Why is it all about "average time to answer"?


If there’s one thing guaranteed to drive customers crazy, it’s being left in a queue listening to a message that says, “your business is important to us” or even better, and one of my favourites – an instrumental version of the Beatles Hit, “We can work it out”. Nothing personal John and Paul, but are you having a laugh?

So, what can we do to address this problem? At a fundamental level, a business’s contact centre must focus on ASA – Average Speed of Answer. All contact centres set an ASA target, which might be answering nine-out-of-ten calls within 20 seconds or something similar.

However, has anybody stopped to ask how these targets are set – or whether they might do more harm than good?

For instance, in the drive to pile ever-more bodies into contact centres to answer calls in line with ASA targets, agent training and coaching are often neglected. This is turn can damage agent morale, and it’s the customers who’ll bear the brunt of unmotivated and apathetic agents.

A better measure of contact centre success than a simple ASA is to take a ‘real-time’ view of the customer’s interaction, balancing their satisfaction at the outcome of the call against the raw ASA data.

By overlaying these variables, you can find the customer service ‘sweet spot’ – that perfect balance between the speed their query was answered and the actual effectiveness of the response they received. Because make no mistake, many will come off the phone happier individuals if their problems are expertly solved, even if they did have to wait a little longer before hearing that first human voice.

The only way to gauge customer satisfaction is to engage them in surveys at the end of the call. Such a system might be a minor headache (and expense) to implement, but the information gleaned can be priceless.

The irony is that by concentrating on customer outcomes rather than rigid efficiency metrics, you can actually relax ASA targets. And with all that time and all those resources saved, think about the difference you could make to improving agents’ knowledge and honing their call-handling skills via extra coaching? They’ll even have more time to focus on those two golden words which often get neglected in the rush to hit targets – cross-selling. But that’s a blog post for another day.

By Lucy Phillips

Related Articles