Over the years, our interactions and research across various call centers have led us to discover how managers can use the after-call work (ACW) metric to measure and improve contact center health. We’ve included all our findings in this complete guide that could be useful to anyone wanting to improve their call center efficiency and cut down their total cost of operations.
- What Is After-Call Work (ACW)?
- Importance of ACW: Why Does This Metric Matter?
- Call Center Industry Standards and Benchmarks for ACW
- How to Reduce After-Call Work Time in a Call Center
- ACW Troubleshooting: How Experienced Managers Use his Metric
What is After-Call Work (ACW)?
In the contact center industry, the acronym ACW stands for after-call work. As the name suggests, after-call work (also known as post-call processing) is the work a call center agent puts in after they complete a customer conversation. While completing these tasks, the agent’s status remains “busy” or “not available”.
ACW includes tasks like:
- Updating customer information in the database or within the help desk
- Adding ticket numbers
- Adding notes from the call (customer complaints, sentiments, etc.)
- Logging the call
- Sending a follow-up email to the customer
These steps are important to meet customer needs. However, this after-call work could take anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes to complete. If it takes more than a minute or so (at the utmost!) per call, agent efficiency and call center productivity suffer. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that ACW time is kept short.
Importance of ACW: Why Does This Metric Matter?
ACW time is a call center metric that measures agent productivity and call center efficiency, which affect your total cost of operations.
Since agents are the costliest resource of a contact center, you must do everything you can to improve their experience. ACW is the part of the job that drags down agent productivity and hinders the agent experience. An unhappy and overworked agent, in turn, impacts customer experience and customer satisfaction levels.
In inbound call centers, ACW time also affects customer experience more directly since agent availability affects call queues. When agents are not readily available, callers may have to wait in long call queues, making them irritable and dissatisfied. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you keep your ACW time as limited as possible.
Call Center Industry Standards and Benchmarks for ACW
In our latest Call Center Performance Report, we found that the average ACW time across call centers is 45 seconds. This means that an agent takes an average of 45 seconds to complete their after-call work and become available for the next call.
However, time spent on ACW varies based on the industry and the nature of the calls being handled. For instance, e-commerce businesses ensure that agents wrap up calls in five seconds, on average, whereas real estate agents spend an average of 91 seconds on after-call work.
How to Reduce After-Call Work Time in a Call Center
Here are five ways in which managers can make after-call work in their contact centers more efficient.
1. Use Call Disposition Codes
Using pre-filled codes or shortcodes is a common practice across all Contact Centers. These shortcodes are known as call dispositions, and you can use them to summarise:
- The reason for the call
- The outcome of the call
- Follow up instructions
Instead of typing out details or notes, let agents select from a drop-down menu. Doing this not only helps agents wrap calls faster, but also helps categorize call reasons and dispositions consistently. You can further improve your efficiency by providing keyboard shortcuts and auto search options for the drop-down menu.
2. Select disposition codes while on call
Agents should be able to select the codes while they are still on call. That means that they are selecting their call disposition codes from the drop-down menu while they are still speaking to the customer. As soon as the call ends, they “save” and are ready for their next call in seconds.
3. Format your ACW codes
Never have more than 5 master reasons and 5 sub-reasons for the agent to select from(totaling 25 codes). We have seen some team leads at our clients’ contact centers go overboard, creating 100+ disposition codes. Yes, it will give micro-level tracking of the calls; but it will lead to an inefficient group of agents who will spend more than 20 seconds searching for a code.
4. Restrict codes to a single-level
The number of wrap-up codes is one issue. Another typical contact center rookie mistake is to create multi-level disposition/wrap-up codes. Even if your contact center software provides multi-level wrap-up codes, DO NOT get tempted by them. It will lead to unwanted loss of time for agents and make the operations much more complicated.
5. Automate as much as possible
It only takes an hour to integrate your contact center solution with your CRM. And this one hour can save each of your agents many, many productive work hours. It would make a call cycle, including ACW more efficient and streamlined. Tasks that can be automated include:
- Editing customer data in real-time: A CRM integration ensures that your agents do not need to toggle between screens to edit customer data and make updates (to contact information, notes, etc.) They can do all this while on call since the call dashboard opens within the CRM window iself.
- Scheduling follow-up calls from within the CRM: An open CRM system window during a call enables agents to schedule follow-up calls directly from their contact center or telephony system. They don’t need to open an additional window or go elsewhere within their system to do so, which means they can schedule follow-ups during and not after a call.
- Auto-logging calls and recordings: Rather than requiring agents to make detailed notes during or after calls, some contact center software automatically logs and even records calls right from within agents’ CRM screen. That way agents don’t waste time manually logging notes.
- Auto-generation of tickets: With A CRM integration, tickets are automatically generated and linked to the caller’s history. New numbers also can generate new tickets automatically.
6. Use a single-dispositon API
When your agent has to separately fill out dispositions in your contact center software and your CRM software, it unnecessarily increases ACW. Disposition API allows our clients to integrate the CRM wrap-up with the contact center to wrap up. Without this, your agent has to separately fill out dispositions in your contact center software and your CRM software.
ACW Troubleshooting: How Experienced Managers Use This Metric
Experienced call center managers understand that looking at ACW metrics can reveal deep insights into a call center and agent performance. Here are four ways they use this information:
If ACW doesn’t reduce during call volume spikes, they relook at wrap-up codes.
If an experienced contact center manager looks at ACW metrics in isolation, they can easily identify call volumes. Sounds difficult to believe? Experienced managers know that when hourly ACW times reduce, it is an indication that call volume was high in that period. Though this sounds counterintuitive, the truth is that agents work at their peak efficiency during high call volumes. If they can’t wrap up a call and move on to the next one faster during these times of high pressure, then something is going wrong.
If your ACW time does not reduce when call volume is high, you should consider training your agents on how to do this or reassessing your wrap-up codes.
They use individual ACW graphs to assess agent training needs.
When floor managers filter ACW graphs by agent, they can see individual agent graphs. When you see that call volume spikes are not creating a corresponding decrease in ACW time, use individual ACW graphs to identify training needs. The training can be as simple as explaining the different wrap-up or call disposition codes to the agents, so they can identify them speedily.
Want to know the exact correlation between training and ACW time? According to our research, managers see a 20% reduction in ACW time after their agents completed six months of training. That’s the difference training can make.
To plan new call disposition codes, they look at daily ACW graphs.
Managers measure daily after-call work average times and median times to discover if they need to train their agents. If the graphs show the ACW is steadily increasing, they know it is time to train agents. But if they see a fluctuating ACW, they need to see if agents were having trouble selecting the right call disposition codes. Maybe, something has changed in the customers calling patterns, and agents don’t know the correct code name to identify this new issue. This tells managers that it’s time to edit or add new codes. We can see how this played out in 2020. The pandemic and ensuing lockdowns caused a complete change in the kind of customer service calls that call centers received. The result? Our research shows that the average ACW in 2020 was 45 seconds, 80% higher than the previous year.
The wrap-up code count helps them identify campaign challenges.
Each wrap-up code corresponds to a specific issue and resolution. If the number of codes for a certain issue increases, then it’s easy to identify that a problem exists that needs to be solved.
For example, an operations manager at an e-commerce company might suddenly notice that the wrap-up code “SKU Not Found” was high on the previous day or week. When the manager checks, they may discover that a 50% discount on this SKU resulted in it getting sold out. Assuming the discount is on for the next week, the operations manager immediately knows they need to boost inventory to prevent the discount campaign from failing or causing customer dissatisfaction.
After-call work is an important part of any successful call. It completes the call loop. While ACW, or post-call processing, time should not be rushed, it should be made as efficient as possible. Some simple ways to achieve this goal are through comprehensive agent training and multitasking coupled with optimal utilization of technology to provide time- and labor-saving assistance.
GET A DEMO: Technology is here to help and not make your agent experience difficult. If your agents are unable to wrap calls faster, consider using a call center software like Ozonetel. Speak to our team today to get a personalized demo, and let them show you how our disposition APIs and CRM integrations help reduce ACW, identify agent training needs, and improve productivity by 40% and more.