• Clive Woodrow

Achieve Greater Performance!

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

Whether you operate a contact centre in the United States, the Philippines, the UK, India, Canada, South Africa, Mexico, China or Australia, the critical measure of success for most centres remains AHT. That's because AHT is an excellent indicator of performance, efficiency and cost.

When you decrease AHT, you increase the performance of your centre. You become more efficient as you handle more calls with fewer agents.

I've never met a customer who wants to spend more time with a contact centre agent than they have to. But it is really hard to reduce AHT while maintaining good quality service to your customers.

In this video, I will tell you how you can drive better performance by spending time with your best performers and show you just how much better your team could be.

In this table, We have a real team of 14 agents, their AHT and the number of calls they handled last week. I've taken their AHT and plotted it high to low. You can see I've used their initials to indicate which bar belongs to which Agent.

The average AHT for this team is 400 seconds. Now I'll draw this gray line down the screen to separate the Agents who’s AHT is higher than 400 seconds from the agents who’s AHT is below 400 seconds. The team on the left will be called the red team, and the team on the right will be called the green team.

Typically, If a center wants to reduce overall AHT, they have Supervisors, or Team Leaders spend a significant amount of their coaching efforts on the Agents with the highest AHT. In our case, the red team members.

What we commonly find are Agents who have;

  • High after call work.

  • Or ones that lack call control and let customers ramble on about the weather or topics unrelated to the call.

  • Or you have inexperienced agents who don't know how to navigate the system, thus wasting time searching for needed information.

  • Or you have Agents who listen to their peers tell them to ignore what they learned in training and do calls their way — often resulting in faulty processes and longer calls.

  • Or you have agents that are super cautious and want to repeat information or double-check everything they do — thus increasing call times.

As a result, this type of coaching is often sporadic, not well coordinated and results in only marginal improvements.

Often the Supervisors will only do enough coaching to get the Agents AHT down to the overall average, really just enough to get them off the management watch list. Also, there is a strong chance that Supervisors don't take enough calls themselves to make their coaching credible to the Agents who receive it.

Let me use a story to illustrate how you could change all that and drive far better performance:

You have to teach Sally, one of your agents, to get from Trafalgar Square to the London Stadium. You hand her a map, a phone, some money, give her access to a bicycle and a few suggestions on how she can get there. You tell her it should take about 50 minutes and wish her the best.

An hour passes, and she has yet to arrive. When she finally arrives, you say, "Oh, Sally, what took you so long?" You find out she took a wrong turn and decided to wait for a bus and that was late and so on after hearing all that you leave her with a suggestion about taking the tube next time.

Sally stands there looking at you while saying to herself, "now you tell me."

Contrast that to this scenario:

Hi Sally, my name is John. I hear from your Supervisor that you need to get from Trafalgar Square to London Stadium. Well, here are the maps, a phone, some money, and access to a bike if you need it. Now, Sally, I can do that trip in 40 - 45 minutes because I've done it hundreds of times and in many different ways, at different times and in different weather.

So here is what works best, depending on your situation:

  • If you are walking, take this exact route.

  • If you are going to ride the bike, take this route, it's a little bit longer, but there are more designated bike lanes.

  • If you are taking a cab, pick it up here. There are far more cabs coming in this direction.

  • If you use public transit, take this bus to this tube, stop and follow these directions.

  • If it's raining and it's rush hour, walking may be faster, but make sure you take an umbrella.

  • If its a hot and humid on the weekend, I'd skip the exercise and cab it, you will arrive in better comfort.

Good luck!

In the first situation, our Agent had all the information she needed but got lost due to inexperience and weak advice from her Supervisor. In the second scenario, Sally received expert advice from John. He had learned the different things that could impact the journey and gave her extra information to consider, such as time of day, weather and day of the week. She used John's experience to help her complete the trip.

Do such experts advice exist in your center? The answer is yes, and it is with these people — the green team members.

It's clear from the data that these Agents handle more calls and in less time. What have they learned or what do they do on their calls that makes them so effective?

This is my point - You need to tap into this team to find out what they have learned or what techniques do they use to make themselves so efficient. You want to uncover the rules to their success so that you can share and teach all your Agents.

Think of it this way:

  • If you want to be a great financial investor, you will study Warren Buffett or Ray Dalio.

  • If you want to be a great basketball player, you study what Micheal Jordan did in his practice sessions.

  • If you want to be a great leader, you study people like Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela.

You wouldn't spend time studying mediocre performers in those fields, because you won't learn what you need to be successful.

So, continue to coach the red team or learn from the green team? Here is some data to help you decide. If we compare the average of the red team performance against the green team's average performance, you will find a significant difference.

In one shift, an average red team member will handle 51 calls. An average green team member will handle approximately 86 calls. 35 more customer calls handled in one shift.

Look at it differently, If your contact center has to answer 1,000 calls every day. If you staff your contact centre with members of the green team, you will need to hire 12 employees. If you wanted to answer those 1,000 calls with red team members, call up your recruiting department because they will need to find you a total of 20 agents.

As someone who manages a contact centre, finding out the what's and how's of the green team can potentially improve your centre's efficiency by over 45%, which will lower your costs by 40%.

The answer to improved performance won't come from only coaching Agents with the highest AHT. Those employees do not yet know how to apply efficient processes to their calls. They have some pieces of the puzzle but don't have the whole picture to guide them.

Improving your center's performance and efficiency is done by studying your highest performers. Then having everybody else learn and follow what they do on every call.

Here are a few study techniques you can use with the green team:

  1. Ask them what makes them so productive. Write it down, ask them clarifying questions.

  2. Listen to their calls

  3. Sit side by side and watch them

  4. Find out who trained them

  5. Who has coached them

  6. Whom do they sit beside

  7. How do they use your systems

  8. Do they follow the documented processes

  9. Look at their keyboarding skills

  10. Talk to your Quality team

  11. Talk to their Supervisors, past and present

  12. Look at their previous job experience

Doing some or all of that will give you the insights you need.

The Green team agents are like the expert guide in our story. Trust their experience and their methods. They have done it more times than anybody else in your center, and their call statistics can not be disputed.

This process is going to be challenging for your Trainers and Supervisors. The findings will have to be shared, taught and then applied. Your trainers will need to update their training material when they see what happens at this level of performance.

As the leader, set your sights on higher performance. Use the average AHT of your green team as the new AHT goal, knowing that your new stretch goal is achievable. Managing your center this way will drive the performance, increase your center's efficiency and lower your overall costs.

I hope this has been helpful.

Clive Woodrow


Care for Customers Inc.


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