Average Handle Time (AHT): What Is It And How To Reduce It

What is Average Handle Time

Average Handle Time or Average Handling Time (AHT) is a call center metric that indicates the average duration of one customer interaction. It is one of the most common Key Performance Indicators (KPI) in the contact center and is used to assess an agent’s efficiency as well as the customer service department performance.

Why is Average Handle Time important?

Average Handle Time is paramount to deliver great customer service as it relates to time and satisfaction.

By measuring AHT, you can measure how well your employees are meeting these expectations and take the necessary actions to improve things if needed.

Lowering your AHT usually means that your agents are being more productive since customers aren’t waiting as long and your customer service reps are solving problems faster.

However, the AHT metric can be misleading as it doesn’t differentiate a simple case from a complex one. In addition, if you only measure speed instead of your ability to help customers, you will end up putting your own interests first instead of your customer and this might negatively impact other contact center KPIs.

How to Calculate Average Handle Time?

Average Handling Time (AHT) calculation only includes the time when the caller gets through to an agent until they hung up.

Below is what is typically included in an AHT formula for calls:

  • Total talk time
  • Total hold time
  • Total wrap time (or After-Call Work time)
  • Number of calls handled

To calculate phone AHT, you can use this common formula:

(Talk time + total hold time + total wrap time) / number of total calls

Email & Chat AHT

For emails, it is a bit different as there are no hold times. Therefore, you calculate AHT by adding up the total amount of time it took to resolve a case from the time the email was first opened.

The email AHT formula also applies for chats.

You can use these formulas and compare the AHT for each channel within your organization.

Now that you have a good understanding of Average Handle Time, let’s see how you can reduce it.

How to Reduce Average Handle Time in Your Contact Center

  1. Optimize Skill-Based Routing

Routing the customer to your most qualified agent available to handle the query is another way how to reduce AHT by ensuring fast problem solving and customer satisfaction.

  1. Use Call and Screen Recording for Agent Training

Call and screen recording for ongoing training purposes allows you to find room for improvements, assess your agent’s efficiency and also identify potential issues in handling customer queries.

  1. Use Self-Service Technology

Self-service technologies such as chatbots and IVR (Interactive Voice Response) can significantly decrease your AHT by empowering your customer to access information with no human interaction.

An IVR system is also smart enough to optimize skill-based routing.

  1. Streamline Agent Workflow and Processes

One of the most efficient ways to make a difference in call handle time is to automate as many agent processes as you can. For instance, make sure your agents have all the information quickly available when handling a new customer. You might also want to have a workforce management software that handles calls, email, chats and that integrates with your CRM system so agents don’t have to switch applications

  1. Invest in Agent Coaching

When you onboard your agents, make sure they are trained properly to handle every customer interaction and know how to use contact center tools and applications at their disposal. In order to reduce AHT, make sure they remember and apply best practices and keep up with the new tools and solutions you might add along the way. Enhance their coaching with real-life examples from call recordings and listen to their feedback to improve your AHT.

  1. Monitor Other KPIs Surrounding AHT

Some of these important call center metrics should include:

  • Average talk time
  • Call missed
  • Calls declined
  • Transfers accepts
  • Average wait time
  • Longest wait time
  • Abandoned in queue
  • Exceeded in queue
  • Average time to answer
  1. Reduce After Call Work Instead of Customer Talk Time

You can achieve that by encouraging abbreviations and detailed note taking during customer interactions In addition, a workforce management software can help you cut the after-call work involved in workforce management for call centers.

  1. Always Value Customer Satisfaction

Cutting down your AHT should never be done to the detriment of customer satisfaction. As you start analyzing and optimizing your AHT, make sure you keep a close eye on satisfaction metrics.

It is true that speed and quality can be tough to balance but customer happiness should always be your priority.


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