Continue to make customer needs pivotal by severely managing ops, creating that important human connection, staying agile, and making overall CX more proactive and intuitive! While at the same time mindfully managing employee wellbeing and emotional connection.
Reduce queue times.
Are you facing a sudden increase in call volumes? Reduce how long callers wait in a call queue by allowing them to opt for voicemail and callbacks. Deliver voice mails to a priority inbox and schedule a time to push all missed calls into a dialer so that they are distributed amongst agents and are attended to. So, whether it’s a holiday or after hours when a customer calls, agents stay on top of it and reach customers no matter what! The use of call backs + power dialers combo appears to be a tactical way forward.
This is more important now than before. When a customer calls and doesn’t complete a call cycle, it is considered an abandoned or a missed call. And every missed call equals a missed opportunity or a disgruntled customer, which in turn could lead to lost business. Use automated power dialers to schedule callbacks to ensure you call back these unhappy customers.
Learn more about our Power Dialers here
Combat customer fatigue.
Ozonetel’s research reveals that the average customer answer rate for outbound calls pre and post-pandemic declined from 46% to 39%. This answer rate is indicative of the percentage of outbound calls made by businesses that were actually answered by customers or prospects. Some of these calls may have been proactive support calls while others were telemarketing calls. The decrease in the number of customers answering these calls indicates customer fatigue at being “over called”. This was particularly true in the most hard-hit industry trio- eCommerce, food delivery, healthcare/pharma. In such cases, utilizing alternate modes of communication like social media, WhatsApp and SMS can help optimally reach customers.
Unification & tech differentiation.
Omnichannel solutions and stringent quality control/ agent training are essential in providing customers a more proactive and intuitive journey. Contact centers will need to adapt, innovate, unify, and stay agile. According to Olga Potaptseva it is important to make customer centricity intentional and sustainable through rigorous planning and project management. As also expressed by consultant guru Remi Weber Dublaron, “CX does not exist on its own but is a part of a larger, intertwined Experience Management system.” This can be achieved through “tech differentiation” – leveraging the power of AI and omnichannel capabilities, among other tech innovations.
Learn more about our omnichannel solutions here.
Retain agents and care for their wellbeing
With WFH now and in the future, keeping up employee morale is essential. Change is tiresome and attrition expensive. As expressed by customer service support Andrea Gilliam, leaders must pay attention to team morale and energy level.
Read what CX experts recommend for call centers in 2021 here
Make human interaction possible
According to industry leader Jeanne Bliss, “Humanity is at the core of what makes companies soar”. Especially at a time when 1:1 human interaction has been unusual, this is truer than before. Having customers speedily chat with a live human will likely become a benchmark for superior customer service, CX, and loyalty. Call centers should vie to make this connection more seamless and frequent.
Ozonetel is committed to creating efficient, agile call center solutions for call centers of all sizes. Learn more about our solutions here.
How life has changed a year into the novel coronavirus pandemic needs no introduction. Disrupted workflows and post covid human interactions/ communication needs have forced organizations to make agile & innovative operational shifts to meet the demands in a revised pandemic-infused reality for both customers as well as for employees. The call center world is no exception.
Ozonetel, a leading call center software solutions provider recently published a collection of interviews of industry leaders who shed light on call center trends in a post covid world. Unsurprisingly, in a post covid world, call centers need to brace themselves towards tech unification, proactive customer journey, and employee retention & wellness.
Call center trends in a post covid world
1. New tech touchpoints
Thanks to the advent of new technology, channels like live video chats, mobile texts, and in-app conversations will continue to be popularly used in 2021. This, coupled with customers with short attention span, rapid delivery will become important.
2. High call volumes are here to stay for the foreseeable future
According to a study by Ozonetel, where 150 million calls across six diverse industry verticals were analyzed, high call volumes are likely to continue to be more pronounced especially for the healthcare/pharma, eCommerce, and food delivery industries. Inbound/ outbound call unpredictability is likely to continue as Covid-related services and announcements roll out globally.
Also Read: State of the Customer Experience. What did 2020 change?
3. More proactive and predictive customer journeys
Post pandemic, for 60% of consumers, customer experience has become pivotal in determining loyalty. Customers are highly tuned in and nothing goes unnoticed. Consistent customer experience will become crucial. Inconsistencies will lead to distrust, leading them to switch to competitive offerings.
So, contact centers can’t afford to be siloed anymore. According to digital marketing and Customer Experience leader, Sue Duris, “Alignment to the customer only works when every team is rowing in the same direction.” In 2021, call centers will, therefore, need to concertedly employ a more “unified” approach around business operations to provide more integrated, proactive, and predictive CX.
Also Read: How Integrated Call Centers Help Drive the Customer Experience
4. Empathy takes center stage
A truly fantastic customer journey is not possible without empathy and human connections, no matter how streamlined & robust the technology. According to Customer Success Manager, Sara Ostin, “We’ve had to become really great at reading the room and understanding the environment that our customers operate in in order to provide true value”. So, a one-size-fits-all approach needs to be replaced with a deeper understanding of customer needs.
5. Need to optimize for employee engagement
Great agent experience = superior customer experience! With employees working from home, possibly permanently, it’ll be imperative for employers to ensure adequate employee engagement and emotional connection for them to be 100% productive. This will likely need to become a core part of an organization’s strategic roadmap.
Mike Akoi, from Reflective Keynotes Inc. aptly puts it – “Work-from-home employee engagement will be one of the biggest contact center challenges for 2021.” As a result, orgs will need to increase communications and appreciate work-from-home agents. Coaching will need to go virtual and engaging with a two-way dialogue for agents’ personal development so work from home staff doesn’t feel ignored.
6. Employee retention will be key
Simply put, agent attrition is expensive. According to digital marketing guru, Matt Wujciak employee replacement cost is about one-third of that employee’s salary. Not to mention the huge time sink related to training, onboarding, and customer relationship-building. As a result, organizations should do whatever they can to reduce agent burnout.
Also Watch: The Key Role Contact Centers play in a Post Covid World
2020 is indeed hindsight! Learnings from the global pandemic will continue to have lessons well into 2021, simply because the aftermath of covid-19 will continue in the foreseeable future, touching all of us – customers, employers, and employees. “Many of these pandemic-related accommodations are going to stick, and technology’s role in journey management is certainly only going to increase,” according to CCXP Jim Tincher. The post covid world is still trying hard to meet its equilibrium. It continues to remain stressed and fraught. While call centers try to meet and exceed their performance metrics, this should not be done at the expense of the customer or employee experience.
Also Read: Call Center Trends 2021 Ebook: What CX experts predict!
Today, Net Promoter Score (NPS) benchmarks customer satisfaction. It predicts customer loyalty and a customer’s likelihood to recommend a call center. So, how does one land a high NPS? That’s dependent on several call center key performance indicators (KPIs) that enhance the overall CX.
What are call center KPIs?
Did a customer wait indefinitely, get frustrated and abandon the call, or was s/he attended to speedily? Questions such as this determine call center performance and customer satisfaction. As listed in the table below, there are several KPIs that impact CSAT as well as the overall agent/ call center productivity. This blog, while defining each, will focus primarily on customer satisfaction KPIs – what are they and how to improve them.
Note: efficient ops and streamlined workflows enable agent efficiency to impart high CSAT.
|Customer satisfaction KPIs||Call center ops KPIs|
|First Call Resolution (FCR)||Average Talk Time|
|Average Speed of Answer||After Call Work|
|Average Time in Queue||Employee Turnover|
|Average Abandonment Rate|
|Average Hold Time|
|Percentage of Blocked Calls||Call Dialed Per Agent|
|Service level||Average Pick up/ Answer Rate|
Customer Satisfaction KPIs and How to Improve Them?
First-call resolution (FCR)
FCR is defined as the percentage of calls that fulfill customer needs during a customer’s first call. It’s among the most important KPIs in determining CSAT. First impressions are lasting, making FCR crucial for an optimal customer experience. Ensure high FCR by:
- Routing callers to the right agent skill through IVRs.
- Cross-training agents to handle multiple call types to minimize transfers.
- Improving agents’ problem diagnosis and resolution skills through adequate training.
- Providing agents easy UI to transfer calls when needed.
Average speed of answer
The time agents take to answer inbound calls; how fast agents answer calls. Improve average answering speed, caller wait time, and finally CSAT by:
- Assessing your telephony solution. Landlines or mobile phones take up to 6 seconds for call ringing. VOIP and softphones instantly hit the call to agents.
- Improving agent training to wrap and answer calls faster.
- Using auto answer to connect callers to agents within a second.
Read more: Your complete guide to Average Speed of Answer
Average time in queue
The amount of time customers waits in order to get connected to an agent when they call a business. This also directly impacts CSAT. Increased queue times mean an inadequacy of agent availability and high customer frustration.
Optimal scheduling by the hour of day or week of the day, etc. helps meet high call volumes more efficiently. Improve average time in queue to positively impact CSAT by:
- Accurately projecting call volumes so staffing can be increased or paired down accordingly.
- Training agents to resolve problems faster and wrap after call work (ACW) rapidly.
- Setting call queue limits for each skill to route calls to. When queues exceed those limits, auto route them to other skills or agents.
- Diverting simple transactions to a self-service IVR. Transactions that are best suited to self-service IVR include location confirmation, booking confirmation, checking ticket/delivery status, and cancellations.
- Reducing call queues by letting callers opt for voicemail and call-backs. Deliver these voicemails to a priority inbox. Use a power dialer to automate callbacks.
- Using Dynamic Queue Reprioritization to ensure that high value customers are never made to wait in queue. Use CTI integrations to recognize these callers and push them to the top of the call queue.
Read More: Call Queue Management
Average abandonment rate
Calls that go unanswered as frustrated callers disconnect while in queue. Unanswered or abandoned calls = missed opportunity to connect with a customer or prospect. Perhaps a lucrative sales lead was missed, or a complaint went unaddressed, or some valuable feedback fell through the cracks. Reduce abandonment rates, customer attrition, and drive superior customer satisfaction by:
- Using skill-based routing to distribute calls optimally amongst agents.
- Defining Call Queues for each skill. Create fallbacks such as routing calls to other skills or a self-service IVR during high call volumes.
- Ensuring adequate staffing to keep call queues short.
- Offering voicemail and call-backs to callers when queue time exceeds a defined limit.
Average hold time
The time a caller waits when an agent puts him/her on hold to retrieve information, speak to a supervisor, or transfer the caller. This KPI effects both CX and overall call center productivity (as it can increase or decrease the average handle time). Address high average hold times by improving training or poor transfer technology:
- Route callers to the right agent skill by improving the IVR options.
- Cross-train agents to handle multiple call types to minimize transfers.
- Improve agent problem diagnosis and resolution skills.
- Ensure that agents have easy UI to transfer calls when needed.
Read More: Use warm transfers to improve customer experience
Percentage of blocked calls
The % of calls that receive a busy (engaged) tone. Steps can be taken to ensure to minimize busy (engaged) tone when customers call.
- Plan agent availability by analyzing call volume by time of day, seasonal busy / lull times, etc. to tweak staffing to meet the needs of cyclical call volumes.
- Ensure efficient routing to voicemails when agents are busy.
- Streamline ACW wrap so agents’ status can rapidly go from “busy” to “available” to attend to customer calls.
The % of calls answered within a pre-determined / specified number of seconds. Clients usually establish service level agreements (SLAs) with call centers that determine how quickly a call needs to be answered. This means high answer rates and low abandonment rates. To achieve this:
- Use skill-based routing to better distribute calls among agents.
- Define Call Queues for each skill.
- Ensure adequate staffing to keep call queues short.
- Create fallbacks such as routing calls to other skills or a self-service IVR during high call volumes.
- Offer voicemail and call-backs to callers when queue time exceeds a defined limit.
Call Center Productivity KPIs
The following five KPIs are utilized to track the overall call center productivity. As mentioned, these are important precursors to achieving high CX. For instance, efficient call wrap ensures agent availability to attend to a customer rapidly.
Average talk time
The amount of time on average an agent spends talking to a caller. Average talk times are used to calculate average handle times and to measure the overall contact center efficiency.
AWC or post-call processing is the work a call center agent puts in after speaking to a customer. Tasks such as updating customer information, adding call disposition and notes, call logging, or email/message follow-up. Until ACW is complete, the agent’s status remains busy or unavailable. ACW affects agent productivity and contact center efficiency.
Employee turnover is the percentage of agent attrition to seek employment elsewhere; usually a huge time sink and a setback for business productivity.
Calls Dialed Per Agent
Calls dialed per agent during outbound campaigns – manually or by using click to call from their CRM; auto or predictive dialers.
Average Pick-up / Answer rate
The number of calls dialed to connect to a contact. Average pickup / answer rates inform the efficacy of an outbound campaign in terms of timing and data quality.
Customer satisfaction is a function of the overall customer experience from the time a customer dials an 1800 number to issue resolution. Speed of response and rapid & accurate issue resolution is key. Benchmarking and periodically analyzing call center key performance indicators (KPIs) allows businesses to continually improve their CX, agent performance/wellbeing, and ROI. A robust call center software solution will provide hard numbers on each KPI to help maximize throughput. So, going back to that high NPS, take the guesswork out of the mix! Dive deep into analytics and tweak staffing, ops, and training to wow customers.
Want an industry benchmark to judge your call center KPIs? Download our Report on Call Center Performance Metrics 2020-21. Or learn about how our call center solution can help you improve your metrics today.
It’s World Book Day today and we can’t wait to share some of the most interesting reads by customer experience experts. So, pull up a chair, switch on your reading lamp and settle in with one of these hand-picked customer experience (CX) books.
Our updated reading list covers well-known experts in the field whom we love to follow and quote. Its everything CXOs, and aspiring CXO’s need to stay inspired and informed. We’ve listed the books in no particular order, we think they’re all just as brilliant. Here goes:
Customer Understanding: Three ways to put ‘customer’ in Customer experience” (and at the heart of your business) by Annette Franz
This book drives home the importance of Customer Experience and gives business a roadmap for achieving it. Based on the simple principle of “putting your customer at the heart of everything” it covers three approaches to customer understanding: surveys and data, personas, and journey mapping.
The author Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, consultant, and speaker. She is Vice Chair of the CXPA Board of Directors and is an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council.
Shep Hyken’s The Amazement Revolution: Seven Customer Service Strategies to Create an Amazing Customer (and Employee) Experience
Hyken believes that customer service isn’t a department—it’s a philosophy that includes every person and aspect of the best and brightest companies. In this sequel to the bestseller The Cult of the Customer, Shep Hyken delivers seven powerful strategies that any organization can implement to create greater customer and employee loyalty.
Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations. As a speaker and author, Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. His articles have been read in hundreds of publications, and he is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling business author of “Moments of Magic”.
Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Create Engaging Experiences on Social Media by Dan Gingiss
Social media has changed customer service forever. It has shifted power from brands to consumers, requiring a different way of thinking about customer engagement. Dan Gingiss has interviewed dozens of business leaders on his podcast, Focus on Customer Service. From those conversations and his own real-world experience at multiple Fortune 300 companies, Gingiss has developed a series of best practices called “8 Steps to Winning at Social Customer Care.”
Gingiss was named one of the “30 Most Influential People in Social Customer Service” by Conversocial, one of the “Top 15 NPS and Customer Service Thought Leaders to Follow in 2017” by CustomerGauge, one of the “Top 10 Service Cloud Influencers” by Traackr, and one of “30 Influencers That Drive Social Media for the Brands We Love” by Leadtail and Purematter.
Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine by Jeanne Bliss
A passionate customer experience practitioner, Jeanne Bliss pioneered the role of the Chief Customer Officer, holding the first ever CCO role for over 20 years at Lands’ End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker and Allstate Corporations.
Chief Customer Officer 2.0 will give you a proven framework that has launched and advanced the customer experience transformation in businesses in every vertical around the world. And it will take years off your learning curve.
What Customers Crave: How to Create Relevant and Memorable Experiences at Every Touchpoint by Nicholas J. Webb
Nicholas J. Webb is a popular speaker and corporate strategist in the areas of customer experience design and innovation. His firm, Cravve, provides consulting and training to many of the world’s top brands.
What Customers Crave, author and business strategist Nicholas Webb simplifies this critical task into being able to confidently answer two questions: What do your customers love? What do they hate?Jam-packed with tools and examples, this must-have resource helps businesses reinvent how they engage with customers (both physical and virtual).
Inside Your Customer’s Imagination: 5 Secrets for Creating Breakthrough Products, Services, and Solutions by CHIP R. BELL
Chip R. Bell is senior partner of the Chip Bell Group. For the sixth year in a row, Global Gurus in 2020 ranked him one of the top three keynote speakers in the world on customer service. Bell has appeared on CNBC, CNN, Fox Business, Bloomberg TV, ABC, CBS, and NPR, and his work has been featured in Fortune, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, Success, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, Money, and Fast Company. He is a regular columnist for Forbes.com, MoneyInc.com, CEOWORLD Magazine, Real Leaders, and TheCEOMagazine.com.
In this book, using examples from organizations like McDonald’s, DHL, Marriott, Lockheed Martin, Discover Financial, Ultimate Software, and many more, Bell shows how co-creation partnerships enable you to tap into the treasure trove of ideas, ingenuity, and genius-in-the-raw within every customer.
Mapping Experiences by James Kalbach
Author Jim Kalbach, Principal UX Designer with Citrix, introduces you to the principles behind alignment diagrams—a class of deliverables also known as experience mapping—using several examples. You’ll learn how to visually map your existing customer experience, based on user research, and demonstrate how and where customer perspectives intersect with business goals. Using various mapping techniques from UX design, you’ll learn how to turn customer observations into actionable insight for product design.
The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service by Lee Cockerell
Lee Cockerell is the author of Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney, among others. He is the former Executive Vice President of Operations of Walt Disney World and has held executive positions at Hilton Hotels and Marriott. During his distinguished career in the hospitality industry Cockerell earned a worldwide reputation as an expert on the customer experience.
Lee knows that success in business–any business–depends upon winning and keeping customers. In 39 digestible, bite-sized chapters, Lee shares everything he has learned in his 40+ year career in the hospitality industry about creating an environment that keeps customers coming back for more. Here, Lee not only shows why the customer always rules, but also the Rules for serving customers so well they’ll never want to do business with anyone but you.
The Guaranteed Customer Experience – How To Customer By Keeping Your Promises’- Jeff Toister
Jeff Toister is your service culture guide. He is a customer service author, consultant, and trainer. He is also the president of Toister Performance Solutions, Inc., a company that helps companies get their employees obsessed with customer service.
The Guaranteed Customer Experience turns the concept of a guarantee on its head. An experience guarantee goes beyond merely warranting a product against defects. It encompasses the entire customer journey to promise an experience that never falls short of expectations.
Uplifting Service by Ron Kaufman
Ron Kaufman, the founder of UP! Your Service is the world’s premiere thought-leader, educator, and motivator for uplifting customer service and building service cultures.Ron is a columnist at Bloomberg Businessweek and he has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and USA Today.
In Uplifting Service, Ron takes you on a journey into a new world of service that is guided by fundamental principles and actionable models. After more than two decades helping leaders transform their service cultures, Kaufman has discovered that while each successful team is different, the architecture they apply to build an uplifting service culture is the same.In this New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon.com bestselling book, Kaufman lays out the steps you can take to build a sustainable culture that delivers outstanding service every day.
According to Margaret Atwood, “word, after word, after word is power.” These words can definitely power the way to respond to urgent changes in business and in our environment. Share this among your teams and plot your own journey to arrive at a strategy that works for your customers and your business. Happy reading!
What is Average Handle Time?
The average handle time or AHT is the average time taken by an agent to accomplish all call related tasks through the call cycle. From call initiation till the end when an agent’s status changes from “busy” to “available”. Simply put, the average handle time is the mean or average of these 3 call tasks – talk time, hold time, and after call work.
- Average Talk Time is the average time an agent spends talking to a caller. It is used to calculate average handle times and to measure the overall contact center efficiency.
- Average Hold Time is the amount of time a caller waits when an agent puts him/her on hold to retrieve information, speak to a supervisor, or transfer the caller. This KPI effects both customer experience and can increase or decrease the average handle time. Low hold time can enhance customer satisfaction.
- After Call Work (ACW) or post-call processing is the work or tasks a call center agent puts in after speaking to a customer. Examples of ACW are updating customer information, adding call disposition and notes, call logging, or email / message follow up, etc. Until ACW is complete, the agent’s status remains busy or unavailable. Efficient ACW goes a long way in managing call queues. Lowered call queues generally translate into lower hold times with positively impact customer experience, agent productivity, and contact center efficiency.
To summarize, a call center agent’s job is multifaceted. A call is an evolved process with several tasks and steps, from talking to customers to possibly putting them on hold to the final steps of post-call processing and wrap. The average handle time is a mean or average of all these steps:
AHT = (Average Talk Time + Average Hold Time + After Call Work) / Total number of calls
What is a good Average Handle Time?
Average handle times vary from industry to industry. For instance for an ecommerce customer support, average handle times may be between 3 to 5 minutes. For a software support center, where agents guide give customers step by step guidance on using their software, AHT of 30 minutes may not be uncommon. In our latest study, Average handle times across industries was nearly 5 minutes.
Here is a look at average talk times, hold times, and after call work, by industry as per our latest study.
Why is AHT important?
Average handle time is an important call center metric. It plays a significant role in determining the cost per call and therefore, the overall call center productivity, as well as agent productivity, performance benchmarks, and other CX metrics such as customer experience and satisfaction.
How to improve the Average Handle Time?
It has been established that average handle time is a critical call center KPI. However, it would be unwise to cut corners in order to make the numbers look good. Reducing handle times by having agents scramble through a call to quickly get through it or not wrap a call properly will cause other obvious problems that will eventually be detrimental to a call center’s bottomline. Red flags would likely include issues like repeat calls by a customer to address an issue, customer attrition, lowered CSAT, etc.
It has also been stated that AHT is dependent on 3 key call center processes – talk time, hold time and post-call processing or after call work (ACW). The secret lies in ensuring the efficiency and accuracy at each of these stages to fully optimize for a good AHT metric. Some ways to improve average handle time are:
Integrating with CRM to automate call logging and schedule follow-ups in a unified window. This improves processes (like hold times) since the agent readily has easy access to all the information. It also helps automate manual or repetitive tasks. This saves time and shortens the overall call lifecycle.
Good skill-based training, cross-training agents to handle multiple call types to minimize transfers and improving agent problem diagnosis & resolution skills on an on-going basis is helpful in improving the average handle time. For example, re-visiting call recordings can be constructive in determining “glows and grows” for future calls.
Optimal call routing.
Route callers to the right agent skill by improving IVR options. Ensure that agents have easy UI to transfer calls when needed.
Utilize Call Disposition codes instead of requiring agents to add notes. Limit Wrap Codes to five master reasons and five sub reasons; and restrict Wrap Codes to a single level.
Efficient staffing is essential for ideal handle time outcomes. By ensuring adequate and skilled agent availability during peak time, for instance, can be helpful in managing hold times or in successful first call resolutions. Use your call center software solution’s reports to help you predict call volumes by month, day, and time.
Average handle time is critical in determining key outcomes such as customer experience, operational performance, and a call center’s cost structure. Merely reducing the average handle time is not an optimal strategy to enhance a call center’s overall productivity and efficiency. Improving or enhancing it is important. The key to a successful AHT metric is reduced resolution time + high CSAT. Which in turn, will likely impact a call center’s profit margins.
What is After Call Work (ACW) or Post-Call Processing?
As the name suggests, after-call-work (AWC) or post-call processing, is the work a call center agent puts in after speaking to a customer. These are the agent’s to-dos before s/he can truly wrap up a call. Until this time, an agent’s status remains busy or not available. These tasks include:
- Updating customer information. (in the database and/or within help desk)
- Adding ticket numbers.
- Adding notes from the call or call dispositions (e.g the reason for the call, outcome of the call, etc.)
- Logging the call.
- Follow up email to the customer.
Steps such as these are indeed important to meet customer needs. However, call wrap time could take anywhere from a few seconds to minutes. If ACW takes more than a minute or so (utmost!), agent efficiency and call center productivity are adversely impacted. It is, therefore, critical to ensure that the time taken to wrap up a call is minimized.
What is the average time for ACW across call centers?
Why does this metric matter?
Managing ACW: 5 Tips to Reduce ACW & Improve Agent Productivity
Agent Productivity is the key to run an efficient contact center process. Since agents are the costliest resource of a contact center, it is imperative that we do everything in the contact center ecosystem to improve their experience. One job which really drags down Agent Productivity is ACW or Wrap Up Time. This, in turn, impacts other metrics like Call Abandonment Rate and Queue Time. Controlling this parameter leads to a significant improvement in overall Contact Center performance. Let us go through 5 of the important ways in which you can optimize ACW time and improve your ratings
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, agents just select from a drop-down menu. This lets you categorize call reasons and dispositions easily and consistently across all your calls. Plus it also saves time for agents.
You can further improve your efficiency, by providing keyboard shortcuts and auto search options for the drop-down menu.
2. Select wrap up codes while on call
Agents should be able to select the codes while they are still on call. That means that while they are still speaking to the caller, they are also selecting their call disposition codes from the drop-down menu. As soon as the call ends, they see the “save” button. They click it and are ready for their next call in seconds.
3. Integrate ACW with the CRM
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.
Disposition API: Our 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. Our Disposition API saves 10-15% of agents’ time in ACW.
Auto Generate Tickets: When your CRM is integrated with your contact center solutions, tickets are automatically generated for every new call, and logged against the caller’s history. New incoming phone numbers generate a new ticket automatically.
Schedule follow-up calls from within the CRM: Agents should not require to open an additional window to schedule follow-up calls. (Also read: call scheduling)
4. 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 on tracking, creating 100+ wrap up 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.
5. Restrict wrap 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.
Call Center managers have to maintain a fine balance between tracking calls with disposition/wrapup codes and optimizing Agent Productivity. This is a continuous process and has to be periodically reviewed for corrections. Lets learn how to measure your ACW, to extract vital information from it.
Analyzing ACW: How contact center managers use ACW to measure and improve performance
Contact Center Managers unanimously agree that CSAT is the most vital metric to measure contact center performance. However, years of interacting with contact center managers over the years have helped us discover important and interesting ways that experts use After Call Work as a metric to measure and improve contact center health. It was fun learning how they were able to draw outputs from this metric. We’ve enlisted some of the ways here:
1. High call volumes not reducing your ACW? Relook at your wrap up codes
If an experienced contact center manager looks at ACW metrics in isolation, they can easily identify call volumes from it. Sounds difficult to believe? But, experienced managers know that when hourly ACW reduce, it is an indication that call volumes were high in that period. This may sound counter-intuitive, but the truth is that agents work at their peak efficiency during high call volumes. If they are unable to wrap up a call faster during these times, when there is high pressure from their floor managers/team leads to wrap calls and move to the next one—then something needs to be reviewed.
So if your call volume is high, and your ACW doesn’t reduce, then consider training the agents or reassessing your wrap up codes.
2. Use Agent ACW graphs to assess training needs
When floor managers filter ACW graphs by agents, they can see individual agent graphs. When you see that call volumes spikes are not creating a corresponding decrease in ACW, then use these individual ACW graphs to identify training needs. The training may be as simple as explaining the various codes and meanings to the agents, so they can identify disposition speedily.
Want to know the exact correlation between training and ACW? A contact center manager I know once told me that he had observed a 20% reduction in ACW after their executives completed 6 months of employment. That’s the difference training can make.
3. Use your daily ACW graph to assess your wrap up codes.
Managers measure daily after-call work average times as well as mean/medians to find out if they needed to train the agents. If the ACW time was increasing continuously, then it is time to change the agents. If it is a Sine wave, they can identify that agents were getting confused in selecting wrap up codes. It is possible that something has changed in customer calling patterns, and your agents don’t have the right code name to identify this new issue. So it may be time to edit or add new codes.
4. Use wrap-up code count to identify campaign challenges.
Each wrap code corresponds to a specific issue/ resolution. If the number of codes for a certain issue increases, then its easy to identify that there is a problem to be solved.
For example, an E-commerce company suddenly sees wrap up code: “SKU Not Found” — to be quite high on a given day/week. Operations managers check if this corresponds to a marketing campaign. Let’s say that in this case, there was a marketing campaign advertising a 50% discount on this SKU resulting in the SKU getting sold out. Let’s also assume the marketing campaign is on for the next week. The operations manager immediately knows they have to boost inventory or the marketing campaign will fail or cause customer dissatisfaction.
Finally, After Call Work is an important step in wrapping up a call. It completes the call loop and helps managers identify important issues. While ACW or post-call processing time should not be rushed, it should be made more efficient. Some simple ways to achieve this goal is through comprehensive agent training and multitasking coupled with optimal utilization of technology to provide time and labor-saving assistance. tance, real
A warm transfer is also known as a consultative hold, and it can be made anytime during an inbound or outbound call. In this transfer, an agent patches the call to the supervisor, another agent or another department while keeping the caller/callee on hold. When the agent or supervisor gets connected, they quickly brief them on the call context before completing the transfer. The agent who transfers the call can remain part of the conversation (three-party conference), or drop out of the call at any time.
When to Use a Warm Transfer?
In general, agents in customer support centers should select warm transfers over blind transfers to improve customer experience. For outbound sales, representatives should use warm transfers when a prospect expresses intent and availability—to close deals faster. Use cases include:
- When a caller accidentally connects to the wrong department, your agent can initiate a warm transfer to the correct department, so that the caller doesn’t have to repeat any information they already gave your agent.
- When an agent cannot solve a problem, they can use a warm transfer to take help from a colleague or a supervisor.
- Agents can also use a warm transfer to consult a technical team or someone with deeper product knowledge anytime during the call, and then conclude the call themselves (using three-party conferencing).
- Outbound call centers can use warm transfers to qualify leads and pass them to senior account representatives to close deals faster.
- Customer care executives can promote offers and warm transfer the interested customers to sales representatives.
Advantages of Warm Transfer
- Customers don’t have to repeat their issue every time the call is transferred, this reduces customer frustration and average call handling time.
- Agents get call context before handling a call and are better prepared to resolve the problem/close the deal.
- You increase first-call resolutions and speed conversions because when agents cannot solve a problem/answer a query, they quickly transfer calls to those who can.
How to Make a Warm Transfer
- Anytime during an ongoing call, click on the transfer button on the Call Controls bar at the bottom of your agent dashboard.
- A window pops up. From the drop-down menu, choose whom to transfer the call to. You can select a Skill, Phone Number or Agent.
TRANSFER TO ANOTHER SKILL: Choose “Skill” from the drop-down menu to transfer calls to another department. Each skill represents a department or set of call center agents. These skills were defined during your contact center software set up.
TRANSFER TO ANOTHER AGENT: If you want to transfer the call to a specific agent, select “Agent” and choose your agent name from the drop-down menu.
TRANSFER TO ANOTHER PHONE: You can select “Phone” to connect your customer/prospect to a third-party phone number—outside of your contact center. (For example, a supplier or any other third party vendor.)
- After you have made your selection, select “Consultative Hold” in the drop-down menu for “Type” and click on the transfer button.
- When the call connects, you can quickly brief the agent/supervisor/third party vendor about the call context.
- The customer is on hold by default, throughout this process. To patch them into the call click the hold button on your call control bar, at the bottom of your agent dashboard.
- You can drop out of call at any time by clicking the phone icon below your Call Control bar, at the bottom of your agent dashboard.
Would you rather do business with someone you knew and trusted or with someone new and unfamiliar? Trust is a sticky business. Literally. People build trust over time, after numerous interactions with the same person.
This leads to better customer experience, faster resolutions and less conflict. In industries such as education, property, and financial services it is the norm for customers/prospects to be mapped to a single counselors/representatives or agents.
What is a Sticky Agent?
When your customer completes their first conversation with your agent, the Sticky Agent feature ensures that every time they call back, they connect with the same agent. It essentially maps the customer/prospect to that agent for all future interactions.
This feature is useful whenever customer relationship management is a high priority. For example, it is invaluable in industries like real estate, concierge services, personalized travel advisories, and financial services. It is also useful for s emergency services, complaint resolution, and escalations. You could also offer it as a premium service offered to select clientele.
How to enable a Sticky Agent?
To enable a Sticky Agent, you will need to configure Agent-Based Routing for your inbound calls. You will also need to enable tagging customer phone numbers to Agent IDs. Before this, you will need to set up some business rules. Let’s explore what these are, step by step:
Step 1: Decide When You Want This Feature To Be Enabled.
All your calls need not be diverted to Sticky Agents. You can set up your Sticky Agents for:
- Specific skill groups: You may not want all your callers to be assigned a Sticky Agent. Or you may not have trained all your agents for a personalized relationship-building role. In such cases, create a skill group, and enable the Sticky Agent feature only for this group. You can even map which customers get diverted to this skill group. For example, only your high-value customers (Also read: How to setup skills ).
- Calls from a particular source: You can divert calls from a specific group to your “Sticky Agents” for example your inbound web leads or your inbound LinkedIn leads.
- Specific call types: You can enable the feature specifically for inbound or outbound calls. (for outbound calls, you can enable Sticky Agent when you are using dialers. Also, read- All about Auto Dialers).
Step 2: Set Up The Workflow
- Define fallback rules at the outset: What happens when your agent is unavailable (when s/he is either busy or not logged in)? You have two choices:
- You can push the call to a voice mail which can alert the agent directly and give the agent an auto call back option. OR
- You can route the call to other available agents. If you select this option, you will also need to define whether this agent or the previous agent is assigned the “sticky” status. For example, make this your fallback choice in case the regular agent is on sick leave. Or if the agent has left your company, use this choice too, assign a new agent the “sticky” status.
- When defining these rules, you will need to keep in mind if you have an SLA for a callback.
- Define inbound/outbound rules: If you have selected “Sticky Agents” only for outbound calls, you need to define what happens if the customer dials you. For example, if you have separate sales and support departments, an SDR may be assigned as a customer “Sticky Agent”. But if that customer calls for a support issue, they will be assigned to any available agent in support.
- Define static or dynamic “Sticky Agent” status: In a cold calling process, if you apply sticky agent, then the “sticky” status can keep rotating based on who tried the prospect’s number last. If the prospect calls back, they will be diverted to the agent who last tried their number and this agent will get the “sticky” status for this customer.
- Define expiry: You need to define when the Sticky Agent mapping will expire. Is it a day, a week or eternity?
- Consider feedback: What if the customer does not like the agent s/he has been assigned. Or if they have a problem with the agent. How can the customer reset his configuration? In such cases, negative feedback or an escalation can trigger a reset.
Why use the “Sticky Agent” feature?
Trust and relationship building are two major benefits of the Sticky Agent feature. But there are some other advantages too:
- Improve resolution time Every caller to your customer support or sales center has a different problem or requirement. The agent has spoken with the background and it is faster for them to handle the call.
- Improve conversion rates: If the leads/prospects speak to the same agent during a sale, the sale becomes easier and all interactions with the team happen via the agent. This builds trust and improves conversion rates.
- Provide consistency: When the same agent speaks to the customer, they are responsible for that customer’s CX and are more liable to meet their commitments.
A call management system (CMS) or call management software, simply put, is one that allows businesses to manage their inbound call volume by routing calls based on pre-defined parameters or features.
Utilizing features such as call queues and IVR menus, for example, companies can specify (or determine) how calls are routed or transferred. Companies also have the opportunity to prioritize calls in real-time and route them based on additional criteria such as customer purchase lifecycle, agent workload, etc.
While choosing a call management system, businesses need to answer a few questions”
- Should calls be routed based on time and /or date of a call, caller location, or through automatic routing processes?
- Where should calls be routed to: an agent or an auto-attendant?
- Should a call be put on a call queue or a call back menu?
Based on in-depth analyses of call volumes, companies can create paths to optimally route their inbound calls to best serve their customers’ needs.
In summary, a call management system is the internal process of selecting a customized criteria-based critical path to route a customer call. It often uses computer telephony integration (CTI) system to function within a network.
Why is a call management system important?
Let’s look at some stats:
- The average customer hold time is 56 seconds (Source: conversational.com). That may not seem like a lot, but after 2 minutes, customers hang up (Source: Small Business Chronicle).
- 70% of business callers in the US are put on hold (Source: Inbound/Outbound). How much lost business and disgruntled customers are we talking about? Substantial! Especially, as 40% of customers in the US attempt a phone purchase (Source: American Teleservices Association).
Given this scenario, it’s a no-brainer then, that companies put in place effective call management systems to maximize efficiency and customer satisfaction. Among other advantages, CMS offers customized caller experience and maximum efficiency of call handling. Companies can thereby hope for:
- Better customer satisfaction
- Lowered dropped calls
- Reduced agent turnover
- Increased revenues
Having said this, it is worth acknowledging that today most contact center software / systems have in-built basic call management capabilities such as call hold, mute, call transfer and blocking. So, if a business can get by with basic capabilities of their existing telephony software, chances are they may not need a call management system (CMS) after all.
But if your business has especially high call volumes, complex workflows / contact center operations, a CMS is likely to be a viable value add. With its additional array of more sophisticated features, you could hope to:
- Optimize workflows
- More optimally manage call load
- Improve overall customer satisfaction, retention, and conversion
- Identify and diagnose operational holes, leaks and plug them expediently
What to look for in a call management system?
A CMS is typically a VoIP-based software or service that can be customized to optimally meet your business goals. Companies should deeply reflect upon their most pressing business needs/ KPIs. And then based on these needs, thoughtfully configure their system with features.
A great resource to determine insightful next steps would be a 360-degree deep dive into system generated call reports. Reports measuring customer satisfaction, agent performance (handle times, abandon rates, productivity metrics, etc.), and overall management reports (e.g. conversions, and other revenue output data) should provide a strategic foundation for the utility of a CMS. And if so, what aspect(s) of the ops should be tweaked.
Here is a list of some CMS features that are useful upgrades over the basic suite of in-built contact center software / telephony systems’ call queue management and call management capabilities:
- Easy real-time monitoring.
- Robust reporting.
- Ease of use.
- Advanced Speech Recognition IVRs.
- AI-powered chatbots.
- Multi-tiered Auto attendants.
- Call forwarding with answering service.
- Call flip.
- Advanced VM.
- Audio Conferencing
- Seamless CRM integration.
- Email / text / social media integration.
Let’s look at each of these points in detail:
Easy real-time monitoring.
This enables businesses to have a strong sense on the pulse of their campaigns and agent performance. Easy to use, well integrated monitoring systems make monitoring painless and efficient. For example, supervisors have the ability to monitor campaign and agent productivity in real time. They can stop a campaign if there are unusually high call drops. They are able to easily “barge into” a call or “whisper” tips to an existing agent.
Intel is what drives strategic business vision and roadmap. Robust reporting (both real-time and historical) of key metrics like agent performance, call reports, campaign metrics, split/skills, vectors, vector directory numbers, trunks, etc. inform critical business decisions. Businesses should be able to analyze these from a granular/ micro lens (e.g. minutes, real-time through live dashboards that update every 5 seconds or so) to a more macro / big picture level (over a period of days, weeks, months, or semester).
Ease of use.
Is important for a variety of reasons – it saves time, makes agent training and on boarding efficient, makes customization and routing intuitive and quick. Today, drag and drop IVRs, for instance, make customizable call routing and workflows easy to configure since you can make changes without writing a single line of code.
Advanced Speech Recognition IVRs.
Simplify and streamline high inbound call volume through advanced speech recognition. When combined with IVRs, it imparts a better customer experience. One that is based on intuition, interpretation, and efficiency.
AI-powered chat bots.
Offer customers a natural, human-like conversation. The benefits of which are deep. For example, based on a set of qualifying questions, in an engaging conversational manner, this technology can deftly gain valuable insights about prospective customer(s) in terms of quality lead generation and product feedback.
Automated Call Distribution or ACD is the ability to transfer / route inbound calls to the right agent based on a variety of parameters. These include (not limited to) time-of-day, agent’s skills/ multi-skills, or campaign, etc. Depending on the call load, the call management software can be configured to route calls to the supervisor if all agents are busy; or to an auto call back mechanism, where the system calls back a customer when an agent is available.
Multi-tiered auto attendants.
The key here is, ‘multi’. Basic auto-attendant functionality is part of any phone system. A multi-teared auto-attendant capability offers deeper features such as customized caller greetings and the ability to route a call to multiple numbers.
Call forwarding with answering service.
While simple call forwarding is no biggie in the contact center software word, i.e. it is almost a given, the key here is having it in conjunction with an answering service. Call forwarding + answering service ensures that while most calls are likely to be forwarded on to other numbers, the ones that could fall through the cracks if customers leave a message on voicemail, those don’t get lost in the shuffle and get picked up too.
Especially if you’re in sales, for example, where you are on the go, having the ability to seamlessly switch a call over to another device maybe something that’s a nifty functionality to have.
Basic voicemail exists in almost any contact center software. Advanced VM allows for further customization like custom greetings; automated transcription features that turn messages into text, etc. Another use scenario would be to automate sending these customer voicemails directly to a supervisor’s email account, so that they can schedule call backs.
The ability to conduct audio conferences across users / team members is also a relatively common feature in most online telephony systems. However, with some restrictions like limits on the number of users or with only one (or limited) number to facilitate conference bridges. So, if collaborative meeting and conferencing is vital to your business, a CMS maybe worth considering.
Seamless CRM integration.
If your current contact center software doesn’t have the capability of automatic integration with leading CRM software like Salesforce, Zendesk, Zoho, & Freshdesk, make sure that you get that capability. It is critical for overall CX.
Also Read: All about CRM integrations
Email / text / social media integration.
Customer touch points through a variety of integrated communication options – email, SMS, Twitter, Facebook, or WhatsApp.
Top Call Management Systems for growing businesses
So, if you have determined that your business would indeed benefit from the advanced capabilities of call management software (CMS) or system, the good news is that it does not have to break the bank.
In a competitive landscape, prices and fee structures remain competitive too! Your business needs and KPIs will determine your fee structure (per month per user), which can range anywhere from $17.99 to $80.
Based on multiple factors such as features, customer support, ease of use, integration capabilities, and scalability, here are some companies to help meet your call management needs:
- Ozonetel. Ozonetel is our product, and we’re very proud of it. So naturally we’re going to peg it in the top 5 call management systems. We think it offers the most comprehensive, scalable, flexible, and value-driven plan. Starting at $25/user/month, the basic plan offers all important call management features including an easy to use ‘Drag & Drop IVR’ that can create complex multi-level menus, after office hours messages as well as many callback options. The agent call controls include the ability to mute, hold, & transfer calls (both cold and warm transfers are possible). Plus, it offers live monitoring Barge, Whisper and Snoop), in-built CRM integrations with Salesforce, Zendesk, Zoho, & Freshdesk, real-time performance dashboard and 40+ reports. Businesses have the flexibility to scale up/downsize or even cancel plans anytime without incurring penalties.
- RingCentral’s premium subscription at $34.99/user/month offers rich features such as auto call recording, multi-site admin and management, whisper, barge, and more, real-time analytics and reporting, among others. However, early termination of a plan maybe subject to additional fees/ penalty.
- Vonage offers a range of options from basic call management capabilities such as skill-based routing to dialers and more dynamic routing options. The Vonage plan most ideally serves businesses with small teams. The fee goes up as you add features that scale with your business needs. Pricing ranges between $17.99-$37.99/user/month.
So, as a growing business, what should you do?
Do your due diligence!
- Exploit the full potential of your existing contact center software / cloud telephony system.
- Be 100% sold on the robustness of the CMS offerings.
- Not ready to commit? No sweat! There are service providers out there that will allow ‘pay as you go’ flexibility. These plans let you pay as your business needs scale. You do not have to commit to a flat rate for an extended period where several product offerings may not even be applicable to your current business needs.
- Opt for a call management system with no set up fee. That is just a waste. Especially where there are great plans that meet your unique business needs and do not require a set-up fee.
- Get a call management system that allows you to cancel anytime without any penalty.
Most importantly, have a clear business vision, know what you want, and do your research!
As the name suggests, Cloud Telephony is the communications technology where all communication devices and applications are hosted at the service provider’s premises. Any business interested in using these services does not need to install any software or buy any hardware to get the services started. The service can be an IVR, call center setup, call recording, virtual number or call forwarding. These services can be started on a traditional phone, mobile or a computer system i.e. desktop, laptop or tablet.
It works via two networks
- PSTN – Many countries do not allow the mixing of IP and PSTN calls like India and Middle East countries. These countries use PSTN based cloud Telephony solution
- IP – The cloud telephony services are delivered via the internet. Some countries such as United States have internet linked calling or are VoIP enabled, for providing Cloud Telephony services.
PSTN BASED CLOUD TELEPHONY
To understand better, let’s look at a traditional solution and compare it with the cloud telephony architecture
As shown in the above diagram, in a conventional setup, to start any enterprise telephony solution like a PBX or small call center, we need a dedicated PRI, a PRI server and a conventional call center solution.
Now, look at the above image of a “cloud telephony architecture”. Here all the devices like PRI Line, application server, etc. are hosted or reside at the service provider’s premises and all the applications/devices are maintained by the service provider.
What are the benefits of Cloud Telephony solutions?
- It’s easy to setup. – A simple monthly subscription lets small businesses access call center level features to ensure better efficiency and customer experience.
- Zero Capex
- While a legacy contact center requires expensive infrastructure, with cloud telephony, the staff just logs in from an internet browser to answer calls. The only extra hardware needed is a good set of headphones. Or they can receive calls on their landline/mobile.
- Call Recordings and analytics – Small business owners and managers get access to advanced analytics to improve their workforce planning. And can monitor their agents in real-time from anywhere.
- Easy to Scale: Start with 1-2 seats and increase or decrease users based on business needs.
- IVR – Greet customers and divert to the right staff or even offer self-service using modern IVR tools. (Read More..)
- CRM Cloud telephony easily integrates with all web-based CRM and ticketing solutions. (Read More..)
- Reporting & Analytics: Full feature solution providers give detailed call analytics and reports, which help in business decisions. (Read – Key Call Center Metrics)
- Distributed Call Center: Businesses can manage distributed call centers across multiple places from a centralized location.
- Easy to upgrade: A legacy Call Center Solution is inflexible and complex to upgrade, but Cloud solution up-gradation is taken care of by the service provider.
Cloud Telephony is a flexible solution and provides a complete solution required to track the customer life cycle from Acquisition via marketing campaign (Missed Call, SMS Service) to customer retention (Call Center Solution, Live Chat).