Answer that phone and do it quick!
When the success of your business depends on your customer’s experience with your contact center, this should be your number one mantra.
We have all been on the other side of that phone line, waiting for the IVR to stop repeating itself and for a human being to ask, “Hello, how may I help you?” And we know there is nothing more frustrating than waiting endlessly for this to happen.
Little wonder then that the Average Speed of Answer which, simply put, is how soon an agent answers a customer’s call, is probably the most important contact center metric.
What is Average Speed of Answer or ASA?
The average speed of answer (ASA) is the time an agent takes to answer your call. ASA indicates how fast agents within a call center answers inbound calls. It includes the time taken for an agent to answer the phone from when it rings. It doesn’t include the time a customer spends in the IVR or waiting in queue.
How do you calculate ASA?
In order to calculate ASA, you need to divide the total wait time for all calls by the total number of calls in a day.
ASA (in seconds) = Total call wait time for calls answered daily/ Total number of calls answered in a day
This means that if the total time callers have waited for in a day is two hours or 120 minutes or 7,200 seconds, and the total number of calls answered in the day is 200 then the ASA would be 36 seconds.
ASA = 7,200/200 = 36 seconds
This would mean that each customer calling your contact center has to wait for at least 36 seconds before he or she can speak to a customer service agent. That can be a long time for a customer in a hurry or an irate customer with a complaint.
Why is Average Speed of Answer important?
ASA is a key inbound call center performance metric. It is one of many variables that help determine the success of the overall inbound call process. This KPI affects caller waiting times and consequently CSAT outcomes. As result, the average speed of answer determines:
- Better customer experience and satisfaction. It gives a customer immense relief to hear a human voice at the other end because they feel they are a step closer to a solution to their problem. And the faster they hear that voice, the better they appreciate your service.
- Improved agent productivity. If an agent answers a call quickly, the call queue moves that much faster, and agents are able to handle a higher number of calls. Also, the chances of resolving the issues that the customer has called with are better with a low ASA. This improves agent productivity and keeps the contact center’s operating costs low.Lowered dropped calls / customer abandonment rates .
- Reduced customer attrition. Often, customers hang up because the waiting time is too long. They not only abandon the call but, in the long term, may end up abandoning your product or service. A low ASA is a good way to hold on to customers.
The aim of a contact center should be to keep the ASA to a minimum. The faster your contact agent answers a call from a customer, the better it is for your business!
What is a good Average Speed of Answer?
In a comprehensive study we conducted in 2019 across 150 million calls in 2019-20, we noted that the Average Speed of Answer was 3.6 seconds. This is a good industry benchmark.
How did the pandemic affect this metric?
In another study across 150 million calls, we found that average speed of answer across call centers increased from an average of 3.6 seconds in 2019 to an average of 8 seconds in 2020. This was because, this year many agents were forced to switch to work from home, and some countries like India had to use their PSTN lines to answer calls. As a result, they could not use the auto-answer facility that otherwise speeds up answer rates.
How to improve Average Speed of Answer?
To improve the ASA metric, the inbound call process should be streamlined smoothly. This means that skilled based agents should be adequately available, and your call routing should be well planned. Here are three key ways to improve Average Speed of Answer.
1. Use auto-answer
Landlines or mobile phones take up to 6 seconds for call ringing. VOIP and softphones instantly hit the call to agents using the auto answer facility. This can reduce your ASA from 8 seconds to 1-3 seconds.
In fact, in 2019, the average speed of answer across call centers dropped from 6 seconds to 3.6 seconds because of switching to this auto-answer technology.
2. Improve agent training
Your agents should be familiar with their agent dashboard, and be trained and motivated to wrap calls and answer faster. This will help them wrap call faster, naturally leading to higher availability and faster answer speeds.
Also read: How to reduce After Call Work
3. Accurately forecast call volumes
Use call center reports to view your call volumes by day of month, time, and time of the year. Use these historical reports to predict your call center volumes and ensure that you have adequate number of agents available to answer calls.
4. Utilize skill hunting
Skill hunting involves dividing your workforce into a number of skills or departments. By doing this you can create a better match between your agents and a caller. Agents skilled at handling certain types of calls, for instance billing related queries, are likely to resolve callers’ queries faster. As a result, call queues move faster, reducing the overall loads on agents and consequently leading to faster ASA.
5. Put your IVR to work
A well-designed IVR can go a long way in reducing call volumes, accelerating call queues, and reducing the load on your agents. This in turn can lead to faster speed of answer. For instance, our client, a hospitality startup called Treebo uses a CRM integrated call center solution to distinguish callers with prior bookings from other callers. It directs their existing customers to a live agent, and offers a self service menu to the other callers. Another Delivery firm also implemented a similar self service IVR and this resulted in being able to respond to customers three times faster than before. (Read the customer story here)
How fast a customer’s call is answered is telling. It’s a caller’s first interaction with a business. It’s a chance for companies to make a strong first impression for a lasting relationship. Reduced wait times can go a long way in enhancing customer experience. With some insightful analytics data and streamlined workflows, it’s well within reach!