Whenever you handle customer contacts, you want to provide the best possible service in the shortest amount of time. While you want to fully satisfy your customers, longer times are more costly and lessen the number of calls your agents can handle.

Over the coming weeks, we’re taking a deep dive into the crucial KPIs that high-performing contact centers measure. This article discusses the importance of average handle time (AHT).

What is AHT and What Does It Measure?

Average handle time tracks how long it takes for customers to complete an interaction with your contact center. AHT measures everything from the time the agent picks up a call until it’s concluded, including any follow-up work required. This includes talk time, hold time, and wrap time or after-call work time.

AHT is different than average call duration, which measures only the time agents spend on a call.

How to Measure AHT

Measuring AHT is fairly straightforward. Track the total time from when an agent first engages with customers until they complete any wrap-up across all their calls during a measurement period. Then divide that by the number of calls handled during the same period.

AHT Formula

Average Handle Time =  Talk Time + Hold Time + Follow-up Time  / # of Calls

Let’s say an agent handled 50 calls and spent 225 minutes talking (and listening), 50 minutes on hold, and 25 minutes adding notes to your CRM. This would work out to:

(225 + 50 + 25) / 50 = 6 minutes

Although AHT will vary by industry and product, 6 minutes is generally considered the industry average for AHT.

Why is AHT Important to Call Centers?

When you can reduce your AHT without sacrificing quality, you can handle more customers.

AHT also provides a way to:

  • Measure agent efficiency
  • Identify bottlenecks in workflow
  • Find areas where additional resources, tools, or training is needed
  • Reduce hold time

Reducing your overall average holding time can pay big dividends. For example, if a team of 20 agents can reduce their AHT of 6 minutes per call by just 10 seconds each, you could handle an additional 45 calls a day.

One important note, though. Most companies track AHT in conjunction with NPS or CSAT scores to avoid agents rushing customers off the call before resolving their issues.

How Can Agents Improve their Average Handle Time?

When agents know what to say, have the right information at hand, and have the right tools, it’s easy to implement best practices to improve AHT.

Dynamic Scripts

Solid, well-defined scripts are key for efficiency and consistency. Having scripted responses can help agents handle customer inquiries more quickly and efficiently. Knowing what to say will help to minimize the amount of time spent on each interaction.

The challenge is having the right responses for each situation. Top-performing organizations use AI-powered tools to enhance their scripts and create the best conversations to reduce AHT.

A real-time guidance platform will recommend the most efficient and relevant content to resolve customer problems or questions. Tools with dynamic prompts that surface the best content to move a conversation forward and smart checklists that automatically check off items as they’re covered to help optimize call flow.

You can drive script integrity through analysis of what’s most effective to hone your scripts and improve future performance.

Effective Training and Coaching

It’s crucial to provide consistent training so that your agents are properly educated on how to handle customer queries. You also need to provide coaching to improve agent performance. But both activities take hours off of agent time on the phones, and manager time to monitor calls for coaching opportunities.

Make sure your contact center software platform monitors calls and automatically alerts managers and supervisors for on-the-spot coaching opportunities. This allows managers to provide immediate feedback to improve performance, and saves them hours of call monitoring time. Many tools allow you to set phrases, keywords, and other triggers to alert you when calls need coaching.

Efficient After-Call Work

After the call has ended, agents need a fast and easy way to document all relevant information so that it can be passed on to the next agent if necessary. This will help to avoid duplication of effort and save time in the long run.

It also helps with one of the top customer complaints, which is having to provide the same information to multiple people. In case of a callback or follow-up, the next agent should have all the information they need to pick up the conversation and move it forward.

Real-Time Guidance, QA, and Coaching

On average, call centers spend three hours a week on coaching and tend to focus more on products and technology than effective call handling. That’s why contact centers need a real-time guidance platform that guides agents through the conversation, so they say the right thing on every call to optimize the conversation. With real-time guidance, real-time quality assurance, and real-time coaching tools, you can improve performance, including AHT, first-call resolution, and customer satisfaction.

To see how Balto’s Real-Time Guidance platform can help, book a demo today.