What Is AHT?

Average Handle Time (AHT) is a metric that measures how long it takes call center agents to complete a certain task and help callers reach a resolution.

Used for measuring efficiency, AHT doesn’t just consist of call duration. It also includes the amount of time an agent spends on a call, whether he or she is talking with a customer, or doing other work while the customer is on hold. It’s also important to note that Average Handle Time includes the time an agent spends doing post-call related work that is still needed in order to provide the customer with the solution and call the case closed.

Components of Handle Time are broken down below:

  • Talk Time is the length of time an agent spends talking with a customer.
  • Hold Time is a part of AHT, but only when the agent puts the caller on hold. Time customers spend waiting in a queue before speaking with an agent is not included. Agents typically put callers on hold, so that they can gather more information needed to reach a solution.
  • Post-Call Work is considered the time an agent spends performing work after the call is complete, as long as the work is specifically related to the case at hand.

How AHT Works

A standard formula is used by call centers for calculating the Average Handle Time metric.

 (Total Talk Time + Total Hold Time + Total Post-Call Work) ÷ Number of Calls = AHT

If call centers want to become more efficient, then they should establish benchmarks for current productivity levels. Once benchmarks are set, companies can analyze AHT metrics and identify actionable steps for future improvement and growth. However, companies should not use AHT alone as a measurement to take action on

While AHT is an important and necessary call center metric, a lower AHT doesn’t necessarily mean better. AHT should be analyzed and applied based on specific organizational goals.  Over emphasizing speed can compromise quality of service, so it’s important not to completely rely on AHT and ensure that you are also monitoring calls for quality. You don’t want agents rushing to end a call and providing poor customer experience or star agents, who are invested in a customer’s well-being, feeling demoralized because they have to worry about time rather than service. View our infographic to learn more about AHT.

Here are a few tips for reducing AHT without negatively impacting customer service:

1. Refining the agent training process

Refining your training program for call center agents will enable them to help customers more effectively by eliminating the agent’s need to ask questions or fumble through new software. Providing agents with different caller scenarios will prepare them for even the most challenging cases.

2. Recording & monitoring calls

By recording and monitoring calls, managers can help call center agents reduce their handle time by identifying weak areas. This will also help managers identify any trends that may be hindering a team of agents as a whole.

3. Call routing

 Call routing technology can save time for agents and customers by accurately sending incoming customer cases to the agent who is most qualified to resolve them.

4. Using a knowledge base

Arming call center agents with the information they need is crucial for reducing AHT. Equipping them with a knowledge base gives them an easy way to access needed information, so that they don’t have to waste time searching for it in separate databases and business tools.

5. Use an internal communication system

 Internal communication systems with instant messaging capabilities help reduce AHT by giving agents a quick and easy way to seek help from other agents while they are still on the phone with a customer. They can get immediate answers, preventing the need to put customers on hold.

6. Ensure customer information is always up to date

 By using integrated call center software, agents are equipped with the most up-to-date customer information. This means no time is wasted asking customers info that’s already recorded in the system. This helps reduce handle time while also improving the customer service experience by not wasting the customer’s time.

The Benefits of Measuring AHT

1. Assess employee performance

AHT gives companies insight into how employees are assisting customers. If an agent’s AHT is much higher than the established benchmark, it’s likely they aren’t helping callers as quickly as they should, and a manager needs to step in and identify the problem.

However, it’s important not to push AHT too much. Otherwise, agents may start rushing through customer service cases and not give them the attention and care they deserve.

2. Determine staffing needs

Knowing the average amount of time it takes for employees to complete tasks helps companies determine staffing needs. For instance, if employees are taking longer than anticipated, that might mean that more customers are left waiting, and consequently more staff members are needed to help them.

3. Plan effectively

 Companies that don’t measure AHT can’t plan effectively, as they don’t know how long it takes for employees to complete tasks. By measuring AHT and implementing the above methods for reducing it, companies can make necessary changes to become more efficient and utilize resources effectively.

4. Reduce costs & increase revenue

By reducing AHT, companies should see an overall increase in revenue as productivity levels increase and workflow processes become more streamlined. Naturally, an increase in revenue will come as extraneous costs are eliminated.

Why AHT Matters

AHT goals vary between organizations. Companies dealing with primarily basic customer issues that are relatively easy to deal with might, for example, expect employees to be spending an average of 4 minutes per call. Companies or even departments within companies handling more difficult or sensitive cases might conversely aim for higher AHTs with hopes of connecting with customers and offering a more personalized experience.

Understanding what Average Handle Time is and how to use the metric for organizational needs is essential for planning effectively, improving the customer service experience and ensuring long-term profitable growth.

Learn more about different types of call center technology tools that can be used to reduce Average Handle Time and enhance the customer service experience here.



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