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Blog | January 28, 2021

What's Your Average Handle Time (AHT)?

What is Average Handle Time and How Can You Improve It?

Average Handle Time (AHT) is a tried-and-true metric impacting several mission-critical contact center key performance indicators (KPIs). It provides strong signals on the effectiveness of various customer care considerations—from agent onboarding and training to the organization’s customer processes and its tools to empower agents to be successful. 

A straightforward measure, AHT simply reflects how well a customer contact agent is equipped to handle customer inquiries, and it should be one of the defining metrics you use to understand how well your organization is delivering on your customer experience initiatives.

Calculating Average Handle Time (AHT)

The Average Handle Time formula is a simple calculation: It’s the average duration of the entire customer call, from the time the customer initiates the call to the termination of the call, including all hold and transfer times. Here’s a calculation that can be used:

AHT= (Total talk time + Total Hold time) + Total ACW / Total # of Calls

Average Handle Time is a metric that can be used to not only evaluate the performance of individual contact center agents but also to provide leadership benchmarks on the performance of both the individual department and the entire organization as a whole. 

Average Handle Time Calculator
AHT = 0 seconds

Why Average Handle Time is Important

With large increases in customer call and chat volumes, it’s absolutely essential for brands to optimize each of their customer touchpoints. In a competitive, global marketplace where two poor customer experiences lead to a 96 percent probability in permanent customer churn, it’s necessary to make each customer care interaction count, and AHT is a foundational metric driving your customers’ satisfaction.

What’s a Good Average Handle Time?

Average handle times differ depending on an organization’s approach to the customer experience, the products and services it offers, and the structure of its customer care organization. A recent report from Cornell University illustrated just how different AHTs were across different industries:

Resist the temptation to think the lowest possible AHT is the best possible one. Although important, your average handle time is only one metric in the equation. Focusing on other metrics like first call resolution (FCR), average response time, concurrency, and call/chat volume will ultimately help you understand how healthy your customer care program really is. 

Improving Average Handle Time

Fortunately, there are a lot of strategies and tactics that can help organizations improve AHT. Below are a few trusted methods customer care managers can employ to improve metrics like these and keep agents connected, engaged, and productive.

Leverage technology. Utilizing technology that assists agents in real-time has become a standard for customer-centric organizations. Features like auto-populating relevant customer information, reason codes, product codes, and other case fields can not only dramatically reduce AHT, but can actually help decrease employee frustration and churn. Additionally, enabling agents with tools that provide recommendations on the correct actions to take or automatically providing agents with knowledge-base resources can improve AHT and compliance. 

Ensure agents are effectively trained. Agents thrive when they are empowered with the right training and collateral. It’s now more important than ever to invest time and resources into development and training programs that will prepare agents to meet the increasing expectations of their customers. Providing technical training, implementing a mentoring program, and embracing continuous training are all fundamentals of a healthy contact center.

Optimize routing and communication processes. Routing customers to the wrong agent wastes critical time. A well-designed routing system allows customers to select who they need to connect with, and ensures they are paired with the most appropriate agent on the first attempt.

Deploying systems that can accommodate quick and effective internal communications will aid in delivering customer service and achieving higher customer satisfaction. Agents should be able to contact one another and collaborate within their own workspaces and/or see previous interactions with the organizations. 

Monitor agent performance and proactively coach. When evaluating agents’ performance and identifying opportunities to continuously improve, closely monitor contact center metrics that are associated with AHT, including:

  • Average time to answer
  • Average hold time/average wait time
  • Longest hold time/longest wait time
  • Abandoned in queue
  • Calls missed
  • Calls declined
  • Transfers accepted
  • Average talk time

Within your customer care processes, the above metrics likely affect your overall AHT. Take care to ensure a complete understanding of the context of each metric and its impact on the overarching goal of your customer interactions. Look to optimize the entire system and its outputs rather than to optimize a sub-system and its particular output. 

For more information on effectively creating high-performance customer care teams, please refer to the ebook, “Best Practices for Building High-Performing Remote Teams.”