60 Tips for Reducing Average Handling Time (AHT)

Average Handling Time (AHT) may be the most important aspect of customer service.  Here are sixty tips that help agents and their managers better serve their many users. 

1. Use Cheat Sheets To Answer Users

Have notes that remind you of best practices and procedures.  They save time and help guide the user properly. 

2. Make Your Marketing Materials Simple

If it's too complicated, then you're probably not going to get the result you wanted.  An agent needs things to be straightforward for both themselves and the customer. 

3. Update Your Customer Profiles

An agent who has the most current data about the person they contact, will be able to help them more quickly

4. Guide Users to Information Websites and Alerts

Sending users to a site that has the information they need helps them and keeps them from having to rely solely on the agent for information and direction. 

5. Let Agents Take Control

Give the agent the tools to take command.  There's no quicker way to handle the problem than for the agent to do so at the first point of contact. 

6. Let The Same Person Handle Responses

Users like the personal touch.  Hearing back from the same person shows them someone sees them as more than a problem to be solved.  People want to know they're not just a statistic or a number. 

7.  Developing Training Materials

There's nothing like people on the ground making suggestions about procedures and answers.  Use them as a resource to develop a process that works. 

8. All Communications Should Be Saved

You can never have enough information.  For record-keeping, training and legal coverage it pays to have a reliable copy of what's been said. 

9. Managers Should Update Agents Directly

Get involved with agents directly.  The manager should help the agent solve problems while they're working on them.  Chiming in after the fact isn't nearly as helpful. 

10. Forms Should Be User-Friendly

Users are more likely to provide information if they feel engaged and respected.  Agents will have an easier time presenting a form that gives the right impression. 

11. Advisors Should Be Able To Access Information Management Has

An agent is more successful if they operate from a knowledgeable position.  Mistakes tend to happen when bad instruction is given due to misinformation. 

12. Your Database Should Be Searchable

Information that's hard to find probably won't be used.  The common knowledge base must be approachable by everyone who has a stake in using it. 

13. The Opening Question Should Be A Good One

You don't get a second chance to make a first impression.  How the agent engages the user initially will dictate how smoothly problems are resolved. 

14. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Should Be Used

There's no need to recreate the wheel.  Have the most common problems listed and at the agent's fingertips.  The user will probably bring them up anyway, so it's best to be prepared. 

15. Take Advantage Of Personality Profiles

Knowing a user's history, or likes and dislikes, can help with discovering a solution to their problem.  Agents should reference the data collected on the person they contact.  This can help avoid mistakes or misunderstandings. 

16. Provide The Agent With Suitable Information

The better informed an agent can be, the more likely they are to handle responses quickly and effectively.  Giving them as much pertinent information as possible is a step in the right direction. 

17. Induction Training Should Be Thorough

There shouldn't be such a rush that agents end up improperly trained.  Whatever time might be saved by fast-tracking someone into the field will be lost if they're unable to do their jobs properly. 

18. Do Pop-Up Sessions Between Management And Staff

It's a good idea to check regularly with one another.  Staff interaction helps catch problems early and reinforce behavior.  It's a good way for everyone to remain current with policies or procedures that may be fluid or unsettled. 

19. Establish A Comprehensive Knowledge Base

The more information a customer service representative has, the better they can assist customers. With up-to-date knowledge about the products and services offered by your company, customer service professionals can help customers more efficiently.

20. Make Your Problem Solving Pipeline Logical

Your response protocols should send people where they need to be.  Users should be directed to agents who are able to handle their issues. 

21. Create Effective Troubleshooting Questions

Have a reasonable checklist of potential problems, along with the answers and information to solve them. 

22. Don't Take Any Aspect Of AHT For Granted

No one has seen every problem or experienced every scenario imaginable.  Question procedures and answers if they don't make sense, and be part of the process to correct them. 

23. Use Effective ‘How to’ Guides

Use these as resources to send to users who need the follow-up.

24. Allow Agents To Personally Guide Customers

If an agent can see what a customer has to go through, in real time, they can help them better and resolve the problems quicker. 

25. You Should Have A Single CRM System

An agent can do a better job if everything's in one place.  Having to login takes time.  The longer it takes to connect to information, the longer it will be before the problem is solved. 

26. Use Advanced Tools

Some methods make handling a problem simpler. Tools such as screen-captures or desktop-simulations can make the response time quicker and more effective. 

27. Make Sure Your Data Center Environment Works

Are your systems integrated and easy to access?  Check their functionality to be sure agents have the tools they need. 

28. Don't Let Agents Focus On The Complaint Queue

A clock will get watched if you put it right in front of someone's face.  Agents may adjust their response times according to the projected work load, if the queue is right before them. 

29. Periodically Evaluate Your Pipeline

If your response pipeline is routing people incorrectly, then they can't be properly served.  Make sure the system behaves logically and productively. 


30. Keep Your Agents' Computers Up To Date

Obsolete tools perform poorly.  Nothing's more embarrassing than a user asking an agent to do something the user's computer can do, but the agent can't perform. 


31. Highlight Your High-Performing Agents

Let everyone see the 'rock stars' and learn from them properly.  People adopt the habits of someone they admire. 


32. Get The Right Knowledge To Agents

An advisor must have the proper information to do their job.  Make sure that person is informed and has the necessary research tools.  

33. Find Agents Who Communicate Succinctly

Hire and deploy people who know how to write concisely.  The best agents are the ones who cut to the chase and solve problems quickly. 

34. Let Agents Officially Watch Each Other's Backs

Have a 'buddy' system that encourages agents to help one another.  A reinforcing system increases everyone's chance of success.  

35. Show Agents Examples Of Low AHT's Early

It's easier to do a good job if you're shown how it's done. 


36. Target The Errors In Communication

Help agents identify the times when they aren't being clear.  Help them reduce their AHT by eliminating errors.   


37. Highlight Habits Of Very Productive Agents

Focus on the right way to do things and encourage everyone to take notice. 


38. Nurture New Staff Properly

Notice what the new people do.  Examine their habits and encourage good behavior.  Try to weed out bad practices early. 


39. Mentor Your Agents

People learn better when guided by someone who knows the ropes.  Give your agents guidance and mentored instruction


40. Let Everyone Know The Answers To Common Questions

When it becomes apparent that a problem repeats itself, make everyone aware.  Likewise, keep everyone apprised of ongoing successes. 


41. Show Agents That Shorter AHT Can Mean Better Quality

Let your agents see the value of shorter AHT.  Make them know it's more than a simple metric to judge their performance. 

42. Duplicate Best Practices

Clone your successes by encouraging agents to mimic the procedures that work.  It's good to copy others when the result is beneficial. 


43. Teach Your Staff To Get The Work Done Sooner

Many tasks you put off for later can be done properly the first time.  Show agents how to get their work done immediately without being distracted or unproductive. 

44. Keep Your Agents Focused On Their Performance

Don't let agents get consumed by their numbers.  Remind them that helping the user is the goal. 


45. Let Agents Evaluate Themselves

Critiquing your own performance can be the best way to improve. 

46. Stay Engaged With Users

Don't leave a user hanging.  Remind them you're still working on their problem. 


47. Work On Asking Questions and Listening

Agents should become better at asking the right questions and pursuing the right answers.  A good response involves getting to the root of the problem effectively. 

48. Encourage Agents To Take Control

The agent is the person with the tools and answers.  They should be calling the shots. 


49. Engage In Role-Play To Reducing AHT

Simulate the response scenarios with agents.  Practice makes perfect when it comes to better performance. 


50. Begin Your Communication By Collecting Good Information

An agent must start by getting the relevant information from a user.  Everything else flows properly from there

51. Follow Good Procedure

Getting the basics correct is important.  The proper way of doing things usually exists for a reason. 

52. Do A Proper Greeting and Closing

How a communication begins and ends has a lot to do with whether or not it is a success.  

53. Self-Assessment

An agent should always be evaluating themselves and their work

54. Don't Blame Your Agents Needlessly

They're on the front line, but agents aren't always responsible for a mistake.  Examine the workflow and procedures to see if any changes need to be made. 


55. Make AHT Part Of Your Training

Agents should learn to gauge AHT as part of their training.  The best way to excel with a metric is by understanding how it is assessed

56. Encourage Interdepartmental Working

Management should engage the relevant outside departments that impact agent's communications.  Making the other departments aware of agents' needs and practices may be beneficial. 


57. Evaluate Your Scripts And Tools

Always evaluate your scripts and other tools for ongoing effectiveness and relevance.  Using automation and AI tool can improve your AHT


58. Learn To End Communications Smoothly

An ending is more than saying 'goodbye'.  Reaching the end in a proper fashion leads to a better resolution.

59. Give Struggling Agents More Training

Complaining or criticizing isn't enough.  An agent who needs better performance must be taught how to achieve it. 


60. Teach Agents The Components Of A Response

Everything has a beginning, middle and end. An agent must be taught how to identify these portions of their communication. 


Average handling time (AHT) is the average time it takes to handle all complaints or tickets. It's an important metric, especially if you're a customer service manager (CSM), as it lets you know if your department is underperforming or meeting its goals. And knowing your AHT is half the battle--the next step is knowing how to improve it.

A tool like EmailTree provides you with a complete dashboard capable of determining the AHT of your teams within a few clicks.

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