If you are a call center owner or a BPO professional, you must have pondered over this question at least once since you started your business. The question is “How can I provide excellent customer service that resolves the customer’s issue in the first call while also getting them off of the phone quickly?”
If you have, then you must have sought to find a delicate balance between two critical metrics, which often are at loggerheads with one another—Average Handling Time (AHT) and First Call Resolution (FCR).
Both of them are critical to the optimization of a call center’s day-to-day operations. While the former measures the average duration of customer interactions, the latter focuses on resolving customer issues on the first contact.
Finding the right balance between these two metrics is crucial for delivering exceptional customer experiences. In this blog post, we'll explore the significance of AHT and FCR and discuss strategies for optimizing both while maintaining high-quality customer service.
Understanding AHT and FCR
Average Handling Time (AHT): It is the average amount of time a customer service agent spends to handle a customer’s problem or query. This metric includes the time spent talking to the customer, finding the right solutions, and performing any post-call activities.
First Call Resolution (FCR): It is the percentage of customers’ problems or queries that a customer service representative resolves during the first interaction itself. The higher the FCR rate, the higher the customer satisfaction rate. A study by SQM Group found every follow-up call reduces customer satisfaction by 15 percent. Even though the industry standard for a good FCR rate is between 70 and 80 percent, call centers should target higher FCR to satisfy as many customers as possible.
Benefits of Reducing AHT
1. Customer satisfaction: The right AHT can result in higher customer satisfaction levels. When customers can get their problems resolved quickly, they are more likely to have a positive perception of your company and customer service. This can lead to increased loyalty and repeat business.
2. Cost savings: By optimizing their AHT, call centers and contact centers can reduce their costs and manage their resources efficiently. Shorter AHT can result in cost savings by reducing the amount of time agents spend on each call. This can be useful for large call centers where staffing costs are a significant expense.
3. Decreased customer wait times: Shorter AHT translates to reduced wait times for customers in queues or on hold. This can help improve the overall customer experience, as customers are less likely to become frustrated while waiting for assistance.
4. Higher agent productivity: Agents who can resolve issues more quickly can move on to the next customer faster. This increased productivity can lead to higher job satisfaction among agents and potentially reduce agent stress and burnout.
5. Reduced abandonment rates: Customers are less likely to abandon their calls or interactions if they know that their issues will be resolved swiftly. This can lead to a higher completion rate for customer interactions, which is beneficial for both the customer and the company.
Benefits of improving FCR
1. Enhanced customer satisfaction: High FCR rates result in happier customers. When their issues are resolved quickly and effectively on the first call, customers are more likely to leave the interaction satisfied. Satisfied customers are more likely to remain loyal to your brand and may become advocates, promoting your company through positive word-of-mouth.
2. Reduced customer effort: Customers appreciate a hassle-free experience. Resolving their problems on the first call reduces the effort they need to expend to get their issues addressed. This reduction in customer effort can lead to improved loyalty and decreased customer churn.
3. Cost savings: Improving FCR can lead to cost savings for your business. Fewer repeat calls or follow-up interactions mean lower operational costs, such as reduced call center staff time and lower telecommunications expenses.
4. Improved agent productivity: High FCR rates indicate that your agents are efficient problem solvers. They can move on to assist other customers more quickly, which leads to higher agent productivity and potentially reduced agent stress and burnout.
5. Fewer abandoned calls: Customers are less likely to abandon their calls or interactions when they believe their issues will be resolved on the first try. This leads to a higher completion rate for customer interactions, reducing the frustration and dissatisfaction often associated with abandoned calls.
6. Positive customer perception: A consistent track record of resolving issues on the first call helps create a positive perception of your company's customer service. Customers are more likely to view your brand as responsive and reliable, further improving your reputation.
7. Lower service costs: By resolving issues promptly, you can minimize the need for costly follow-up interactions or escalations. This translates to lower overall service costs and more efficient resource allocation.
Strategies for Balancing AHT and FCR
As mentioned earlier, there are several strategies you can use to balance both of the critical metrics. Here are some steps you can follow to balance both FCR and AHT and, in turn, enhance the performance of your call center:
1. Train your agents
What would happen if your agents aren’t imparted with the proper training? They would perform poorly. But the worst part is they would waste customers’ time and increase call length without giving any productive results.
However, providing the right training to agents can nip a lot of problems in the bud and enhance a lot of metrics, including AHT and FCR. Equip your customer service agents with the right knowledge and resources. Empowered agents are more likely to resolve issues on the first call. Give them the authority to make decisions that enable faster issue resolution.
2. Put all information in one place
Technically speaking, that’s known as information centralization. Giving the team the right information and centralizing it in one place.
Centralizing information makes it easily accessible to agents, which leads to quick resolution of customers’ issues. Maintain an up-to-date knowledge base that agents can access quickly to find solutions. This reduces the time spent searching for information during calls.
3. Create a suitable routing system
To optimize AHT and FCR, it is essential to ensure immediate connection between the customer and the appropriate agent. Well-defined routing processes are critical to optimizing both the customer experience and FCR.
A contact center that operates across multiple channels enables communication at all touchpoints. A well-designed IVR routing system allows customers to choose who they need to speak with. Leverage high-quality call routing systems that direct calls to agents with the right skill set and expertise to resolve specific issues. This reduces the likelihood of customers being transferred or placed on hold.
4. Monitor call quality
Call quality is extremely important for a high FCR rate and optimal AHT. That’s why make sure that you regularly monitor and evaluate customer interactions for quality assurance. Establish checkpoints and process reviews to ensure that the service is appropriate at all times.
Also, provide feedback and coaching to agents to help them improve their resolution skills without compromising AHT. Incorporating FCR and AHT into call quality evaluations is a way to improve both metrics. Regularly analyze customer feedback and metrics to identify trends and areas for improvement.
5. Offer self-service options
Self-service options not only can reduce the AHT and improve the FCR rate, but they are also the need of the hour in the present age when a majority of customers prefer self-service over speaking to customer service representatives.
A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that eight out of every ten respondents (across industries) said that they would prefer to use self-service options before contacting a live representative. Offer self-service options such as FAQs, online chatbots, and automated troubleshooting guides.
Balancing AHT with FCR is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It requires a well-planned approach that considers the specific needs and expectations of your customer base.
By focusing on agent training, efficient call routing, and continuous improvement, you can strike a balance that ensures both timely interactions and high-resolution rates. Ultimately, achieving this equilibrium will lead to optimal customer experiences, where issues are resolved swiftly, and customers leave with a sense of satisfaction and loyalty to your brand.