What? Remove handle time from agent scorecards?! Yes. You also need to do something else. This case study example provides a model you can use to prove why you must remove handle time from scorecards. If you have already taken this action, please share your results.
Recently Customer Relationship Metrics published an e-book and self-assessment to help contact center leaders identify issues within Quality Assurance Programs. One of the questions within 29 Quality Assurance Mistakes to Avoid asks “Has handle time been removed from your agent scorecards?” Our goal in creating this tool is to help you avoid costly mistakes and eliminate mental anguish.
What happens if you don’t remove handle time from agent scorecards?
I’m sure you have had the ‘quality versus quantity’ conversation more times than you care to admit. After all, you work in a contact center. While you may have left some of those conversations thinking that the answer to that question changes as often as the calendar, the real answer really is a simple one. In a customer centric environment, the answer is always to resolve the customers’ issues in an efficient manner. Period. That is your primary focus and you want it to be crystal clear. You need to let contact center agents take the time their abilities require to answer questions. If their abilities prevent them from doing it in an efficient manner, you need to develop their skills.
Taking the time to answer the customers’ questions and bringing resolution to whatever the question/problem is what leading contact centers do. It’s the foundation for their high performance. Customers could care less about the metrics in your contact center. They just want their questions answered. They surely don’t want to have to call back a second or, heaven forbid a third time to get the correct answer. Neither do you.
When contact center agents need to focus on how long they have been on a call, helping the customer is no longer the most important objective. Unfortunately the focus becomes getting that customer off of the phone. They must get on to the next call and keep their handle time low. When Handle time is a performance goal, agents will hang up on customers. We all have experienced the mysterious call drop. Why do you think that
is? When certain agents feel they are in the “red zone”, they release callers. Some agents have been known to hang up immediately to have a call counted with only a few seconds of Handle Time. This is a learned behavior.
Remove handle time when it doesn’t count
I’m sure someone, somewhere along the way has told you that the handle time isn’t actually a metric. It’s just on the agent scorecard in order to help determine staffing targets. While that might sound innocent on the surface, it’s not a good practice.
If it does not count, they manage to it anyway because you report it. It sends a subliminal message that it’s important. You need to remove it from their view. Go ahead and track that info on a staffing report. Agents do not see those.
Remove handle time alone when coaching
Everyone knows that handle time is important. A few seconds saved can equal millions in lower costs. When certain agents have higher handle times than their peers, they should be coached. For example, what if Ellen’s average handle time is 3.5 minutes and Suzie is averaging 5 minutes? Suzie should be coached. Right? There are more pieces to the puzzle than the length of the conversation with the customer. Sure, Suzie’s handle time is higher than the center average, however, how does her resolution ratio compare? In the table below you can see that Suzie has more customers stating that their issue was resolved. Do you think short conversations that fail to resolve customers’ issues are better? Not only is that poor customer service, it is also expensive.
Based on the 5-minute Handle Time that Suzie is averaging, she could take 96 calls per day. Based on a 4-week month, she would take 1,920 calls in a month. With her FCR average of 85%, fifteen percent of her customers would have to call back. At a fully loaded cost per call of $10, it would cost the company $2,880 each month and $34,560 per year to service the customers that Suzie wasn’t able to resolve on the first call.[/esll]
Now when you compare that to the center average handle time of 3.5 minutes, they would take 137 calls per day; which equates to 2,740 per month. With the lower FCR average of 80% that goes with the lower handle time, 20% of the customers will have to call back to get their issue resolved. Using the same math, it equates to $5,480 per month and $65,760 for each agent that is performing at the average level. Still think you need to coach Suzie?
What happens when you remove handle time from the agent scorecards?
By changing your focus to the customer and not on handle time, you will quickly to see an increase in FCR and overall customer satisfaction. Customers don’t have time to keep calling back. They choose to flee from companies that do not make them feel valued.
Customers feel more valued when you take care of them. Customers feel more valued when they are able to get all of their questions answered on ONE phone call.
So when you review your operational metrics, look at multiple metrics before you choose who and what to coach. But first, remove handle time from agents’ scorecards. Being customer centric requires they do not watch the clock during their conversations. Their energy must be focused on the most important thing – the customer.
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