Learn how to achieve the best business results by optimizing the average hold time.
Placing calls on hold is a routine action in contact centers, but is often a result of agents not having all the answers they need. Average hold time is an important contact center KPI that is directly related to operational efficiency and agent effectiveness, and is crucial for improving customer experience.
What is average hold time?
Average hold time is the measure of time customers were put on hold during a call with an agent. Agents usually put calls on hold to find additional information or to transfer the call to a more suitable agent.
Average hold time is part of another metric—average handle time (AHT). A high average hold time has a negative impact on AHT and overall contact center efficiency. In contrast to average talk time (ATT), the average hold time should be as short as possible, with no negative impact on the customer experience.
What does a high average hold time mean for your contact center?
The main causes for putting a customer on hold are:
- Transferring the call to a more suitable agent or department.
- Searching for information on tools, such as CRMs or knowledge bases.
- Asking other agents for help.
4 ways to optimize average hold time.
Decreasing average hold time can reduce contact centers’ cost per contact by reducing the amount of time agents spend on each call. Lowering this metric enables the same amount of agents to handle a greater number of calls. Similarly to ‘call wrap-up time’, average hold time should be assessed when the business goal is to lower the average handle time (AHT) without hurting the customer experience.
10 AI use cases to reduce average handle time
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1. Provide answers quickly and correctly with AI-powered tools.
Timely information delivery is the key to driving faster, frictionless conversations. With the rise of work-from-home and loss of over-the-shoulder management or colleague support, the ability to answer customer queries quickly and correctly becomes more challenging.
Agents can find it difficult to navigate different systems and tools.
However, assistive technology provides agents with contextual, customer specific information in real-time, saving agents from time-consuming data retrieval across scattered sources. Automating the delivery of information within the call application also helps agents provide faster, more accurate answers using AI in-call analysis.
By providing agents with a user-friendly solution that automates research, they are less likely to require assistance or transfer calls when working remotely. Additionally, assistive technology reduces hold time by systematically recognizing and entering all critical aspects of an interaction into the conversation notes, automating the pre-call, on-call and post-call work and allowing in-app automations to perform tasks and capture customer information inside any integrated application.
2. Help your agents (and customers) help themselves with an intelligent knowledge base.
An agent can’t know everything by heart, and in an ever-changing business with new products, promotions and issues, it is more challenging to stay informed. Contact centers have been using knowledge bases as an informational tool, but they tend to be slow, not search-friendly, and need to be continually reviewed and updated.
However, with an AI-powered knowledge base, business information can be intelligently and readily available, enabling agents to access the right answers as quickly as possible. AI-powered knowledge bases help contact center’s empower every agent to provide a world-class customer experience. At the same time, it can be applied in a customer-facing portal to promote customer self-service. By using AI to automatically rank and present the most relevant articles based on past interaction history and conversation context, you can help both agents and customers find the information they need. Moreover, it promotes smoother content navigation, keeping agents from placing customers on hold.
As an added benefit, AI-based recommendations will help you optimize your knowledge base articles faster, making it easier to update and review content.
3. Increase first call resolution with intelligent call routing.
Intelligent call routing allows you to direct customers to the most skilled agent, reducing the need for call transfers and, consequently, reducing average hold times.
Instead of delivering a call to the first agent available, who may not be suitable to resolve a specific issue, a skills-based routing implementation ensures the call is sent to the best-skilled available agent. If this is a repeated call, applying a historical-based routing guarantees that the same agent answers the call, providing a seamless experience to the customer.
Both options reduce the average hold time by diminishing the need for transfers while improving first call resolution (FCR).
4. Identify the root causes for long hold times by listening to every interaction.
Finally, hold time is inherently correlated with agents’ proficiency on certain topics and will change from agent to agent based on their own strengths and weaknesses. In this case, you should be able to identify which topics are causing longer hold times and which agents need support.
An AI-powered speech analytics tool identifies the key issues that lead to calls being put on hold and allows you to assess where improvements need be made. Additionally, embedding comprehensive call insights and best practices enriches your training materials and, at the same time, recognizes your best-performing agents. You can also add gamification options to further engage your agents and motivate them to reach their assigned goals.
Benchmark average talk time and other contact center metrics.
Average hold time is an interesting metric to identify CX gaps in the contact center, helping you pinpoint improvements to lower average call handle times.
It also might be helpful to compare your AHT and ATT against the competitors. 2021 Talkdesk global contact center KPI benchmarking report gathers the call data of more than 2,200 Talkdesk customers in different locations and industries, from SMBs to enterprise organizations. It allows you to see where you stand against your peers and compare key metrics to recognize trends, fix pitfalls, and uncover opportunities to improve customer experience.