How Non-English Calls Impact Average Handle Time - and Why it Matters

Mar 20, 2018

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Average Handle Time (AHT) has long represented the holy grail of contact center performance metrics. In most centers, staff at every level – from the VP overseeing center operations to the new-on-the-job front line agent – is accountable for making sure the average call doesn’t take too long, and that call takers operate efficiently.

A Metric with Many Potential Impacts

AHT gets emphasized because it’s vital to the success of any well-run contact center operation, the entire purpose of which is to handle incoming customer calls. Failing to measure and optimize AHT puts contact centers at risk for:

Cost Overruns:   

The math is simple: agents who take longer to handle each call will handle fewer calls per day/week/month than those with lower AHT. That means hiring more agents to handle the same number of calls, increasing cost without a corresponding bump in revenue.

Dissatisfied Customers:

Long AHT threatens customer satisfaction in at least two ways. First, long handle times generally mean long hold times, creating a scenario where the customer is likely annoyed before they ever get the chance to speak to an agent. Secondly, most contact center calls are calls the customer would rather not have to make in the first place – paying a bill, trying to solve a problem they couldn’t find the answer to on your FAQ page, reporting a car accident or lost credit card, etc. The last thing the customer generally wants is for the call to take longer than necessary.

Unproductive Agents:

AHT carries over to a number of other agent goals, meaning that longer-than-necessary AHT may compromise an agent’s ability to perform well. Most centers have agent productivity goals – accounts opened, claims settled, loans closed, etc. – that likely depend in part on the volume of calls an agent is able to take. Fewer calls going in at the top of the funnel means fewer closures/sales/wins at the bottom.

The Challenge of Maintaining Low AHT on Non-English Calls

Calls from non-English speaking customers (there are tens of millions in the US alone) have the potential to adversely impact contact center AHT. After all, the use of an interpreter necessitates that everything be said twice – once in English, and once in the caller’s preferred language.

In addition, these calls carry an outsized risk of misunderstanding between the customer and agent as they attempt to communicate across a language barrier through an intermediary. Misunderstandings mean calls that don’t resolve properly, and the potential for a call back from the customer which again generates a long-AHT multilingual call.

How a Multilingual Support Provider Committed to Quality can Help

Overcoming these obstacles often means partnering with a multilingual support provider – one committed to using qualified, well-trained interpreters who can minimize the misunderstandings that sometimes increase AHT and lead to callbacks.

Voiance takes interpreter training and certification seriously. Calls to Voiance are answered by employee interpreters working in the company’s large-scale US contact centers – interpreters who undergo 120 hours of in-depth, in-person classroom training before handling client calls, and who receive regular call quality monitoring from center supervisors to ensure ongoing accuracy.

Combined with our streamlined connection process, we believe this commitment to interpreter quality and accuracy better-equips your agents to reduce AHT while providing non-English speaking customers with the best possible service.

Want to learn more about partnering with Voiance for quality multilingual support? Email or give us a call at 1-844 727-6739.

Interested in learning more about how great language services may improve contact center metrics like AHT? Download our guide for contact centers:

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Topics: Demographics & Culture, Technology, Advice and Improvement, Language Services, Over-the-Phone Interpretation, phone interpretation, PSAP Performance

Written by Graham Newnum

Digital Marketing Specialist experienced in researching and writing about language access-related topics for healthcare, business, and government.
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