In call centers, Average Handle Time – often abbreviated to AHT – is a vital performance metric that directly influences both the productivity of the agents and the satisfaction of customers.
Average Handle Time is a commonly used call center key performance indicator (KPI). AHT calculates the average duration of a single transaction, including the talk time, hold time, and after-call work. Reducing AHT can lead to managing more calls in a day without sacrificing quality.
Average Handle Time is more than just a KPI – it's a factor that can streamline contact center operations. When a call center lowers AHT without compromising service quality, it can amplify productivity, manage costs, enhance agent utilization, and maintain customer satisfaction. The focus on handling calls efficiently reverberates throughout the entire organization.
Here's what a reduction in AHT can mean for your call center:
Managing Average Handle Time is a delicate balance for your customers. They appreciate swift resolutions, but they don't want to feel rushed or that their concerns are being overlooked.
Overall, a carefully managed AHT can benefit customer satisfaction in many ways:
Average Handle Time might appear simple to determine. The general formula to calculate AHT is: (Total talk time + Total hold time + Total post-call work) / Total number of calls = AHT.
When measuring, remember that each segment (talk time, hold time, post-call work) is integral in understanding how agents are spending their time during customer interactions.
For instance, in June, Company A's total interaction time was 12,000 minutes for 2,500 calls, resulting in an AHT of 4.8 minutes.
On the other hand, Company B spent 18,200 minutes on 3,500 calls, leading to an AHT of approximately 5.2 minutes.
Accuracy in AHT calculations is pivotal for grasping your call center's operational productivity and the quality of customer interactions.
Despite its significance, not every call center adequately tracks AHT.
Consistent and precise methods for tracking talk time, hold time, and post-call work are essential. Both managerial staff and frontline agents are instrumental in this process.
Effective AHT tracking can be facilitated through:
By following these steps, call centers can effectively measure, monitor, and manage their AHT, striking a balance between operational efficiency and stellar customer service.
Unfortunately, there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to this. An acceptable AHT will differ based on the industry, call complexity, and specific call center goals.
Hubspot provides a great chart of suggested AHT targets by industry. For instance, they say healthcare AHT should aim for an 3 minutes and 28 seconds, while telecommunications AHT is closer to 2 minutes and 36 seconds.
Just as with FCR, it's crucial to establish AHT targets tailored to your call center's unique dynamics. This requires constant monitoring, evaluation, and industry benchmarking.
Striking the perfect balance between efficiency and service quality is essential.
Streamlining Average Handle Time (AHT) is a delicate balance between efficiency and maintaining high-quality service. By implementing the right strategies, call centers can strike this balance and serve customers more proficiently.
By adopting these strategies, call centers can improve their AHT without compromising the quality of service, ensuring an optimal experience for both agents and customers.
Effectively optimizing Average Handle Time requires more than just implementing best practices. It's equally vital to recognize and sidestep common mistakes that can inadvertently lengthen call durations or compromise service quality. Let's delve into how to avoid these pitfalls:
By staying vigilant against these missteps and keeping a proactive approach, call centers can enhance AHT while ensuring a stellar customer experience.
While we’ve covered a lot about Average Handle Time, here are a few other commonly asked questions:
AHT is influenced by various factors including the complexity of customer issues, agent training and expertise, the efficiency of the tools and systems in use, and the clarity of communication processes. Additionally, KPIs like First Call Resolution (FCR), Service Level (SL), and Contact Quality can play a role in AHT, as the depth of resolution, waiting times, and interaction quality can all impact the duration of a call or interaction.
To reduce live chat handle time, ensure agents have access to efficient scripts and tools, encourage concurrent chat handling where feasible, and provide continuous training based on customer feedback and chat analytics.
AHT traditionally pertains to phone calls in a contact center. However, in a broader context, it can be adapted to measure any interaction time, including emails. In such cases, it might be referred to as "Average Email Handling Time."
Remote workforces don't inherently have a higher AHT. However, remote agents might face unique challenges, such as internet connectivity issues or distractions, which can influence AHT. Proper training, tools, and a conducive remote working environment can mitigate these challenges.
AHT should be viewed in conjunction with other KPIs like First Call Resolution (FCR) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT). While efficiency is vital, it shouldn't come at the cost of service quality. Balancing AHT with other metrics ensures that call centers maintain both efficiency and high-quality customer interactions.
Improving Average Handle Time, while maintaining or boosting quality, is crucial for efficient call center operations. AmplifAI’s advanced AI-enabled performance enhancement platform emerges as a vital tool in optimizing this delicate balance, ensuring efficiency and quality go hand-in-hand.
One of our recent case studies is an excellent example of the transformation that can be achieved with AmplifAI. A dramatic improvement in coaching effectiveness led to a 24% increase in AHT for a major U.S. telecommunications provider. Read the full case study here.
By leveraging AmplifAI, call centers can masterfully optimize AHT, resulting in an agile, effective, and quality-centric operation that delights both agents and customers.
Average Handle Time (AHT) stands as a pivotal gauge for call center operations, harmonizing the balance between efficiency and quality.
Strategically optimized AHT can lead to impressive gains in productivity, substantial cost savings, heightened agent morale, and bolstered customer loyalty. Yet, it's imperative to measure and manage AHT with a discerning eye, avoiding pitfalls like sacrificing service quality for speed. Investing in agent empowerment, adopting data-driven insights, and refining processes can bring about significant improvements in AHT.
By mastering AHT, call centers can promise quicker resolutions, more engaged agents, and highly satisfied customers.
Could AmplifAI help you improve your AHT? Let’s find out!
The future of success in your contact center is contingent on how you impact performance in ways that are both immediate and sustainable. And it doesn’t matter whether your agents are on-site, at-home, full-time, part-time, or temporary – you must deliver on performance.
Coaching is one of the most significant tools we can use to deliver on the engagement and performance of our people – but we must develop our processes, our people and leadership skills, and our technology tools, in order to overthrow the pervasive challenges to achieving greater coaching effectiveness and supercharging contact center performance!
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Melissa Pollock Customer Success at AmplifAI