Define Average Speed of Answer
Average Speed of Answer (ASA) is a metric calculating the amount of time it takes to answer a typical call once it has been routed to the contact centre. It is often used with the metric of Average Wait Time (AWT), the period of time before being connected to an advisor.
ASA is often a key part of a contact centre’s Service Level Agreement (SLA), represented as a guarantee to answer a certain volume of total calls within an agreed amount of time. 28 seconds is the global average for ASA, and the 80/20 rule – 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds – is often cited.
In reality, there is so much variety between different centres that there are few widely applicable rules. Research has also shown that customers will tolerate different waiting times for different kinds of service. For example, customers calling technical assistance lines will wait longer for service than customers calling conventional service lines.
Customer satisfaction (CSat) is a metric often associated with ASA, as time spent queueing is one of the main factors affecting how customers judge the level of service.
The relationship is not binary, however, and low waiting times do not automatically indicate high CSat. This is, in part, due to how ASA is calculated. The metric is understood from the contact centre’s perspective, starting from when the customer is placed in a queue after they have navigated IVR. Long or confusing IVR processes can make a customer’s experience both irritating and much more drawn out than the ASA figures would indicate.
Another factor that affects answer speed data is the call abandon rate. If a customer ends the call before they are connected to an agent, their call does not count toward the ASA figure. At the same time, the factor most likely to lead to a customer abandoning a call is a prolonged wait. The result is that the worst offenders, in terms of answer speed, are often discounted from the understanding of average answer speed.
Observe the outliers
The figures can also be distorted by the process of averaging. For example, a contact centre may be open for ten hours a day, adhering to their target ASA of 20 seconds.
However, a closer look at performance hour-on-hour reveals a regular slot – the lunch hour – where a combination of increased traffic and poor scheduling means customers queue for 2 minutes. This raises the average, but not beyond the centre’s SLA, because throughout the rest of the day, answer times are around 10 seconds. The contact centre is technically on target, but for 10% of the day customers face comparatively long waits. This could potentially do enormous damage to CSat.
Hour-to-hour averaging reports can mitigate this, as well as a study of call abandon rates for periods of peak traffic. Perspective can also be gained by studying the range of waiting times – the longest and shortest times customers were asked to wait.