Why Does Call Duration or Talk Time Matter in the CX World?


The ultimate purpose of any contact centre (particularly inbound) is to provide a stellar customer experience or CX that leads to repeat business, driving up every customer’s lifetime value. That’s why it is so important to map your key contact centre KPIs to CX, leveraging this correlation to tweak agent performance in a manner that improves the quality of experiences.

An important KPI measured at contact centres is call duration or average talk time, referring to the total period from the moment when the agent picks up the call until the caller/customer hangs up. You can calculate average talk time for each agent, as a composite KPI of their performance across a day, a week, or a month. You could also calculate for the contact centre location as a whole.

How does the time spent on a call influence the calling experience? Here are a few insights.

“No Significant Effect of Call Duration on Satisfaction”

Academic research by members of McGill University and industry leaders explored any potential effect of gender and call duration on customer satisfaction in a contact centre setting. Leaving aside the gender bit, the study reports that it did not find any significant effect of call duration on satisfaction. In other words, longer calls don’t automatically mean a more satisfying experience and better CX, and this is an important insight given that their study analysed over 26,000 conversations.

“The Longer the Agent Handles the Call, the Better the FCR Becomes”

A different study by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam delved into the correlation between average handling time (which includes call duration and talk time) and first call resolution or FCR. The study found that the “overall tendency” is for agents with longer call durations to resolve customer queries in one go, avoiding repeated call-backs. Simply put, longer calls give agents more room to solve customer doubts/queries, and the caller is likely to hang up after receiving a resolution, even if they aren’t fully happy or delighted.

“Call Length Is the Worst Way to Measure Customer Service”

Harvard Business Review calls talk time or call duration among the “worst ways” to measure service quality. There are several reasons for this – in the modern customer service environment, HBR argues, there are self-service alternatives to solve common queries, which means only complex and time-consuming calls are routed to the contact centre. It also puts undue pressure on agents, which could

damage the work culture. However, HBR admits contact centres that do work towards optimising call length perform up to 50% better in terms of both productivity and customer experience (CX).

The Bottom Line

A longer call duration or talk time isn’t synonymous with superior CX. Contact centres where there is a specific limit to talk time could end up improving the quality of experiences by motivating agents to perform better. However, longer calls do imply a greater possibility of FCR, which is good news for the contact centre.

A good rule of thumb is to keep in mind the industry average for your business (e.g., 227 seconds for hospitality or 149 seconds for healthcare) and aim for this approximate ballpark.

Source: CX Today

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