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Your Average Handle Time Could Be Better

It’s become a bit of a cliché to point this out, but time is a precious commodity these days. And nobody wants to spend theirs jamming out to hold music. To keep your customers from suffering this fate, make sure their calls for technical support are as short and effective as possible.

Low AHT (Average Handle Times) is good for both your customers and your bottom line. Not only do shorter successful calls make for happier customers, but a more efficient use of your agents’ own time translates to higher productivity. For these reasons, any effective strategy for modern technical support must include ways of shaving time off each call. However, customers should never feel rushed or that quality is being compromised. That means we need to identify aspects of the typical call that lengthen it unnecessarily.

It’s these time wasters that are addressed in our third Universal Truth of what’s jeopardizing your successful tech support. The first factor that increases AHT is that tech support agents don’t isolate the customer’s problem early enough in the call, while the second is sub-optimized customer verification processes that tie up the line. The good news is both can be overcome using simple techniques.

Identify Problems Quickly

It may be counterintuitive but spending a little more time on problem identification earlier in the call can significantly decrease its time overall. This is because agents may make assumptions or incorrect conclusions about the root cause of the client’s issue. Some indicators that problems aren’t being identified sufficiently early in the typical call include:

  • The agent tries multiple solutions before solving the caller’s problem. Each failed attempt adds an amount of time to the call and increases frustration for the customer.
  • The customer is frequently put-on hold while the agent searches for a solution. Without having a clear idea of what the problem really is, the agent may research many different topics. Meanwhile, the customer is left hanging on the other end.

To improve AHT, as well as the customer experience, technical support needs to create a more effective triage process. A solid system for successfully identifying issues and possible solutions should look like this:

  • Ordering the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) by problem frequency. This shortens the time customers must listen before making their selection.
  • Determining the most common call drivers and having agents probe those first. Agents should also know the answers to typical follow-up questions.
  • Using plain language when first establishing what the problem is. Not all customers are tech savvy — that’s often why they’re calling technical support in the first place — and may not know how to respond to questions that include jargon.

Take the Hassle Out of Customer Verification

Tackling the second cause for handle time bloat is a simple concept — the customer verification process must be as streamlined as possible. During a typical technical support call, the customer is often asked to supply the relevant ticket number, serial number, product ID, model number or account information as needed.

However, our research has shown that callers don’t typically have this verification information on hand. While customers search for it, the call will be prolonged with an excessive amount of “dead air.” This is another case in which a little extra time at the beginning of a call goes a long way. Prompt customers to have key information ready in the IVR before their call is directed to a live agent. Our research has shown that this simple solution reduces AHT by 6% and improves customer satisfaction by 14%.