Signposting – Reduce Your Average Handling Time (AHT) by 15 Seconds


Carolyn Blunt highlights a technique that saves advisor (and customer) time on many calls.

“So I’ll need the long number on the front of your debit or credit card” the advisor told me over the phone when I called to make a change to my account that had resulted in an upgrade fee.

“Ok…erm…sure,” I said as I wandered through the house looking for where I’d left my handbag.

You see, as the comedian Jon Richardson points out:

“There are two types of people in the world: Putters and Leavers.

Leavers and Putters

Putters ‘put’ things. Keys on hooks, wallets and purses in a set drawer and, most importantly… tins of beans facing westward in the cupboard!

Whereas ‘Leavers’ just well… leave things. They try to be tidy but they are too busy enjoying life. They are easily distracted. Their credit and debit cards, glasses and pens are wherever they last had them. And who knows where that is? Your guess is as good as theirs. In fact they’ll probably ask you: ‘Have you seen my…?’

So when you ask a Leaver for their account number, they may need to find their glasses first.

Or when you give them a reference number, don’t assume they have a pen or a piece of paper to hand. “Hang on, I just need to go get a pen…………oh no, it’s not working…………OK, fire away.”

And when you need to take a payment… Well, you get the picture.


So a really easy way to save precious seconds is by using the technique I call ‘signposting’.

This means giving the customer some warning about what they are going to need.

You can work out the most appropriate signpost phrases for your teams, but many of my clients have benefited when I have introduced some of these and trained their advisors to understand how/why and when to use them.

Key phrases to use

“In a moment, I’ll need to take a few details, including a credit or debit card to secure the booking.”

“In a moment, I’ll give you a reference number which you may want to write down if you’ve got a pen handy.”

“If you are able to see the reference number in the top right hand corner of your bill that would be great, otherwise we can find it off your postcode.”

Using signposts like these helps to keep the call rolling along.

In my career I have spent too much time call listening to an empty line while a customer rummaged around trying to find her glasses to read out her account number and the clock ticked by, when all along the call could have progressed via a postcode or other piece of DP data; but by the time the question had been asked, the telephone had been clattered down onto a table and it was too late.

You CAN reduce AHT without impacting customer experience

And before all of the customer experience purists jump up and down saying AHT doesn’t matter and that “it takes as long as it takes to give good customer service”, I would argue that this IS good customer service.

Not many people like to waste time on the phone to call centres (contrary to popular belief, there are more interesting things one can do with one’s spare time), so a slicker, more efficient conversation is better all round.

How much time could you save?

Carolyn Blunt

Carolyn Blunt

How much time could you save with this one simple technique? Coupled with call control skills, we have trained hundreds of advisors in this idea and saved our clients approximately 30 seconds with no loss of CSAT, no increase in FCR and less boredom for the advisors who have to listen to my waffle as I wander from room to room looking for my handbag… I know it’s here somewhere…

Click here for our 49 Tips for Reducing Average Handling Time

About the author: Carolyn Blunt is the lead contact centre consultant with Real Results. Carolyn has 15 years’ industry expertise and is a regular contributor to Call Centre Helper webinars and articles.

Author: Robyn Coppell
Reviewed by: Megan Jones

Published On: 14th Sep 2016 - Last modified: 4th Apr 2024
Read more about - Customer Service Strategy, , ,

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