How To Reduce Average Handling Time (AHT) In Contact Centers


It’s common knowledge that approximately 65% of contact center costs are staffing costs. Inbound staff get paid by the hour. If your cost per call is USD 3.82, then USD 2.90 of that cost is for staffing costs.


If you can reduce AHT by 10%, staffing costs reduce to USD 2.06, and the overall cost per call reduces to USD 3.59—a USD 0.23 cost reduction per call.

Let’s scale these numbers up for a 100-seat contact center. Assuming that each agent handles 50 calls a day, and there are 90 agents working at any one time, then the contact center handles 4,500 calls a day, so it will save approximately USD 1,033 per day, USD 23,000 per month, and USD 276,000 per year.

Common Root Causes And Solutions

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To reduce AHT, the best way to do it is to listen to a selection of calls that are longer than AHT, and a selection that are shorter. You can then see how many of the common root causes listed below you find in the longer calls as opposed to the shorter calls.

If you have speech analytics software available, you can make this task a lot easier.

Transfers And Routing Strategy

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How many calls are agents transferring to Tier 2?

Let’s say your AHT is 4 minutes (240 seconds) and 10% of calls are routed to a Tier 2 agent.

Customers spend 2 minutes with a Tier 1 agent, 1 minute on hold while the Tier 1 agent explains the problem to a Tier 2 agent, and 3 minutes with a Tier 2 agent. Total time = 6 minutes.

If that call was routed directly to a Tier 2 agent, he could handle it in 4 minutes. This is a net saving of 2 minutes or 33% on the longest calls in the contact center.

Why not redesign the IVR to route customers with common Tier 2 problems directly to Tier 2?

“Dead Air”

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This is when neither side is talking. Customers do not like it because they don’t know what is happening and they are paying for the call.

It’s often caused by slow computer systems or poorly trained agents who are not familiar with the tools or workflows.

It’s worth finding calls with “dead air” and investigating why this is happening. If computer systems are the problem, do they affect all categories of cases or specific cases where specific tools are used?

Can the tools be sped up in some way? Can the process be adjusted so that agents are running the tools while doing something else? Could this category of issues be handled by chat instead of a call, so that agents can handle multiple chats at the same time?

Call Handling Skills

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Most contact center agents are nice people. They are trained to be polite to customers. They are not always so good at taking control of a conversation when a customer is upset or simply wants to talk about something else.

Agents need to be assertive to keep the conversation on track. They need to be trained to control the conversation by asking the right questions and not getting drawn into other directions.

Workflow: How Much Can You Reduce Call Length By?

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Listen to a selection of your calls. If you reduce the call to the bare minimum of greeting, verification, needs analysis, response, and goodbye, how many seconds will it shave off of the call length?

How will this affect customer satisfaction (CSAT)? How will they react to a shorter, brisker call?

Can Some Calls Be Automated, And What Will That Do To Your AHT/CSAT?

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Some simple requests can be handled by automated “bots.” Contact center costs are a function of cost per call and call volumes.

If we reduce AHT, we reduce the cost per call.

Automating simple processes will reduce call volumes but may lead to an increase in AHT.

Let’s say we can automate 10% of calls, but this will lead to an increase in AHT by 5%. What is the net effect? Let’s do a “before” and “after” comparison.

“Before”

Assume the cost per call is USD 3.82. (See above)

90 agents normally work at any one time, and each agent handles 50 calls per day.

Total costs per day = USD 17,190 per day.

“After”

Assume the cost per call is USD 4.00 because AHT on human-handled calls has been increased by 5%.

90 agents normally work at any one time, and each agent now handles 45 calls per day.

Total costs per day = USD 16,200 per day.

This is because call volumes have been reduced from 4,500 to 4,050 per day.

This saving of USD 990.00 per day represents 69 employee hours that can be realized by redeploying them to other tasks.

Multiplying this up, savings of USD 990 per day is USD 22,770 per month or USD 273,240 per year.

Over to you!

Are you trying to reduce your AHT? How much can you cut your call length by? Which root cause looks most likely?

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