How to Improve ASA (Average speed of answer) In Your Contact Center

When a business opens a customer service department or a contact center for their customers than the main goal they have in their mind is to provide a great quality service experience to their users.

But the question here is how to find out if your contact center is able to provide good quality service or not?

Most of the businesses think that the quality of service is dependent on the tools or software program like the best call center software used within their call center.

And they are correct but only up to some extent.  Apart from the tools used the quality of service is also dependent on other attributes as well like agent’s performance, call answering time, call handling time etc. All these attributes are called KPIs in call center terminology.

So, in this article, we will be discussing one such KPI call ASA and how it impacts the call center’s productivity.

But firstly, let’s see what ASA means.

What is ASA?

ASA or Average speed of answer is one the most crucial KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) in a contact center. It refers to the average amount of time taken by an agent to answer the call.

It includes the customer waiting time in the queue. However, it does not consider the time taken by a customer while navigating the options through the IVR (Interactive Voice Recognition).

How is ASA calculated?

Before getting more information about ASA and the impact it has on the call center performance, it’s essential to find out how the ASA is calculated in a contact center. The formula used for calculating ASA is as follows:

Average Speed of Answer = Total Waiting Time for Answered Calls (in sec)/Total Number of Calls Answered

For example, assume that there are there are 400 callers in a day and the total waiting time for all the answered call is 1 hours.

Then, total waiting time in seconds is 3600 seconds.

Therefore, the ASA will be 3600/400 is 9 seconds.

So, from the above example, we can make out that the lower the ASA time the better the performance is as it means that the call centers are answering the call quickly reducing the customer’s wait time in the queue.

Importance of reduced ASA:

Since now we are aware of the meaning of ASA and with the process of calculating ASA. Let’s see the importance of the role ASA plays in call center performance and efficiency of a call center.

1.    More customer satisfaction: With a reduced ASA time the call center management can ensure that most of their callers get immediate assistance which adds to their customer satisfaction and helps the agents in building an instant connection with their callers.

Not just that it can also save an agent’s valuable time in explaining or apologizing to the customer for the long wait time. Instead, they can directly start working on the issue and aim for providing a faster solution to the customer adding to their satisfaction level.

2.    Reduced call center cost: One of the major concerns of running a call center is the overall operating cost, as it is not possible for every small or medium enterprise to invest a huge amount on costly tools or on the expensive call center software solutions.

So, they are always in search of new and effective ways to reduce the operating cost but without compromising the quality of service.

One such method that can help the call centers in reducing the operating cost and at the same time improving the quality of service is ASA. With reduced ASA the call centers can cut on the cost involved in the callbacks or be trying to resolve the issue on the first call.

3.    Less abandonment rate: ASA has a direct relationship with the call center’s call abandonment rate. When a caller calls in and is waiting in the queue for a long duration of time there are high chances of the caller’s call getting dropped.

If the call abandonment rate of a contact center is very high and the call drops are frequent, it can also result in loss of business opportunities to a contact center.

The reduced answering time can also help a contact center in bringing down the number of escalations. As most of the escalated campaigns are due to the increased customer frustration which can be because of agent’s poor technical skills or due to a very high waiting time.

4.    Improved FCR (First Call Resolution): The average speed of answering a call can have a huge impact on a number of call center KPIs. And one such KPI is FCR. We have already seen that the abandonment rate is directly related to the speed of answering a call.

Now, suppose if a caller call in queue and a contact center which has a low ASA number, has more probability of answering a customer’s call and thus giving their agents an opportunity of resolving customer’s query in the first call itself.

5.    Better agent efficiency: From all the above points it is already very clear how ASA can help in improving agent’s efficiency. If the ASA rate is low it means that agents are handling more number of calls which in turn improves the FCR score which also means improved productivity and efficiency.

Now that we have seen the significant role reduced, ASA plays in a contact center’s operations. I am sure you must be looking for tips and ideas to reduce the ASA in your call center as well. So, below are mentioned some useful methods that can help the call center management in reducing the ASA.

Top tips to reduce ASA:

1.    Call routing: Using the call routing feature of your call center software, for handling various customer calls based on agent’s skill set or any other criteria is one of the most effective methods for reducing the speed of answer.

By using the call routing the management can easily cut on the call transfer time which is one of the biggest constituents of a high average speed of answer.

2.    Better workforce management:  Proper management and scheduling of agents can help a contact center in reducing the ASA to a great extent. As a call center manager, you need to ensure that agents with required skills are working at their scheduled time so that they can quickly wrap up the calls and help in reducing the ASA.

For taking the full advantage of your agent’s skills and to reduce the ASA the management needs to consider historical data of the calls handled by their agents like the type of calls, call trends, agent’s performance etc for better workforce management.

For example, if you know that your call center receives maximum calls between 1 PM- 4 PM then you can use this information when scheduling agent’s shift. You can also instruct your agents to finish their lunch before 1 PM so that they are available to handle the calls during the busy hours.

3.    Better call forecasting: An effective way of reducing ASA is trying to predict the call volume with precision.  This can help the call center management in scheduling sufficient agents for better call handling and queue availability. If the number of agents available is more than the number of calls then it becomes very easy for a call center to answer calls promptly.

4.    Lower attrition rate: There is no denying of the fact that a contact center is as good as its agents. When a contact center hires an agent and invests their valuable time and money in training them then their aim is to retain them and avoid attrition.  As a trained and experienced agent can handle calls more professionally and in a timely manner thus reducing the ASA.

Along with that they also play a big part in adding to the other important performance metrics like AHT (Average Handle Time), FCR, CSAT etc.

5.    Offering callbacks: This is probably one the easiest way in which a call center can reduce ASA. No matter how much effort we put in managing the workforce or routing of calls, sometimes it can happen that a customer has to wait in the queue.

To overcome this problem the callback feature can be very much helpful and effective. And at the same time, it can ensure that no escalation happens as the customer is aware of the facts that an agent will call them back to discuss the issue.

6.    Avoid cold-transfers: A lot of call centers ignore the fact that doing cold transfers internally let it be agent to agent or from one team to another adds to the ASA time. So, as a best practice, the call center should ensure that agents do a warm call transfer if required instead of call transfer.

Now, that we have seen the tips that can be used by a call center to reduce the ASA time,it will be best if we take a real-life example to understand the implementation of the above tips and its results through a case study.

PROBLEM:

The case study we will see is about a mobile wallet company. The company had their call center equipped with the latest call center solutions. The companies call center gets around 500 calls in a day with 25 agents working collectively to handle various customer issues.

With enough strength and good quality software, the performance of the call center was not up to the mark.  The major issue faced by their contact center was very high ASA time which was badly affecting the overall productivity and performance of their contact center causing them a loss of business.

To better understand the cause of the problem the management started performing a background performance check of their agents as well as the call center and found the following issues as the source of a high average speed of answering:

1.    No routing of calls which results in increased number of call transfers.

2.    Agents not showing up for work consistently or not adhering to schedule.

3.    Incorrect shift plan or vague call forecasting.

SOLUTION:

To improve the productivity and customer satisfaction the management needed an immediate workaround. As the issue was with the high speed of answering the call, the management decided to make following changes in their call center strategies:

1.    To reduce the number of call transfers the management started utilizing the call routing feature of their call center management software.

2.    They also introduced a callback option for their customer so that they can be contacted by an agent instead of wasting their time waiting in the queue.

3.    For the issue of agent’s adherence to shift schedule, the management decided to take strict actions. They made a rule that every agent has to provide an acceptable reason for absence from the shift.

4.    It also became compulsory for an agent to arrange for a replacement in case of absence so that the call can be managed gracefully.

5.    They also gave their agents the provision of working from home to reduce the issues with schedule adherence and absenteeism.

6.    Along with that, the higher management ordered the managers to study the call trends thoroughly so that they can do better call forecasting and make agents shift plan accordingly.

RESULTS:

With all these above mentioned changes in place, the contact center’s ASA time reduced noticeably. With the addition of call back feature the total number of call reduced as well which also resulted in better call management.

All these improvements helped the contact center in getting back on track and meet their targets in no time. Using the work from home option the management ensured that every queue has agent’s availability and thus eliminating the chances of calls getting unanswered and increasing the customer satisfaction level.

CONCLUSION:

So, from this article and case study, we can clearly see the important role, speed of answering a call plays in call center’s productivity.

With precise call forecasting, schedule adherence and call center software features an extraordinary service experience is in place.

If you also want to have loyal customers for your business then consider implementing these tips in your contact center and successfully manage this aspect of your business process.

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