By: Chris Dellen On: March 26, 2015 In: Contact Center Comments: 0

When I visit contact centers and bring up the metric, Average Handle Time (AHT), I receive many different reactions. In one camp, there are those that are completely focused on squeezing every drop of efficiency out of their contact center. In the other camp, there are those who don’t even bother to measure AHT because they want to make sure that agents are empowered to solve their customers’ problems, even if it takes hours (literally) on a call to do it.

Now before we start mentally bashing those with the opposite world view, let’s first agree on two factors that are impacting all of our organizations:

  1. Customer’s expectations of receiving exceptional service is not only here to stay but is dramatically increasing. Furthermore, it’s impacting all industries, even regulated ones.
  2. There is tremendous pressure, from the marketplace, to do more with less. In other words be efficient.

So, when we look at a metric such as AHT the question is, can we deliver on both competing expectations (contact center efficiency vs. customer experience) simultaneously? The answer is… Yes! By applying lean manufacturing principles to contact center calls, we can. Lean manufacturing is a systemic method for the elimination of waste within a process. “Waste” from a lean manufacturing standpoint is anything that doesn’t directly add value to a customer. So, from a contact center perspective here is an example:

  • Waste = customer keying in their account information into your IVR
  • Value = IVR actually providing customer account balance

Make sense?

Below is an extremely over simplified timeline of a call, the green segments actually add value to customers and the red (waste) segments add no value to customers.
























The good news is with today’s technologies you can minimize or even entirely eliminate the red (waste) segments that don’t provide customer value. It will not only make a direct improvement on customer satisfaction but it will significantly reduce AHT at the same time.

In the end, the timeline of your calls can go from this:






To This:







When we walk through this process with our customers we typically see 30-50% reductions in AHT overnight and a significant improvement in customer satisfaction! For your center, this could literally mean millions in savings.

If you have questions on how to achieve these types of results in your contact center, please don’t hesitate to reach out!