Measure and improve average handling time in your Healthcare Center
Efficiently managing AHT can significantly enhance the quality of healthcare services. In this guide, we will explore the strategies and techniques to measure and improve AHT in your healthcare center, ensuring the best possible patient care and experience.
What is average handling time?
Average Handle Time (AHT) is an essential performance metric in call centers and patient support operations. It represents the average time an agent spends on a patient interaction, from when the patient initiates contact until the appointment is booked, the issue is resolved, or the conversation ends. AHT is typically measured in minutes and seconds.
Patient interaction takes time.
Phone remains the preferred appointment scheduling method for patients; when patients call in to schedule appointments, they interact with healthcare staff who help them choose suitable dates and times. These conversations can be time-consuming, especially when specific preferences or questions enter the equation.
This direct human interaction makes it hard to measure Average Handling Time in Healthcare Centers.
Factors affecting call handling time
Understanding the factors that influence AHT is essential for optimizing patient interactions:
1. Appointment complexity
The nature of patient appointments plays a significant role in determining AHT for healthcare and radiology centers. A simple radiology study or modality will take less time to schedule than a mammography or a computer tomography scan. Centers must categorize calls and have specialized schedulers to efficiently handle different types of appointments.
4. Technology and tools
The tools and technology available to agents can significantly impact AHT. Modern Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, knowledge bases, and automation tools can streamline processes, reducing the time agents spend searching for information or performing repetitive tasks.
2. Scheduler training
The proficiency of the schedulers is a crucial factor. Specialized schedulers handle calls more efficiently, with a better understanding of studies and patients' needs, plus quicker problem-solving skills. Investing in training and ongoing development can help improve your Healthcare Center's AHT over time.
5. Questionnaires and phone tree systems
The design of call questionnaires and phone trees can influence AHT. Well-structured questionnaires can guide patients and schedulers through interactions and help them resolve book appointments efficiently. However, overly rigid scripts can hinder agents from adapting to unique patient needs.
3. Call volume and staffing
Call volume fluctuations can impact AHT. High call volumes can lead to longer wait times and, consequently, longer AHT. Adequate staffing and resource allocation are essential to manage call volume effectively and maintain AHT within acceptable limits.
6. Quality assurance
Regular monitoring and feedback through quality assurance programs can help identify areas for improvement in call-handling processes. By addressing performance issues promptly, centers can optimize AHT while maintaining service quality.
How to calculate Average Handling Time (AHT)?
Calculating AHT involves breaking down the time spent on each aspect of a patient interaction, including talking to the patient and any post-call tasks.
Step 1: Determine the time period
Start by selecting the time period you want to calculate AHT. This could be an hour, a day, a week, or any other relevant time frame.
Step 2: Total talk time
Total Talk Time is when an agent communicates with a customer during a call. It does not include hold time or time spent on post-call work.
Step 3: Total hold time
Total Hold Time is a customer is cumulative time on hold during a call. This time should be added to the Total Talk Time.
Step 4: Total after-call work
After-call work Time is the time agents spend on tasks related to the call after it has ended. This may include logging the call, updating records, or preparing for the next call.
Step 5: Calculate AHT
To calculate AHT, simply add the Total Talk Time, Total Hold Time, and Total After-Call Work Time together and then divide by the number of calls handled during the chosen time period:
AHT = (TT + HT + ACW) / Number of Calls Handled
Example AHT calculation:
- Total Talk Time (TT) for the hour: 800 minutes
- Total Hold Time (HT) for the hour: 150 minutes
- Total After-Call Work (ACW) Time for the hour: 50 minutes
- Number of Calls Handled during the hour: 40
Now, plug these values into the AHT formula:
AHT = (800 + 150 + 50) / 40 AHT = (1000) / 40 AHT = 25 minutes per call
In this example, the Average Handling Time for calls during that specific hour is 25 minutes per call.
What is considered a good Average Handling Time?
A lower AHT indicates that calls are being handled more efficiently, which can be positive. However, it's essential to strike a balance between efficiency and quality of service. Extremely low AHT may imply rushed interactions and unsatisfactory patient experiences.
Monitoring AHT regularly and using it with other metrics helps maintain the right balance in call center operations.
Additional analytics to measure effective Average Handling Time
Let's explore several additional metrics that can help you gain deeper insights into your Healthcare Center's Average Handling Time (AHT) and ultimately enhance your patient support performance.
1. First Call Resolution (FCR) Rate
First Call Resolution (FCR) measures the percentage of customer inquiries or issues resolved during their initial contact with your support team. A high FCR rate indicates efficient problem-solving, which can positively impact AHT. A lower AHT might mean faster issue resolution, but if customers need to call back, it can result in an overall longer customer journey.
2. Average Wait Time
Average Wait Time is the duration patients spend waiting in the queue before speaking with a representative. Reducing this time can contribute to a lower AHT, as customers will be satisfied with long wait times, which can lead to longer conversations.
3. Average Call Queue Length
The Average Call Queue Length reveals the number of customers waiting in the queue at any given moment. Monitoring this metric helps you allocate resources effectively, ensuring that you have the right number of agents available to handle incoming calls efficiently and maintain a reasonable AHT.
4. Cost Per Call
Understanding the Cost Per Call can provide valuable insights into the efficiency of your customer support operations. While a lower AHT can reduce costs, it's essential to balance cost efficiency and delivering a high-quality customer experience.
5. Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)
CSAT is a direct measure of patient satisfaction with the support they receive. Correlating CSAT scores with AHT can help identify whether shorter call durations positively or negatively impact customer satisfaction.
6. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
NPS gauges patient loyalty and their willingness to recommend your business. Assessing whether a lower AHT affects NPS positively or negatively is vital, as overly rushed interactions may lead to lower loyalty.
7. Customer Survey Responses
Collecting and analyzing customer survey responses can provide nuanced insights into the relationship between AHT and customer satisfaction. Customers' comments and feedback can highlight areas where improvements are needed.
8. Number of Missed Calls
Missed calls can result from a focus on reducing AHT at the expense of service quality. Monitoring missed call rates alongside AHT can help strike a balance between efficiency and effectiveness.
9. Total Call Volume
Understanding your Total Call Volume in relation to AHT can help you forecast demand accurately. This ensures that you have the necessary resources in place to maintain both efficiency and quality during peak call times.
How to Reduce Average Handle Time (AHT)
Improving Average Handling Time (AHT) has significant advantages, such as higher customer retention rates, reduced staff turnover, improved team efficiency, and decreased operational expenses.
Let's see what practical tips can be applied to reduce your AHT without overloading call center agents or compromising the quality of patient support.
1. Audit your current processes
- Audit Current Processes: Identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies in your customer service workflows.
- Implement Automation: Use technology to automate repetitive tasks and data entry.
- Standardize Procedures: Ensure all agents follow standardized procedures for issue resolution.
2. Train your staff
- Continuous Training: Invest in ongoing training programs to keep agents updated on the latest tools and techniques.
- Soft Skills Development: Enhance agents' communication and problem-solving skills to resolve issues more efficiently.
3. Implement Knowledge Bases
- Comprehensive Knowledge Bases: Maintain a robust knowledge base that agents can reference for quick answers.
- Self-Service Options: Promote self-service options for customers to find solutions independently.
4. Call Routing and Queuing
- Efficient Routing: Implement intelligent call routing to connect patients with the most qualified agent.
- Monitor Queues: Continuously monitor call queues to ensure minimal wait times.
5. Use real-time analytics
- Monitor Performance: Use real-time analytics to track AHT and make immediate adjustments as needed.
- Identify Trends: Analyze AHT data to identify recurring issues and implement long-term solutions.
6. Optimize Phone-tree
Phone tree optimization involves structuring your healthcare center's phone system to enable patients to reach the correct department or service quickly and efficiently. It's about simplifying the journey for patients seeking assistance or scheduling appointments.
Understanding Patient Needs: Analyze common patient inquiries to tailor the phone tree accordingly.
User Testing: Continuously evaluate and refine the phone tree based on user feedback.
Seasonal Prompts: Update prompts to include relevant information (e.g., flu shots during flu season).
Broken Prompts: Ensure all prompts are functioning correctly.
Patient experience and call resolution
Patient Experience and Call Resolution go hand in hand. When patients contact a healthcare facility, they seek assistance, guidance, and, most importantly, empathy. Call resolution strategies impact how patients perceive their healthcare journey, affecting their overall satisfaction.
Empathy forms the foundation of exceptional patient experiences. Call center agents who display empathy create a positive impression and foster trust. Patients want to feel heard, understood, and valued. Here's how empathy can be integrated into call center interactions:
Understanding patient concerns
Agents should actively listen to patients, allowing them to express their concerns without interruption. This empathetic approach helps in comprehending the issue fully.
Agents should respond with compassion and reassurance, acknowledging the patient's emotions. Simple phrases like, "I understand how you feel" or "I'm here to help" can make a significant difference.
Treat every patient as an individual with unique needs. Personalize interactions by using the patient's name and addressing their specific concerns.
First call resolution
First Call Resolution (FCR) is a crucial metric for measuring call center efficiency. It refers to resolving a patient's query or issue during their initial call, without the need for follow-ups. Achieving high FCR rates positively impacts patient experience and satisfaction.
Strategies for FCR
- Comprehensive Training: Ensure call center agents are well-trained and knowledgeable about healthcare procedures, policies, and shared patient queries.
- Advanced Tools: Equip agents with advanced software and tools that provide quick access to patient records and relevant information.
- Streamlined Processes: Implement efficient call routing and escalation procedures to quickly minimize wait times and resolve issues.
The patient's experience continues after the call. Post-call follow-up is a crucial step in maintaining patient satisfaction.
Effective follow-up practices
- Timely Responses: Please address any unresolved issues or questions after the first call to show commitment to patient care.
- Survey Feedback: Collect patient feedback through surveys to gauge their satisfaction levels and identify areas for improvement.
- Continuity of Care: Ensure patients receive consistent care by maintaining detailed records and sharing information with relevant healthcare providers.
Average handle time: your checklist to reduce AHT without sacrificing quality in your healthcare center
Remember that reducing average handling time should not compromise the quality of patient care. Balancing efficiency with patient satisfaction and safety is key to success in healthcare centers. Regularly revisit and update this checklist to ensure ongoing improvements.
☑ Evaluate current workflows to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies
- Collaborate with staff to gather insights and suggestions for improvement.
- Implement process improvements to streamline tasks and reduce unnecessary steps.
☑ Staff Training and Development
- Provide ongoing training to healthcare professionals and support staff.
- Ensure staff is proficient in using healthcare management software and tools.
- Foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
☑ Standardized Documentation
- Implement standardized templates and forms to reduce documentation time.
- Ensure accurate and concise documentation practices to avoid errors and rework.
☑ Patient Education and Engagement
- Educate patients about the importance of preparedness for appointments.
- Encourage patients to bring relevant documents and information to appointments.
☑ Appointment Scheduling and Management
- Optimize scheduling practices to minimize wait times.
- Utilize reminder systems to reduce no-shows and late arrivals.
☑ Data Analysis and Performance Metrics
- Monitor and analyze key performance indicators (KPIs) related to average handling time.
- Use data-driven insights to make informed decisions and improvements.
☑ Benchmarking and Best Practices
- Research and adopt best practices from other successful healthcare centers. - Benchmark your center's performance against industry standards.
☑ Flexibility and Adaptability
- Be open to adjusting processes as healthcare needs evolve. - Stay current with regulatory changes and adapt as necessary.