Why Average Handle Time is not a Good Customer Experience

Have you ever called a contact center within a company because you had an issue, and felt like you were being “hurried” off the phone? If you’ve had that experience, there’s a reason for you feeling that way. Which is that the contact center that you were calling is actually trying to “hurry” you off the phone. Let me give you the inside scoop as to why you are being “hurried” to hang up from a contact center.

There is a metric in the contact center industry called Average Handle Time. It can be best described as the average duration of one transaction from the customer’s initiation of the call and including any hold time, talk time and related tasks that follow the transaction. Now, what this metric should be used for is to give someone like me an idea of how much staff I need, or get an idea of how much people are working. However, what it is often used for is to force contact center agents to get customers off the phone as quickly as possible. Mostly because those contact centers are trying to do more with less staff or resources. Or in some cases, those contact centers are outsourced operations who get paid by the call. Thus there’s an incentive to just simply move on to the next customer as quickly as possible.

Now some people would argue that there are environments where this metric is a valid one. Such as environments where every call is purely transactional. But it’s my belief that this metric is one that completely ruins the customer experience regardless of what environment it is used in. I say that because using this metric has the following negative aspects associated with it:

  • Positive customer outcomes no longer become the primary focus.
  • Customers can become frustrated, confused and overwhelmed. Which means that they will call in again and again to try and get their issues resolved. Or they will simply take their business to a company that doesn’t “hurry” people off the phone.
  • Contact center reps are naturally wired to want to help customers to the best of their abilities. But “hurrying” customers off the phones means that are unable to properly do so. Thus they get demoralized and eventually leave to find an environment where they can help customers properly and generate satisfaction for themselves for doing so. Often take knowledge and experience with them which keeps a company from providing any sort of quality customer service.

For those reasons, I refuse to track this metric in any way shape or form. Instead, I tell my agents that they have the freedom to spend as much time as is reasonable from the customer’s perspective to provide the customer the outcome that they want. That may take 15 minutes, or it may take two hours. As long as the agent is addressing the customer’s needs in a professional manner that isn’t wasting the customer’s time, I’m good with that. Quite simply, I want everyone who reports to me to be able to excite and delight customers with the best possible support experience. I also want the agents who report to me to get the satisfaction that comes from fully helping a customer to the best of their ability as that makes everything that they do worthwhile. It’s a win for our customers, and for our agents. Which is why you will never be “hurried” off the phone here at WinMagic.


Previous Post
Coaching: The Key Tool for Successful Support Teams
Next Post
HIPAA in 2017: failing to plan equals planning to fail