How long should agents be on the phone with customers?
As long as it takes to solve their problem…and not a second longer.
There’s an important distinction between reducing handle time and improving handle time.
Call centers can use different shortcuts and hacks to achieve a reduction in handle time. They can also just rush people off of the phone and give them minimal amounts of help.
But that’s not going to increase customer satisfaction.
And it may cause other unforeseen consequences.
Improving average handle time means reducing it while at the same time maintaining or increasing the quality of calls and the quality of agents’ interactions with customers.
The following inbound call center software features will help shorten handle time without harming the customer experience.
4 Ways Inbound Call Center Software Improves Handle Time
1. Call Recording
If call center managers want to improve the quality of calls, they have to listen to them.
With the right inbound call center software, managers can do one of 2 things:
- Listen to live calls.
- Analyze pre-recorded calls.
Armed with this information, managers can spot weak spots or skills gaps in their agents and work toward bettering them.
They can hear when the conversation turns sour and the agent loses the customer, and when the conversation brightens and an agent gives the customer exactly what they needed.
There’s really no better training tool than taking real calls, breaking them down for your agents and highlighting the good and the bad.
But beyond the benefits to agents, it helps call centers understand their customers better.
Call recordings of customers tell managers (and agents) what matters most to customers, what they’re really looking for, how to empathize with them, how to “get in their head” and anticipate what they need before they say it.
2. Measure Agent KPIs
Agents need to be held responsible for achieving their personal goals and the call center’s objectives.
But they won’t hold themselves responsible. That’s the manager’s job.
Which is why they need to measure agent KPIs.
Call recording and analysis helps agents interact better with customers, but there are a host of other things agents should be aware of and working on before, during, and after fielding phone calls.
And the only way agents will improve their performance and skills is if managers give them targets to hit.
Consider tracking the following KPIs:
- First call resolution (FCR).
- Customer satisfaction rating.
- Hold times.
- Average answer speed.
- Average handle time.
- Number of waiting calls and active calls.
3. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System
The interactive voice response (IVR) system is the first interaction customers have with call centers (ideally).
It’s one of the best screening tools at your disposal.
Instead of letting an agent take a customer’s call immediately, the IVR intercepts the call and allows customers to segment themselves, and in many cases, solve their own problem without ever having to speak to an agent.
A robust IVR goes a long way in boosting agent productivity.
When call centers provide a wide range of options that they know their customers are interested in, they free up agents to handle more complex inquiries or difficult customers.
But IVR’s also benefit the customer.
They don’t always want to talk to an agent. Sometimes they would rather pay their credit card bill or update their insurance information on their own without ever having to talk to someone.
So be it.
That’s what the IVR is there for.
4. Skills-Based Routing
There are a variety of ways to route calls to agents.
The easiest (and the least optimal) is a round robin approach; a call comes in and the next agent in rotation takes the call.
The problem with this approach is agents don’t have the same skills as one another.
Some agents are better at soothing irate callers.
Other agents are better at upselling customers.
And there’s likely a few agents who are still trying to figure everything out and just be good at their jobs.
Which is why inbound call center software like an ACD system is so crucial.
It detects customer information such as their name, call region, and length of time as a customer, but it goes further than that.
ACD technology will also look at past conversations a caller has had with agents, notes that agents have made about the caller, and any other in-depth info that informs call centers about who this person is and what they need.
Then, the ACD system will route the call to the agent who is most-skilled at helping this person.
This way customers aren’t being handed off to someone who will have to make them wait on hold (and thereby increase the handling time).
Plus, it helps call centers hit high first-call resolution rates. Which is a win for call centers and customers.
Inbound Call Center Software is Nothing Without This
We’ve shown how inbound call center software helps reduce and improve handle time.
And most of these tips require deep knowledge about how a call center operates, the behaviors of agents, the data about customers, and so on.
Without a tool to gather and make sense of all this information, call center managers will have a hard time achieving their goals.
Which is why we released this free report on Business Intelligence (BI).
It details how a unified system of data will:
- Save time.
- Stay in compliance.
- Predict, evaluate, and identify next steps.
Download the free BI report today!