Douglas Hanna

Article Summary:

Call handling tips - Five ways to reduce phone time for your customer service staff and for your customers.

Reducing Call Handle Time

Reducing average call handle time is something that all customer service managers want to do. Even the ones who really want the best customer service experience don't mind reducing average call handle time. Customers don't mind being on the phone less time, either.

With that in mind, here are five ways to reduce average call handle time.

1) Encourage self-service.
Encourage the use of self-service tools. If the tools are useful and easy to use, more and more customers will use them. The reason for customers not using self-service tools is not because they are out to get you - it is because the tools are useless, hard to find, and/or hard to use. From my experience, customers like tools that are interactive, FAQs, tutorials with pictures, and searchable knowledge bases. Keep in mind that there is a fine line between encouraging and forcing self-service, though.

2) Build tools to answer common questions.
If possible, build tools that help answer common questions that you would normally have to ask to find out about an issue. For example, have me to go a page that diagnoses my computer automatically of asking me a whole bunch of questions that does the same thing. It makes the experience easier for everyone.

3) Pre-verify.
A lot of support calls require verification of a customer's identity. Or at the very least, gathering of the customer's personal information. There are always ways to include some sort of verification or reduce call time through your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. Invest in a system that can look up a customer's phone number and ask for the last four digits of their credit card number. Most importantly, once the customer has verified their information using the IVR, don't ask them to repeat it.

4) Get to the root of the issue.
Train your representatives to get to the root of the issue. Doing so usually involves learning how to ask the right questions and finding out what happened, what the customer expected to happen, and what the customer wants to happen (or a variation of that). If they know how to find out what the problem is, representatives will be able to resolve it much sooner.

5) Have fast systems.
I am sure the IT managers, software engineers, etc. looking at this are groaning right now. As an executive, it is worth investing in fast systems. If the systems ran faster, there wouldn't be as much waiting. Use technologies that can make your systems fly and there will be less waiting.

Douglas Hanna is a customer service consultant. He writes about customer service and the customer service experience every weekday on his blog, Service Untitled. As a Principal at Service Untitled Group, Douglas has helped companies of all sizes improve their customer service since 2004. Douglas and Service Untitled have been featured on ABCNews.com, How to Change the World by Guy Kawasaki, and in The Web Host Industry Review. For more information about Douglas and what he does, please visit his blog at www.serviceuntitled.com.

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