7 Tips for Reducing Average Handle Times

Average call handle time (AHT) is a key metric at almost every call center, regardless of size or type. The reasons are obvious – when average call times are reduced, agents can handle more calls per shift, and customers don’t have to wait as long to speak to an agent and they also get their question or issues addressed in a more timely manner. So how can you shave a few seconds – or even minutes – from your current average handle time? Here are 7 tips that may help. 1. Skills-based routing An agent that is particularly adept at settling serious customer disputes will be able to handle these types of calls more efficiently than someone without those skills. Some agents may process orders more quickly, while others can answer questions about products faster. 2. Anticipate questions Certain customer inquires are bound to come up over and over. Train your agents to anticipate these questions and answer them before they can be asked. 3. Interview agent candidates over the phone Since the job revolves around telephone communication, use the interview as a first test of their skills. How succinctly are your questions answered? How clearly do candidates express themselves? 4. Collect data during the call Sometimes a call continues after the customer hangs up, as the agent must enter relevant data on what transpired. If this data can be collected and entered during the call, the agent can proceed to the next customer more rapidly. 5. Confirm that procedures are being followed Workforce optimization software was designed to automate and expedite many call center tasks such as forecasting, scheduling, adherence tracking, analytics and call quality – but only if it is used correctly. 6. Agent motivation Whether it’s informal competitions between agents during a shift, or praise for those who reduced their AHT most in a month, there are a number of ways to reinforce the importance of AHT among agents, and reward those who improve their performance. 7. Don’t interrupt At first this seems counter-productive, as the agent might want to do whatever he or she can to help the caller get to the point quickly. But usually it is better – not to mention more appreciated by the caller – if they are allowed to state their business without interruption, after which the agent can respond accordingly.