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Despite advances in technology and management practices, customer service statistics haven’t improved over the last four decades. A recent study from Arizona State University found that, back in 1976, only 44% of respondents were happy with the resolutions after approaching customer service representatives. Fast-forward to 2012, and researchers got the same results.
In a call center environment, average handle time (AHT) is a big factor in overall customer satisfaction. Customers who wait too long are more irritable and harder to appease. And real-time resolutions have less effect on a customer who’s already frustrated. Even with the most modern programs, call centers still struggle with AHT; however, managers can take some steps to shorten AHT without lowering customer service standards.
Identifying the Problem
For many call centers, the following factors negatively affect AHT:
Many call centers rely on a hodgepodge of databases, spreadsheets and tribal knowledge to disseminate information to staff on the frontline. This makes searching for answers confusing and time-consuming. As agents frantically wade through various resources, customers are left on hold or waiting impatiently for a resolution.
Updating these systems also is an unpleasant chore. Managers have to hunt down the original information and then manually update it. In instances when the information isn’t stored in a digital format, managers might opt for a mass email or printed memo to keep agents informed of changes. This inefficient system increases the chances of mistakes, sharing incorrect information and other risks.
To make agents more efficient, many managers pour resources into additional training. The belief is that force-feeding agents more information naturally results in better service and lower AHT. However, this isn’t always true.
Taking agents off the floor increases queue times and causes more frustration for customers and agents for the duration of the training period. When they return to the phones, agents often still struggle to remember everything they were taught and return to status quo.
Beyond agent issues, extra training presents a unique set of problems for managers. Not only does covering extra shifts make scheduling stressful, managers have a hard time pinpointing exactly what types of training their agents need to improve their metrics. Most call center systems lack visibility. Managers can’t see what their agents are searching for, how they’re searching or what types of results they’re getting from those searches. This results in a hit-or-miss training strategy that rarely has the results that managers want.
By confronting these issues, call center managers can decrease AHT without taking time away from the customer.
Practical Solutions for Managing AHT
In the fight against high handle times, call center managers can use new and powerful tools. Artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted knowledge management simplifies and improves search functions for agents. They spend less time browsing through articles to find the right solution, which means customers don’t have to wait as long.
Controlling call flow is another way to ensure that agents provide the care and attention customers deserve—without spending too much time on the phone. AI-capable knowledge bases let managers create self-service systems that reduce the need for a live agent to resolve simple problems, such as bill payments and account inquiries. When a live agent is needed, IVRs automatically route callers to agents with the knowledge pulled up on their screens. This helps with first-call resolution rates—another important metric for call centers.
Next-generation knowledge management systems also offer more integration. By connecting web self-service, chatbots, IVRs and knowledge bases, agents can search all available resources. This reduces the number of searches and effort agents needs to commit.
Integrated knowledge systems also improve management’s ability to track call statistics, update information across databases and gather ideas for additional training
Improve Your AHT With Integrated Knowledge Management Systems
To improve AHT without sacrificing a positive customer experience, look to the next generation of knowledge management systems. These solutions improve call flows, shorten search times and provide agents with systems that support a more efficient process.
The Genesys integration with Shelf can be your ally against high AHT. Find out how AppFoundry partner Shelf can help you improve your call center AHT by talking with a consultant. Click here to learn how to put theory into action or watch the featured on-demand AppFoundry webinar.
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