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Blog / Customer Experience

Average Handling Time: 3 Simple Tips to Effectively Reduce AHT

agent taking calls with her laptop and headset

One of the primary metrics to gauge efficiency in a call center is average handling time (AHT) per call. AHT is different from average call duration, which measures only the length of time a customer is on the phone.

This article will break down what AHT is, how to calculate it, and why it’s so important. And if your AHT isn’t where you want it to be, we’ve got three effective ways to help reduce it.

What is average handle time?

AHT determines how long it takes to deal with incoming calls, including all the work that’s related to them.

It’s an average of the time between connecting to the call, disconnection, post-call activity, or wrap directly associated with the call. This includes talk time, and any time the caller spent on hold.

Why is average handle time important?

AHT is one of the most important measurements for a call center to track. So, it’s one of the industry’s most analyzed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), along with first call resolution rates and customer satisfaction scores.

Results of calculating AHT reveal the state of a call center’s overall efficiency, each agent’s individual performance, and areas where improvements are needed. The conclusion can even help predict future staffing needs.

According to HubSpot research, 33% of customers are most frustrated by having to wait on hold. A shorter AHT means more customers getting through quicker, with less time spent waiting in a queue. Customers truly hate to wait, so reaching an agent faster contributes to a better experience and a higher likelihood of retaining them.

On the receiving end, agents are more productive when they don’t have to spend as much time with each caller. Reducing wait times and skillfully managing calls is simply good for business, inside and out.

How is average handle time calculated?

The formula:

Total Talk Time + Time on Hold + Wrap Time
             Total # of Calls Handled                  =  AHT
Let’s look at contact center agent Mimran’s work last Friday.
Mimran took 16 calls that day. He spent 46 minutes on talk time and put customers on hold for a total of two minutes. He spent six minutes on post-call wraps.
46 + 2 + 6 (54)
16        =  3.4
Mimran spent an average of 3.4 minutes on each call.
Now, let’s check Hannah’s AHT.
Hannah took 11 calls. Her talk time was 48 minutes and callers spent four minutes on hold. She spent eight minutes on call wraps.
48 + 4 + 8 (60)
 11       = 5.4
Although Hannah’s AHT is significantly longer than Mimran’s, does that mean he’s doing a better job than she is? Let’s find out.

What is a good average handle time?

Your customers prefer to not have to call at all. But once they accept that it’s necessary, they’re hoping to spend as little time as possible with you. No offense.

Measured in minutes, a good AHT lasts about six. That will vary depending on the industry and the complexity of the calls. Telecommunications calls take a little longer, and financial services calls are a bit shorter. But on average, six minutes is a good, general benchmark according to Call Centre Helper.

So, Mimran and Hannah are both handling calls within the acceptable range.
There are a host of reasons why your organization’s average handle time is longer. The good news is, that they’re all rectifiable.

If agents aren’t fully trained before they affix their headsets, they’ll take more time to find information. Confidence is key: in their training and their knowledge management system. Training doesn’t need to be lengthy to be effective. But it does need to be comprehensive. Since training and onboarding new hires is an ongoing process, any kink in the chain will add to AHT and expenses.

An outdated knowledge base such as information buried in unwieldy text documents, or several resources on different platforms, will contribute to a longer AHT. If access to answers is limited in any way, callers will have time to write their lyrics to your on-hold music while agents scramble behind the scenes.

There’s a legitimate concern that pressure to shorten AHTs could be counterproductive. If agents rush the call and don’t resolve the issue, the customer will need to call again. That serves no one. The goal should be to complete the call in an optimal period, not just get customers off the phone.
Although the ability to offer concise information is an important attribute for an efficient agent to possess, some agents like to engage a caller in a little friendly banter. Rapport can go a long way toward customer satisfaction, even when it takes a little longer.

agents taking calls at their computers in a contact center

How to reduce average handle time

Now, in an American Idol-style countdown, here are three simple tips to effectively lower AHT:

  1. Improve training.
    With ProcedureFlow, new hires are ready to go solo faster. ProcedureFlow is a cloud-based knowledge management solution that consolidates information into a single source of truth. Using scenario-based training, trainees practice with live calls so they only need to rely on muscle memory once they’re taking them for real. Training time shortens and results improve, simultaneously.
  2. Create more effective processes.
    Cumbersome text documents or a patchwork of systems is so last century. Gather all information into one easy-to-use platform that’s instantly accessible to everyone. Sound daunting? Experts at ProcedureFlow will help guide you through the creation of a single source of information that acts as a GPS or roadmap for your current systems.
  3. Remove barriers to finding information fast.
    Using easy-to-follow flows, ProcedureFlow eliminates guesswork and puts your organization’s up-to-date materials at everyone’s fingertips. Agents build confidence knowing they’re prepared to face any query that comes in. Even the rare ones.

Better trained agents who are fully prepared for all calls are well-positioned to reduce AHT. Implementing ProcedureFlow as the organization’s single resource for knowledge management is the best solution to consolidate numerous information sources and scale down the length of coaching sessions. The more customers you can help, the better your reputation, your efficiency, and your bottom line. Book a demo today.

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