The debate rolls on about whether Average Handle Time is an effective frontline metric. Some believe it is the only true measure of contact centre effectiveness however others feel it is an outdated KPI which stifles agents and negatively impacts the service experience.

If you are considering removing AHT as an agent metric what are the things you need to consider before making the switch, how will this change affect both the company and agent population and how do you make sure your costs and wait times don’t suddenly escalate?

The first thing to think about is why make the change in the first place? Is there a genuine need and have you done your homework to establish whether a problem exists. The removal of AHT could have startling effects for both customers and agents a like but equally could create a great deal of work with very little reward.

If you have established a good reason you may want to consider testing before fully removing AHT as a frontline KPI. Pick a team and set each agent a monthly AHT target as opposed to target per call. This will allow you to keep control whilst at the same time giving agents more time to spend with the customers who actually need it. It’s important to link AHT targets with customer satisfaction and quality scores so that you have a clear understanding of agent performance.

Linking data can also help identify which agents need the most support. In the example below
Bob might previously have been seen as a customer champion; spending far longer than other agents on each interaction. If challenged Bob would argue that his ‘customer care’ would far outweigh any incremental cost.

Using a simple correlation of AHT and C-SAT (customer scores for agent knowledge) paints a very different picture of the situation. Bob is clearly struggling with his own product knowledge and this is impacting both his AHT and customer satisfaction. Conversely, advisors like Mary cost half as much as Bob and are setting the standard for service.

Example 1: Linking AHT with CSAT data

Graphs like this makes it a lot easier to have a chat with underperforming advisors without having to reintroduce AHT as an incentive on a per call level. They also allow organisations to celebrate success and focus training and coaching support on the agents who really need it.

It may also be useful to run some inter-team benchmarking to compare and contrast individual performances and fully understand your utilisation sweet spot.

utilisation

Split an average advisors day in to a pie chart and compare to peers and best practice. The next step would be to analyse the time in wrap, idle and other to try and increase talk time. You may decide that ‘after call work’ is an area of focus far more important than the talk time of your agents. We frequently see agents misusing ‘wrap time’ as a way of elongating breaks and chatting to colleagues which can naturally impact on agent productivity.

The next step has to be comparing yourself to other contact centres. Are you getting an optimum level talk time, do your agents compare favourably on contacts per advisor per day. What are the best centres doing to drive productivity?

All of these questions could be answered with some level of independent benchmarking allowing you to set realistic targets and manage the removal of frontline AHT.

Example 2: Benchmarking data.

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It is also important to make sure you communicate the change to your frontline staff. It may take time for agents to fully believe that they are no longer being measured on AHT. Make sure everyone is bought into the change as it will take a while for it to bed in. Wall boards, targets and PDQ’s all need to have AHT removed to make sure mixed messages are not circulated throughout the centre. It’s quite natural to see a slight increase in volumes but very quickly FCR and CSAT should start to improve.

Simon Thorpe
Sales & Marketing Manager
Bright