Digital Transformation » Systems & Software » It’s time to rethink customer service management

It’s time to rethink customer service management

Dino Forte, CEO of customer service platform provider Ventrica, says companies must no longer focus on Average Handle Time (AHT).

Although it seems Customer experience (CX) is getting to the top of the agenda for the majority of organisations, many contact centre advisers are still motivated by speed and Average Handle Time (AHT). Due to this, the goal of true CX quite often becomes lost.

Companies will now face the choice between speed or quality. You can’t have both; either focus on resolving customer queries as quick as possible, or choose to deliver a level of customer service that can be transformational. Companies need to come to the realisation that the outdated focus on AHT needs to end. In order to deliver the right CX, businesses need to form a new culture that embeds quality, satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.

Prioritise quality

Long at the forefront of contact centre measurement, AHT has been the driving force behind a decade of low value service delivery which measures advisers on their service speed, without regarding the value of customer experience. However, this way of working has little place in the customer centric culture of 2019. Customers now demand differentiation across all communication platforms from the phone through to social media. Leveraging these mediums correctly is therefore key to forming the beginning of a quality customer service.

Yet, with a culture that is believed to be moving forward, why are so many CX committed companies going backwards and still buying contact centre services on the basis of AHT? With a focus on speed, companies cannot meet the quality experience customers expect, but despite this, many businesses are still entrenched in this counterintuitive and counter-productive way of working and outsourcing.

Cultural combat

The speed focused model is not just at complete variance with any focus on CX, but also the metrics that businesses tend to measure the customer voice and experience against. Gartner reported quality, satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy as the four most common categories for CX metrics, all of which when incorporated into business culture, are key to forming a customer centric strategy, environment and positive customer experience.

Despite the unfavourable features of AHT, it does still hold a function within contact centre performance. Used to track traditional performance metrics, it can ensure operational efficiency by monitoring aspects such as dropped contacts and contacts handled. Furthermore, from a resource planning perspective, this measure can be used to accurately calculate staffing and productivity levels. Additionally, monitoring AHT spikes can indicate emerging problems within the business – such as a billing glitch that would require rapid handling. Yet, despite the benefits, AHT cannot be used to determine quality or deliver highly personalised services.

Do your business aims include CX? If so, AHT as an adviser incentive should be placed on the backbench, and instead, a personalised customer-first approach needs to take priority. By measuring individuals based on the speed of interactions, taking the time to really listen to the customer, provide an experience and understand the issues at hand becomes a low priority. The goal will always be hitting the AHT metrics – whether that means wrapping up calls or handling multiple web chats simultaneously – and that fundamentally undermines the basic comprehension of what defines good customer experience.

Reconsider the metrics

The answer? Company culture has to change. To truly deliver the corporate CX vision you’ve been dreaming about, a new outlook is required. Embracing innovative technologies will allow customers to easily and effectively self-serve, which frees time up for advisors to concentrate on the more complex issues at hand. This change also means reconsidering advisor metrics. Quality of experience needs to become the primary incentive, followed by first time resolution and the customer voice; all of which necessitates the correct training to create a seamless transition towards a better quality interaction.

The recruitment model will also need to be modified to ensure advisors fit the profile and needs of the customers. The vanilla approach to recruitment is no longer good enough, as a focus on CX demands individuals with the right skills to the job. Candidates will need to possess skills and characteristics beyond the resume – whether this be high levels of empathy and great listening skills to deal with elderly clients, or an inherent interest in fashion for an advisor working for a clothing company; exceptional CX involves a tailored recruitment model.


Considering that the focus on measuring advisors speed will never lead to valuable CX, companies are left contemplating their decision to still measure contact centre services on such an outdated model. It’s time for the low cost, low value interactions traditionally tied to AHT to stay in the past. With great service now moving to the forefront of customer service management strategy, the time has come to rethink the delivery of these services and make customer experience part of the everyday culture.

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