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This is a cross post from our partner Bluewolf's blog. In this post Michael Sirohi looks at how moving to a multi-channel contact centre can require new metrics to manage your team.

Customers today want additional channels to interact with companies that they do business with. The traditional call center is rapidly changing and can no longer be the single source of service. However, the call center is not going away! The following is a summary of my findings on the effect of AHT (average handle time) when exposing additional channels for Service.

I was recently at a company who supports their customers via inbound calls. When asked what other channels are available to their customers (self-service, knowledge, etc), I was informed that none of these are offered. We worked together to devise a road-map for how to bring their traditional contact center into the 21st century and create a next-generation service center. Still, their sense of AHT as a measure of success was a hard one to overcome.

AHT is the amount of time an agent talks to a customer + the amount of time of after call work the agent does for the call received. Offering multiple avenues for your customers to interact with you can have multiple benefits.

You are providing customers with a “Channel of Choice” which now allows me (as a customer) to interact with a company the way I want to. This has a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

You are deflecting the most common transactions to the customer for self-fulfillment. This means that the password resets calls and the most common “how do I’s” can now be satisfied without a call coming into the center. This increases customer satisfaction and lowers the number of calls into the center.

You are exposing your knowledge to your customers. When I get an error message on my smart phone, I do not call my carrier. I look the error message up on the Internet. Customers today, more than ever, are ready and willing to solve their own problems. It is your job as a company to empower them to do so.

As stated earlier, deflecting the most common and simple problems to self-service channels often leads to an increase in AHT, but a reduction in total calls received. For my customer, this was a hard concept to grasp initially.

Let me walk you through it. The 20 second calls about resetting my password have been decreased (customers now have the option to reset their passwords through the IVR-VRU, Customer Portal, Chat…). The calls that are now coming in are no longer the simple one-and-done calls, but more complex questions or issues that take longer to fulfill. This fact will increase your overall AHT in the center.

Don’t worry. An increase in AHT does NOT mean more head count. Quite the opposite really. With the number of calls that are able to be deflected, you can shed headcount and maintain service levels. There is one caveat. Initially, it is very import to educate your customers on these self-service options. Yes, this will increase AHT (and there will be no call deflection initally) so you will need to make sure you staff accordingly. You will need to educate your customers on the new capabilities and channels available. Otherwise, it is the equivalent of building something that no one knows about and will erode your ROI.

Now, that you have all of these channels in place, the focus can move away from AHT as a measure of customer service to a Cost of Service per Customer.

For more information on on how to implement Salesforce Service Cloud successfully visit the Bluewolf website.

You can also follow Michael Sironi on Twitter: @MichaelServiceC.

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About Charlie Cowan

Charlie is passionate about cloud computing and how it can help real businesses to run more profitably.

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