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After Call Work (ACW)
After Call Work (aka ACW) refers to the period of time immediately after completing the contact with a customer but where more work is required to finalise the transaction (e.g. entering details into a database such as comments about the conversation, order details, follow-up actions etc.).
After Call Work forms a key part of Average Handling Time, a very common metric used in call centres that also forms the basis for using an Erlang Calculator to determine how many call centre agents you need to answer the calls.
What is an example of after call work?
Let’s assume you call centre is a global leader in widgets.
A customer rings your call centre and wants to learn more about your widgets and, ultimately, decides to place an order.
During the call, the agent takes the customer’s details and enters the order directly into the order system and then provides the customer with an order number and at that point, the call is terminated with the customer who is happy they have placed their order and they have a reference number if they need to call back.
However, after the call, the agent must enter additional information into a different database to alert the warehouse that they need to send an order.
During the call, the customer also mentioned important information about their occupation, marital status and who they used to order from previously.
So the agent enters that information into the CRM system so the data can be used to help with future marketing campaigns.
Any work that needs to be completed after the call has finished, and is directly related to the call, is considered After Call Work (ACW).
How long should after call work be?
Let me answer that by providing you with two different examples of using after call work time in a call centre:
ACW Example 1
The call centre agent spends 200 seconds on the phone talking to a customer, and during the call, the agent is entering information directly into a system so there is NO After Call Work required before the agent can take the next call.
The agent literally hangs up the phone and answers the next call.
So the Average Handling Time for this call is 200 seconds (talk time of 200 seconds + 0 seconds of After Call Work)
ACW Example 2
The call centre agent spends 100 seconds talking on the call, then after hanging up, spends another 100 seconds typing in notes about the call into the system.
The Average Handling Time for this call is also 200 seconds (talk time of 100 seconds + 100 seconds of After Call Work)
But which is the better customer experience?
The appropriate amount of ACW is largely determined by (A) what you want your agents to do and (B) the systems, training and processes you have.
How do I lower my ACW?
Using the above example, you could completely eliminate all ACW if you instructed your agents to complete all activity related to the call whilst the customer is still connected.
But I’m not sure that would be the best customer experience for most contact centres.
There are other ways, however, to reduce your After Call Work in a call centre which we have included below.
So whilst it is a common belief that it’s up to the agent to lower the ACW, the reality is it is the Contact Centre Manager who typically has the largest influence on ACW.
Tips to reduce After Call Work in a Call Centre
Reducing After Call Work (ACW) in a call centre that is optimised for a website can greatly enhance agent productivity and customer satisfaction.
It should be noted though there are two primary ways to reduce ACW in a contact centre, one is to eliminate the calls in the first instance, and the second to provide the agents with the skills, tools and knowledge that can directly lower the ACW.
With that in mind, here are some 10 tips to help you minimise ACW and streamline your call centre operations:
1. Provide comprehensive agent training
Ensure that your agents are well-trained in navigating your systems, accessing relevant information quickly, and resolving common customer issues efficiently.
Comprehensive training will help them handle calls more effectively, reducing the need for extensive ACW.
2. Optimise knowledge base and self-service options
Maintain an up-to-date Knowledge Management System (KMS) that covers a wide range of frequently asked questions and common issues.
Enable self-service options on your website, such as FAQ sections, troubleshooting guides, and chatbots, so that customers can find answers without contacting an agent.
This reduces the volume of calls and, subsequently, the ACW required.
3. Implement effective call routing
Use intelligent call routing systems (IVR) to direct customers to the most appropriate agent based on their specific needs.
By connecting customers with knowledgeable agents, you can minimise the time spent transferring calls and decrease ACW associated with resolving escalated issues.
4. Utilise screen pops and CRM integration
Integrate your call centre software with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and website analytics.
When a call is received, use screen pops to display relevant customer information and recent website activity.
This integration enables agents to have immediate context, reducing the time spent searching for customer details and improving issue resolution.
5. Provide real-time chat support
Implement live chat functionality on your website to offer real-time support to customers.
Agents can handle multiple chat sessions simultaneously, reducing call volumes and the associated ACW.
Make sure to provide clear instructions to agents on how to handle chat interactions efficiently.
6. Encourage effective call documentation
Emphasise the importance of accurate and concise call documentation and be very clear on what the agent is actually required to capture.
When you aren’t clear, some agents will write a virtual novel for each call, others will leave a few dot points!
It’s important your agents are clear on what good looks like and exactly what is required.
For example, do they need to note emotive statements (customer was very angry because…) or just the actions taken, and resolutions offered during the call.
Setting the right expectations will result in having optimised documentation reducing the time spent on follow-ups, internal communication, and future escalations.
7. Optimise call scripts/flows
Develop clear and concise call scripts/flows that guide agents through your common customer scenarios.
Scripts should focus on efficient issue resolution and emphasise key information needed during the call.
This will ensure ACW is reduced by reducing the instances of missed steps etc. that then need to be followed up.
8. Regularly review and refine processes
Like any process in a contact centre, it’s never set and forget!
Continuously analyse call centre metrics, customer feedback, and agent feedback to identify areas for improvement.
Regularly review and refine your processes to reduce inefficiencies and ACW.
Encourage feedback from agents to understand their pain points and implement strategies to address them.
Agents will be the first to tell you about ‘stupid’ processes that could be eliminated if we only did ‘X’ ‘or updated the system to enable us to do ‘Y’.
9. Leverage automation and AI tools
Explore the use of automation and AI tools to streamline repetitive tasks and improve overall efficiency.
For example, automated call dispositioning, automated data entry, and AI-powered chatbots can significantly reduce ACW by handling routine tasks and freeing up agent time for more complex inquiries.
There are also AI tools that can automatically provide a summary of the call in note format – the agent just has to read over it to check, make any edits if required, and click save.
10. Monitor and provide feedback
Perhaps saving the best until last, it’s critical that Team Leaders regularly monitor agent performance and provide constructive feedback and coaching sessions to enhance their skills.
Focus on areas where agents can improve efficiency and reduce ACW, such as call handling techniques, system navigation, and effective use of resources.
Side by Side coaching enables Team Leaders/managers to see first-hand issues with systems, processes etc and provide real-time help and support to agents to improve their skills.
As you have now hopefully realised, there is no average after call work time and many of the components that constitute ACW are determined by systems and processes rather than agent behaviour.
As a Contact Centre Manager, your role is to be clear on your expectations for (on call versus after call), ensure there is clarity on what actions, if any, is required after a call, and making sure employees are provided with regular feedback on their ACW as compared to others, and that there is an easy pathway for your frontline employees to provide feedback on ways systems, processes etc can be optimised.