We helped reduce AHT by approximately 60 seconds through conversation management

The Requirement:


In recent years it has become fashionable to avoid targeting or even communicating Average Handling Time (AHT) to front-line advisers. ‘A call takes as long as it needs to take’ became a mantra for many organisations focused on Customer Experience. However, without discussing the metric with advisers and identifying where calls could save time it is not unusual for AHT (and therefore costs and wait times) to creep up. With this training we were able to identify calls that could be halved in duration while actually improving the customer experience! The advisers loved the guidance provided and the results showed in their AHT times immediately after the training.

The Solution

The Boots teams provide support to customers using the shopping site; as well as those using the Boots Opticians service. They also support any in-bound queries from the Boots’ store employees on behalf of customers. The main driver for the project was to ‘Balance’ efficiency with a high-quality customer experience. This is a common driver for training projects in modern contact centres. Often just a small reduction in Average Handling Time (AHT) can reduce customer wait times and improve customer satisfaction, as well as create efficiency savings for the organisation. However, we know that pinching time on AHT can impact First Contact Resolution (FCR) and result in repeat call backs. If used negatively it can also impact Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Customer Effort Score (CES) and Net Promoter Score (NPS), not to mention employee engagement.

The trick is, therefore, to find ‘The Balance’ and to communicate this to front-line teams. Often complexity is created by knowledgeable advisers who explain in more detail than they need to, without realising. Alternatively, less confident advisers, may go silent, which may cause a customer to take control of the call instead. Both of these add to the handling time but can be remedied with good training and e-learning follow-up.

The Result

Research & design phase

We spent one day onsite in Nottingham to research the training need and to confirm that the training would resolve the need identified. Further listening to call recordings off site was completed and opportunities found to reduce Average Handling Time (AHT) without loss of customer experience. It became clear how, through adviser soft skills, AHT could be reduced from 8 minutes to 4 minutes or less, whilst still giving an excellent customer experience! In some cases the experience was even improved, as conversations were simpler and faster for the customer. Other improvements took place alongside the training course, such as updates to the Knowledge Management System and Agent Desktop Optimisation (Salesforce) which were also currently impacting the AHT and of which the client was aware. The training was designed to be memorable and interactive and included human snakes and ladders, a treasure hunt and lots of quick activities, all linked to the key learning points within the 7 ‘Balance’ principles.

The aim of the training

To support the client in achieving the perfect balance for making calls as efficient as possible whilst also maximising the customer experience. 'The training was named ‘The Balance’ which created a 7-letter acronym for the Balance principles: By making the session practical and fun, advisers were able to create action plans to minimise their own AHT without compromising on customer experience


“Into January we have seen average talk time decrease by approx 60 seconds which is huge and also across the One Health teams we are seeing consistent handle times of around 5 minutes which is good too. We are going to continue mopping up the remaining people on BALANCE training in Feb/March and also have got weekly optimisation meetings in place to review progress and individual performance to keep the focus on this.”

Ember Group is a specialist consulting, analytics and professional services group dedicated to transforming customer engagement and CX strategies and operations for major brands globally. With offices in London and Toronto, we deliver solutions to help organisations realise their customer service vision and increase commercial value from their service operations.

We have a team of specialists across various practices and disciplines, including service operations, digital, outsourcing, technology, commercial and finance, analytics, recruitment & search, training and L&D.


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