Like any other successful business, contact centres consider efficiency a top priority, and therefore it must be measured. Average Handling Time (AHT) as a metric has been an industry staple for measuring and understanding efficiency at an individual performance level and across the organisation, and finding ways to reduce AHT is a common initiative. But does lower AHT always equate to business value?
Most would agree that AHT is a problematic metric when used in isolation. There’s no doubt that it can be a great management tool giving those who need it the insight into time worked, making it easier to allocate resources, structure teams and plan shifts all with efficiency in mind. But the problem is that placing an emphasis on AHT as a performance indicator often leads to a culture where agents are encouraged to get off the phone with a customer as quickly as possible, regardless of whether their query has been adequately dealt with, let alone any opportunity to deliver outstanding customer service being acted upon.
Not only does this devalue the customer experience, but it also has a backlash effect on the agents themselves - not being able to own a customer's issue and resolve it effectively detracts from morale. A low AHT in this scenario might look great on paper, but the effects of a lack of quality and focus on resolving customer issues effectively really takes its toll on the business. This coupled with the knowledge that a great proportion of agents don’t understand AHT targets and view them more as a blocker to doing a great job further instills the need to focus on improving AHT in a different way.
So what’s the fix? Scrutinising agents on AHT drives the wrong kind of behaviour. Although AHT is essential, replacing it with another quality-focused metric will encourage agents to approach all calls in a way that adds value to the customer experience. First Contact Resolution (FCR) is the perfect metric for this - with an emphasis on the customer experience it means agents will strive to resolve issues effectively, with minimal customer effort, and quickly.
In almost every case, paying attention to quality interactions means the quantitative, efficiency-driven metrics like AHT will take care of themselves and almost become a welcome spin of providing great service - find out more about how customer experience champions are using FCR as a primary metric in the contact centre.