The best call centers may have evolved into omnichannel contact centers that engage customers well beyond the traditional voice channel, but still the talk time metric gets a lot of attention.
Whether you operate an outbound, inbound, or blended call center, the talk time metric certainly has its place in your call center’s reporting. But when voicemails and messages, texts, emails, and more are a central part of the business cycle, you might need to reconsider the talk time metric.
In this post, we take a look at the dynamics of talk time in a call center and consider its relationship with other metrics. We want you to think about the time your reps spend on the phone—but consider it from the perspectives of quality, not just quantity.
What Is Average Talk Time in a Call Center?
For starters, let’s get down to brass tacks on the talk time metric.
Average talk time is just like it sounds: it’s the average amount of time spent actually talking to customers on each call. The simple formula for average talk time is:
Total Talk Time ÷ Number of Calls = Average Talk Time
Talk time is a purely quantitative metric. Along with another quantitative metric, the daily average number of calls per agent made, it can provide a snapshot of your call center’s productivity.
For instance, you can compare these metrics on a per agent basis against industry benchmarks. It’s estimated the average B2B salesperson makes 35 calls per day. However, in call centers—especially those high-volume operations powered by autodialers—that number can be considerably higher, reaching into the triple-digits. Meanwhile, talk times also vary based on the type of call center: Inbound call centers’ talk time averages about 228 seconds, while outbound call centers’ average talk time is estimated to be around 358.2 seconds.
While these numbers are important, a rep or manager who focuses on making a numeric quota of calls or a specific time risks confusing volume with value. Sales rhythm and the quality of that conversation’s content are also factors you should closely monitor.
Getting Into a Groove: The Importance of Sales Rhythm
Getting into a productive groove with calls can create a rhythm and comfort level that drives momentum for sales reps.
Technology plays a key role here: At outbound and blended call centers, intelligent predictive dialing can help drive more connections with consistent dialing and higher contact rates, connecting agents only with live customers. In fact, one study estimated that it can boost talk time by 88 percent. In addition, accurate answering machine detection software can help eliminate leaked voicemail messages, increasing both the number of calls and the amount of time agents spend on them with live customers, rather than answering machine recordings.
With this momentum, agents are more likely to deliver results—and maintain a higher morale. Rather than finishing one successful prospecting call and then getting up for a break, encourage your reps to make several calls in a row before taking a personal pause. Carrying over from one successful call to the next means your rep can carry that confidence with her and be better prepared to engage with a prospect’s needs and questions.
Quality Control: Content of Conversation as Talk Time Metric
The talk time metric has a blindspot: the quality of the conversations your reps are having with customers and prospects. Sure, you can tell how long their average conversation is, but what are they actually doing during those calls?
Because it takes the average of all calls, average talk time may erase the presence of quality conversations. Those 10- or 15-minute conversations with prospects that allow for genuine connection, explanation of products or services, and plenty of time for the rep to listen to the prospect’s inquiries or concerns might be overshadowed by a higher number of one- to two-minute (or even shorter) solicitations.
Using quality assurance and call monitoring software can help your team analyze conversations for quality instead of quantity. Better yet, when combined with dynamic scripting software, AI-powered QA software can help you determine aspects of your most effective reps’ conversations that can be added to the scripts used by the rest of your team.
Contextualizing Talk Time with Other Metrics
Ultimately, talk time is just one multi-part metric for understanding the efficiency and work habits of your agents. Comparing it against industry benchmarks or your own historical performance can provide a useful picture of your agents’ activity.
More importantly, when it’s contextualized with other call center metrics, it can help you plan and improve your entire operation. Inbound and blended call centers may combine average talk time with average handle time (AHT) metrics to understand agent wrap-up habits and get an idea of the efficiency of their customer service operation. Meanwhile, outbound call centers can weigh it against other agent metrics (e.g., sales/revenue per agent, calls per agent) or lead metrics (e.g., conversion rate, contact rate) to identify areas for improvement.
So, while talk time might not stand as the be-all and end-all measure of call center performance, it certainly has its place in your plan to take your business forward.