Magazine article CRM Magazine

Call Handling Time Continues to Rise: Sales and Customer Service Calls Take 16 Percent Longer Today

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Call Handling Time Continues to Rise: Sales and Customer Service Calls Take 16 Percent Longer Today

Article excerpt

Despite increases in head counts and improvements in technology and business processes, calls to contact centers take 16 percent longer today than they did seven years ago, according to a report from ContactBabel.

The research, presented in the firm's 2014 "U.S. Contact Center HR and Operational Benchmarking Report," showed that sales calls often take longer than service calls because of the extra time needed to explain products, relay legal disclaimers, run credit checks, and process payment information. The average sales call across industries is six minutes and 48 seconds in duration; the average customer service call lasts six minutes and 21 seconds.

The retail and distribution sectors saw the most agent talk time, with agents averaging 38 minutes of every hour on the phone.

Steve Morrell, an analyst at ContactBabel, defines call length as the amount of time that the agent spends talking to the customer. And though the customer would likely disagree, it does not include time spent waiting in the queue before reaching an agent or time spent with an interactive voice response (IVR) system.

According to Morrell, the added call length "is almost certainly a result of the general success rates of self-service and the fact that so much more self-service is happening on the Web and mobile." Calls that are now handled by live agents, he explains, "tend to be more complicated," and in some cases might involve more than one issue.

The increase in call length does not reflect on the agents, who Morrell says are more capable today than they used to be. "They rarely get simple queries anymore," he says.

It also has nothing to do with agents being overwhelmed by the number of calls coming in. "Average speed to answer is a good indication of this, and there has been little to suggest that contact centers are keeping callers waiting longer," Morrell points out.

While some contact centers are adding employees, it's not enough. Existing employees must be well trained and equipped to handle calls. "It is not about having warm bodies to answer the call, but making sure that those agents and systems are appropriate and optimized," he says. …

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