In case the speed of answer is important - the business relationships depend on the solution your agent provides. It’s also more relevant to route customers to the relevant department or agent.

There’s only one niche that AWT has a critical point. It’s an emergency or private healthcare clinic. People never call there, unless they have a strong demand for aid. All other niches, where the lives of people are secure, are possible to extend to the more relaxed model such as 80/60 or more.

Why take Voiptime Cloud as your call center software vendor? 

You saw this data with your own eyes, and we urge you - don’t take our words for the truth. Sure, conduct your own research and ask experts. And the reason why Voiptime Cloud conducts content such as this is that we want to keep our readers, customers, and people interested in the industry both intelligent and prepared.

It’s also true that our company delivers a top-notch cloud contact center solution for small and mid-sized businesses all over the globe. And if you’re a business that is looking the switch to cloud-contact technology, don’t know where to start, or do know, yet need additional information, just contact the Voiptimecloud office. 

It’s also possible to contact the team, using live chat, when you visit our website. Or for more accurate service, you can fill out the “Get the quote” form. Either way, our team will contact you as soon as we receive your request. Thank you.

Eugene Siuch

Content Manager and Copywriter

Focused on customer service measurement and improvement, SaaS marketing and industry insights, and researching different methods of staff motivation and performance management in the field of customer service providing.

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