What is the Average Handle 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 performance indicator such as the average speed answer (ASA) is similar to the average waiting time (AWT)? Well, that’s not true, and many laypeople mix these two definitions.
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 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. 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 are the top contact center standards beyond the phone waiting times?
For instance, if you apply versatile sources of communication with customers, you should know these golden standards for response times 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.
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 the 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 waiting times 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 ambulance, 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 wait times in 30 minutes of your time
Yeah, there are proven ways to reduce your average wait time 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 average waiting time, 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 AWT, ASA, abandon rates, etc. Remember, the cause lies either in your staff's performance or the techs you use (hardware, software, you name it).
For instance, to achieve the top-notch software for a call center click it right here. Or give us a call. Our lines are open from 8 A.M. to 1 P.M. (East Coast Time), from Monday to Friday. And our phone number is:
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 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 shift, 1 week, etc. Then summarize the waiting times of customers for 8 h shift, 1 week, etc. Then divide the number achieved from 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 from 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 reduces the 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 and AWT reduction. The IVR menu gives the option to achieve a callback 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 abandon 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 of other 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 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 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 for 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 because 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 top-notch contact center software for small and mid-sized businesses all over the globe. And if you’re a business that is looking for the switch to cloud-contact technology, don’t know where to start, or you do, yet you need additional information, just contact the Voiptimecloud office.
Our lines are open from 8 A.M. to 1 P.M. (East Coast Time), from Monday to Friday. And our phone number is:
It’s also possible to contact the team, using live chat, when you visit our website. Or for more accurate service, you can fill the “Get the quote” form. Either way, our team will contact you as soon as we receive your request. Thank you.