Average speed to answer or ASA is one of the most crucial KPIs in inbound contact centres, indicating two things – a) how long customers have to wait, therefore their satisfaction levels, and b) how many calls your agents can process across the day, therefore, your profitability. While contact centres always strive for as low an ASA as possible, keep in mind that a slightly high ASA isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Customers are likely to patiently wait in the queue, provided they get a polite response, and your contact centre has a track record of first-time resolution.
Keeping this in mind, let’s look at five ways you could go about improving your average speed to answer.
- Aim for the right benchmarks: ASA varies across industries, ranging from 7 seconds among retailers to 9 seconds in healthcare, and even 4 seconds for other miscellaneous industries as per 2020 numbers. Look for ASA benchmarks in your industry, in your region. Also, plot the KPI internally, aiming for gradual improvements over time.
- Overhaul your call routing technology: Automated call distribution or ACD systems form the crux of any inbound contact centre infrastructure. A robust ACD will come with predictive routing that adapts incoming call pathways as per agent availability and skills. Try AI-based call routing if agents are regularly transferring calls or hesitating to receive them owing to skills mismatch or excessive work pressure.
- Offer extensive product and process training: Your ASA is directly proportional to your first call resolution rate. When queries are resolved the first time around, your repeat call-backs reduce, and agents are free from unnecessary traffic volumes – thereby enabling them to tackle a longer queue. Product and process training gives agents the information that they need to quickly solve customer queries without requiring a call-back.
- Employ an adaptive workforce as per seasonal demand: It is often peak periods that skew ASA KPIs, as you do not have enough agents to cater to traffic spikes. This is true for scenarios like a retailer during the holidays or healthcare providers during the flu season. An adaptive seasonal workforce can scale up as per demand, gaining from temporary, contractual agents who can attend to a large number of customers without making them wait.
- Utilise predictive scheduling: Predictive scheduling is a workforce management technology that plans shifts and allocates agents as per your traffic patterns. Predictive scheduling can minimise the risk of being understaffed during peak periods of the day, which leads to a long waiting time.
Apart from these five steps, contact centres should also ensure that delays in speed to answer do not get in the way of customer satisfaction. To achieve this, you need to have an automated, intelligent IVR in place to solve common customer queries. Finally, agents who excel at their job and leave customers with a sense of delight can make up for a slightly higher ASA, by providing a superior quality of experience.