Industry News: “Handle” With Care

Is Average Handle Time (AHT) still an important consideration at the contact center? We think so, but a recent survey by Call Centre Helper found that just 27% of industry professionals believe it’s a metric worth measuring. That’s down 6% over the previous year.

Why the drop? The same survey reveals that AHT seems to be going up at more than one-third of businesses. Maybe they don’t want to think it’s a big deal. Maybe they even think more time spent with a customer on the phone yields a more positive outcome.

Do they have a point? Perhaps, given the emergence of First Call Resolution (FCR) as one of the most significant KPIs worth pursuing. The theory is that when that first call is resolved, even if it takes another 5-10 minutes, the net gain is more efficient allocation of resources and a satisfied customer.

Still, handle time remains a critical factor in staffing, which takes its cues from forecasting and scheduling. And there are several ways to keep it under control, while also allowing some flexibility for First Call Resolution.

Here are five quick tips for cutting AHT – consider them our holiday gift to you:

  1. If a call must be transferred, always make sure the customer’s relevant data is transferred as well, so the same questions won’t have to be asked a second time.


  1. Adopt a skills-based call routing strategy. Agents that specialize in certain types of calls will almost always be able to handle them more quickly.


  1. Switch from spreadsheets to workforce management. Then review any other manual processes and discuss whether they can be automated as well.


  1. Train your agents to anticipate caller questions. That way they’ll have the right answers ready.


  1. Give your agents more authority to solve customer issues, investigate problems, and provide a solution. Transferring calls, even without excessive hold time, is never good for AHT.