Many companies consider “average handle time” or AHT to be an important metric because it shows that their customer service agents are handling calls quickly and efficiently. AHT is closely monitored and agents are expected to meet or beat that metric. But what they don’t understand is that “quick” is not necessarily “efficient”. By making AHT the prime criteria for evaluation and reward, agents are encouraged to move customers through in as short a time as possible, regardless of their needs. This can actually work against a business’ long-term profitability.

The Ups and Downs of “Quick”

When a problem isn’t solved on the first call:

  1. Call volumes actually go up. Industry studies show that calls from customers with unresolved issues (note: frustrated customers) create upward of 20% to 30% of all call center activity.
  2. Customer satisfaction goes down. 12% to 15% of your customers are at risk of switching to another company if their concerns are not successfully resolved with the first call.
  3. Costs go up. Repeat calls have been found to account for 30% of a call center’s operational costs.
  4. Upselling opportunities go down. When customers get what they need on a call, they’re more open to suggestions for upselling. Without resolution, they will only be focused on solving the problem at hand.

Metrics That Reflect Your “Desired Result”

The dictionary defines “efficient” as, “capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy.” So what it comes down to is this: What are your desired results? If you want a call center that handles the most customers in the least amount of time, then AHT is an effective metric. If you have a vision of long-term growth, year after year based on steadfast, dependable customers, then other factors must come into play.

Metrics are absolutely critical in measuring the success and effectiveness of call center activities, but they must, first and foremost, reflect YOUR vision. By shifting focus away from AHT and, instead, measuring each agent’s success in handling a customer’s problem right the first time, it becomes an investment in the long-term success of your company.

When call center metrics are structured to reflect your desire to maintain customer loyalty, your agents will better understand your strategic business goals, and have greater success in meeting those goals. They will become both skilled and trained in listening to a customer’s concerns and making informed decisions on how to consistently achieve First Call Resolution. It may not be the “quickest” way to move call volume, but it is a much more “efficient” path to your desired results.