Forgive me Norman but whoa... There is a viable and much more profitable alternative to scripting.
You said, "Mark, The best way I know of to improve call handling time is to teach your agents the art of call control. This would typically begin by identifying questions that are most likely to be asked, as well as input required by agents. Then script the questions and responses and train agents to respond in a natural way. (Over-simplified.) One outsourced provider I worked with (primarily loan origination for consumer products) was able to reduce average handling time from 00:18:00 to 00:07:15 by scripting and effective use of call control. Calls per hour increased from 1.9 to 5.3. This is not an overnight fix and you have to be very careful not to make the caller feel rushed."
Lets look at your comments bit by bit.
Firstly, lets drop back to basics. The single point of existance of a call centre is to maximise profitability. This often translates to either making more sales or answering more questions. I wholeheartedly agree that an analysis of the types of questions people (customers) ask is critical and training to answer them comprhensively critical too. However, it is just as important to understand WHY they ask the questions they do. The reason for this is that VERY often people ask a question but actually that is only vaguely connected to the real reason for their call. This is because they are not experts in your business and what they do is 'guess' at what they need to ask to satisfy their emotional need (the REAL driver behind every question).
So, to 'script' staff to answer what the persons immediate question often doesn't deliver what it is the person wants. Here’s an example. Its taken from an article I did about some of the psychology involved so is a bit longer than necessary.
You have just been ‘let go’ from your company and you have a mobile phone. You don‘t want rid of the phone as you know you’ll get a job quite soon and you been given a massive payoff. However, being a prudent person, you want to minimise any unnecessary expenditure.
So, with that background, what goes on in your mind is a process that you are not aware of totally that says, “What do I know about mobiles that impact my expenditure to a point where I may be spending money needlessly?” Answer – tariffs. You think, “Hmmm. If I’m not on the right tariff, I could be spending more money than I really need. I’d better call to check I’m on the best one” The outcome of this thought process is an action for you and this for many people is the first time the have given it high level conscious thought - i.e. been made aware of it.
So you have an itch and you need to scratch it. You dial you airtime provider and open the call by saying, “I’m just calling to check I’m on the right tariff.” It is very rare for people to dip into the emotional reason for contact initially as no relationship has been established. The natural tendency is NOT to allude to the underlying reason why you are really calling (even if you are aware of it).
Unfortunately, what the CSR‘hears’ bears little resemblance to your real needs. they ‘hear’, “Please look up all the tariffs on your system and read them all out to me so that I may make up my mind as to which is right for me.” As a consequence they do exactly that job and ‘dump’ a load of tariff info on you so you can do what they have ‘heard’ you want.
This of course is nothing like what you want and what’s more makes you even more confused as it raises further questions. The relationship between you deteriorates and you take your leave of one another. Both of you are dissatisfied. The CSR feels you are unreasonable – after all, they gave you what you asked for (in theirs ears) and you feel they couldn’t care less about you as they took no interest in you and didn’t understand you… You were left with ‘unfinished business’ as Gestalt calls it and as a consequence tell others what an inconsiderate bunch they are … blah blah blah.
What the CSR could have said is, “Thank you for the call Mr X. What exactly promptedyour question?” The chances are that you would then explain a bit more as they are ‘taking an interest’ showing they care. On hearing – and understanding – your real request the CSR could then explain to you that what they were going to do was look at your recent calling profile to see which would be best for you. “Well you’ll be glad to hear that looking at your calling profile you are already on the best available tariff. However, if when you make the bulk of your calls changes or the people you are calling changes please call me back and we can reassess the situation for you.”
So, as you can see, 'scripting' for a question asked will only rarely deliver. However, more thorough training into the 'real' reasons people call and allowing time to deliver - to the satisfaction of the customer - will maximise profitability because loyalty will soar.
The fundemental problem with call lengthand numbers of calls answered is that they are so easily measureable! Of MUCH more importance to the long term viability of the org is the OUTCOME from each of those calls. That however can only be measured using our technology.