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Call Center Management: Measuring Contact Handling Times

Everyone knows that to run an efficient call center you focus on the time it takes for agents to handle calls.

Everyone is also painstakingly aware of the disadvantages of focusing too much on this indicator.

Some experts and some companies have decided not to consider this factor at all using the argument that the cost and ramifications of managing handling time far outweighs its benefits.

For those who cannot afford to try this exciting idea, this article will provide you with some suggestions to alleviate the pressures brought about by managing productivity.

As if managing productivity was not enough of a challenge, the telephone system your call center operates exacerbates the issue.

I will recall this issue later.

Let’s just take a moment to be clear on what are the usual elements considered in handling time.

Handling time is meant to track how long it takes an agent to serve a customer by telephone.

This means from the moment the agent answers the phone to the moment the agent is ready to answer the next call.

The time between those two events is what we all refer as the handling time.

There are different states within your telephone systems that can occur during that time.

Your agent can be in a conversation with a customer, can put the customer on hold, or once the customer hangs up, the agent can be in the after-call work state.

While the customer is on hold, or while the agent is in the after-call state, the agent can also make telephone calls – either internal or external.

The mistake I believe some call center managers make is to try and put expectations/goals on each of these states.

I hold that this creates much more pressure on the agents than is necessary and this contributes to productivity’s bad name.

Whether an agent is more comfortable writing notes while the customer is on the phone or during the after-call work or while customer is on hold, does not alter the overall handling time and therefore efforts to manage each state are useless when it comes to managing productivity.

Some may argue that the customer experience might be a whole lot different depending on which method is used, and I conquer, but if you are concerned about achieving certain operating expense goals you might want to consider my suggestion.

At the very least, you might choose to keep your goals/expectations on the amount of time an agent puts a customer on hold, but please remove the expectations from all other states.

(NB.: Pay particular attention to your telephone system’s calculations of Hold Time and Talk Time. Some telephone systems separate the hold time from the talk time, other include the hold time in the total talk time – so beware of double counting it).

How does achieving your productivity goals while removing pressure off of the team leaders and agents sound?

Great? Right?!

Then go ahead, globalize your objectives.

There are other steps you can implement to increase productivity while increasing empowerment.

The key is to think through your company’s mission statement, your core values and by understanding how important it is to streamline your goals accordingly.


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