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Can we lower average handle time and still provide excellent service?

I am a trainer in a call center, and we are trying to reduce average handle time by urging agents to be "polite but not personal" when taking calls. Could you give me some tips on how to reduce average handle time while still providing excellent customer service?

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Your question is seeking to achieve two contradicting objectives. It is difficult to please your customers while at the same time trying to reduce call length. If you ask both things of your agents all they will focus on is wrapping up the call as quickly as possible.

I recommend that you first determine your customer's profitability. This will help your agents differentiate between customers and understand their value to the organization. Agents can apply a speedy-courteous approach to their interactions with unprofitable customers and stay on the phone as long as it takes to satisfy the needs of more profitable customers.

Additionally, you may wish to explore cross-selling opportunities to offset the length of time on the phone and justify the personalization.

This was first published in November 2007

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