In a world where the customer becomes ever more important, Average Handling Time (AHT), or the amount of calls handled per hour, is a KPI (key performance indicator) that is becoming increasingly obsolete to measure performance within the call center.
This KPI is cost-focused instead of customer-centric. However, we forget that call centers were created to meet the needs of customers. And customers don't care as much about how fast you handle their query as they do about if their problem is solved.
So wouldn't it make more sense to measure agent success by measuring how well they are able to solve a client's query instead of how fast?
Say hello to the new kid on the block: First Call Resolution (FCR). Although there are different ways to measure and define FCR, it mainly focuses on solving client concerns with the least amount of call-backs..
And let’s be honest, if customers have to call back a second time for the same issue, it’s not a good sign.
It’s understandable to see how AHT could be an efficient way to measure agent productivity and save costs as agents are able to attend to more people in a short period of time. Nonetheless, measuring AHT is ultimately like making a short-term investment.
Average Handling Time vs. First Call Resolution
Although it might seem like a cost-saving move, keeping calls short comes at a price. Are your agents hanging up the phone too soon without answering all the client’s questions?
Do they use canned answers to go faster? Or even worse, are they transferring the client from agent to agent so no one exceeds their time limit and stays within the KPI? Such factors might lead to frustrated customer call-backs, or even worse, customers not calling back at all and taking their business elsewhere.
Sounds like a time-consuming and costly KPI to go by.
On the contrary, FCR is a long-term investment. By ensuring that the customer’s call is resolved on the first shot (even if it takes a little bit more time) callbacks are reduced, time is saved and customers are happier.
Even though it might not be realistic for every call to be resolved on the first contact, here are a few reasons why your contact center should focus on first call resolution as a KPI instead of average handling time.
More happy customers
If your call center is able to address customer concerns without having them call back, you are most likely experiencing high customer satisfaction. And who doesn't want a happy customer? Happy customers are more likely to recommend and share your product and/or service with family and friends.
Increase in sales
FCR sounds counterproductive to making more sales as more time is spent on the phone with a smaller amount of customers.
But it's just the contrary. The cost of acquiring a new customer is 10 times higher than it is keeping any existing one. Cross-selling and/or upselling becomes easier with customers who experience first contact resolution as they are more open to hearing about additional products or services that could benefit them from a company who offers quality customer service in the first place.
But making sales is also about not losing them. One unhappy customer will share their negative experience with tens, hundreds or even thousands of people across their online and physical networks which could potentially cost you hundreds of thousands and even millions worth of sales if their reach is large enough.
Decrease agent turnover
Being an agent is a stressful job. Add to that having to handle a call at lightning speed in order to meet average handling time plus unhappy customers who have had to call back and you have a recipe for disaster.
By focusing on first contact resolution, agents are able to take their time in order to focus on making their customers happy and ending on a good note. By adding real value, it makes an agent’s job more pleasant and fulfilling, helping them feel confident and satisfied.
Happy customers equals happy staff, hence, lower turnover.
Lower operating costs
Spending just a few more minutes on the phone with customers can reduce costs instead of increasing them. Yep, you read that right!
The first reason for this being that reduced employee turnover rate reduces onboarding costs. The second being that as customers do not need to call back, time spent attending customers decreases in the long run.
Simple as that.
There you have it! When managers put aside average handling time and instead choose to focus on first call resolution, agents can begin to prioritize on making sure that customers receive the attention they deserve.
After all, contact centers were made to ensure customer satisfaction. Therefore, it's important to keep our eyes on the prize.