Death by Average Talk Time

18 / Mar / 2012

By Jordan Linford

officeI still remember the day when call center agents were monitored by a physical person that was manually hard wired into their line.  I still remember the days of reading from a printed script and keeping track of all calls with a pen and a paper. I can’t imagined how inefficient call floors must have been back then. Metric software has now become the driving force on the call room floor. It is no longer a question of whether we are using tools to measure our floor’s performance, but what kind of tools and what metrics we are looking at. When dealing with customer service there is one metric specifically I would like to focus on. It is average talk time or (ATT) Where quality and economics often come head to head in a show down between the bottom liners and quality first.

Several years back I was building a home with a contractor that was producing 5 to 6 houses a month with just himself and a small team. At the same time my father began to build a home with a builder that built only two houses a year. My parents chose a builder that made big, beautiful, expensive homes with meticulous detail. By the time my home was finished and I had lived in it for the better part of the year, my parents home was just being completed. I soon realized that even though my house was done quickly and in a cost effective manner, it didn’t hold it’s value. It was done by cutting corners. I ended up selling my house a few years later for a loss. My parents lived in their beautiful home for 10 years and eventually decided to sale for something smaller, they sold their house for a large profit.

I am sure by now you already can guess the analogy I am going to make, I wish I could be less predictable, but I am not going to be. I view average talk time (ATT) like a contractor building a house. Economics tells us it is a number game, and I whole heartedly agree, that is why the contractor that took his time to make a better product or “customer” makes a house worth more money. See? Still a numbers game. So do we put less weight on this metric? Heavens no! I am merely suggesting that we look at it in context.clockhands
If we see an agent that has a high average call time, average handling time, but also has a low average wait time, a low abandon rate, and most importantly, a high first call resolution rate, then guess what? I am a thrilled supervisor!  These metrics altogether show me that my agent is taking quality time with the customer, and I know that chance of that customer sticking around and gaining in value has just increased.

I would suggest that this metric is not the rope we use to hang our agents, at least not until we know what the other metrics are saying. Now I am going to shamelessly plug ClearView™ because I believe there is no better metric software in the industry. It allows you to customize your dashboard to see just about any slew of metrics side by side in real time. With cloud based ClearView™, I can manage my team in Utah whilst atop a beach chair in sunny Miami Beach and not skip a beat. I can finally put those long handle times into perspective with ease.