The average talk time is an important measurement in the Call Center and in the day-to-day activity of the Management of the Call Center. This index should be evaluated and analysed daily by the Call Center manager and the managerial team (supervisors and members of the staff). This index is required to determine the proper number of agents in a queue. Having talk times higher than required will increase cost in the Call Center. On the other hand, Customer Satisfaction could lower as well.
Most ACD systems provide this number on a report. The definition of the talk time takes the total talk time (time spent by agents talking with customers on the phone when calls come in) and the total number of calls answered (ACD Calls). These two figures may come for a specific period (an hour, a day, a week, a month) for an agent, a particular service or queue, or for the Call Center in general. This time is expressed in minutes and/or seconds and is shown in ACD systems as Average Talk Time.
Thus, the average talk time for a particular service is calculated as follows::
Total Talk Time
Total Calls Answered
The agente John Smith worked in the Call Center for a week handling calls for The Brigde Bank. During this period, we have the following data:
Answered Calls: ....... 1.500
Total Talk Time: ...... 307.500 seconds
The Average Talk Time of John Smith is:
-------------- = 205 seconds or 3:25 (three minutes and 25 seconds)
Likewise, the queue in the ACD system (The Bridge Bank) had 31,500 calls answered by agents that same week. The Total Talk Time was 5.512.500 segundos or 1.531 hours and 15 minutes. Given these numbers, we come up with an average talk time for The Bridge Bank of:
---------------- = 175 seconds or 2:55 (two minutes and 55 seconds)
Analysing the Average Talk Time
The average talk time provides us with valuable information to analize. If the Average Talk Time is too high, the Call Center will see its capacity to answer more calls from customers decrease given a number of agents we have. On the contrary, if the average talk time is too low, the Call Center will be capable of answering more calls. We have to be careful to conclude that the Average Talk Time is too low or too high in order to come up with an appropriate figure.
Thus, it is imperative to define an Average Talk Time for the operation we are running. There is no such an industry average talk time because each service is unique and given this particularity each service will have its own Average Talk Time.
How to determine an Optimun Average Talk Time
The Call Center manager and his managerial team will have to determine what would be an optimun average talk time for the center and for each service. This is important because this measurement is utilized to determine the number of agents for a specific service or queue. Finally, having the number of people we need, we can come up with the different shifts and then, we can totalize the costs involved in a service to a client.
If there is a new service and the client is moving his operation from somewhere else, we may be lucky and have some historical data to utilize as a reference to calculate how many agents we need and what was the historical average talk time. If that information is not available or the service is new we need to take a number (from testing some mock calls) as a reference to start up. Once the service starts, it is the duty of the managerial team to follow up with the average talk time on a daily basis to come up with the optimum number.
How to come up with an appropriate Average Talk Time
This metric helps us determine how many agents we will require for a service or queue, what service level we can provide to a client, and at the end, how much Money this service will cost. So, it is imperative to optimize the average talk time in order to cut innecessary costs and come up with a balanced service level to our customers.
Our agent must speak with our customers for the time customers require; however, we need to make sure our agents are utilizing the appropriate time to resolve our customers’ inquiries. We need to assure that our customers receive good service and the solution to his inquires in an appropriate time. In the Call Center there will always be agents that will have high average talk times and others will have lower average talk times. At the end, what we get from our ACD system is an average figure from all the agents (we also have an average for each agent).
The Call Center manager and the managerial team should always analyse the information that the ACD system provides with the purpose of knowing the average talk time our agents and the services we are running have.
A typical ACD report provides us with the performance of our agents, this is, it gives us the results the agents assigned to a queue or a service had in a determined period. The report to our left is an ACD report for the week that goes from May 19th to May 25th for the Queue named “El Puente”.
The first column shows the agents assigned to that queue (the name of each agent appears in this column). The second column shows the average talk time each agent had within that period. The third column shows the number of calls answered by each agent.
Typically, this report provides additional information such Login Time, disposition times such as lunch, breaks, special assignments and others. If our agents work for the Call Center 40 hours a week, the login time reported should be very close to 40:00:00 hours for each agent. Likewise, if each agent has 60 minutes assigned for lunch each day and they work 5 days a week the total time reported for lunch should be 5:00:00 hours (5 hours in the week). The analysis we carry out every week will ensure our agents are utilizing their time appropriately in the different tasks assigned in the Call Center. When there is abuse in break or lunch times, at the end, it is the customers that suffer because we are taking available time for other uses.