A study by Microsoft states that 56% of customers have ditched businesses after a bad customer service experience & 39% will avoid your brand for an entire two years. And it goes unsaid that long handle times top the customer support grievances.
As customers, all of us have called customer service at one point or another, to resolve an issue. While mostly the call starts on a pleasant note, 15 minutes later, you are speaking to the 4th executive(sometimes the supervisor), and they still can't figure out how to help you!
Among many other call center metrics, including First Call Resolution, Churn rate, Net Promoter Score, Customer Satisfaction Score, and Customer Effort Score, Average Handle Time is a crucial indicator to help maintain a high level of customer service.
And one practical way to improve customer experience is by AHT reduction or Average Handle Time.
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If you want to learn smarter ways to reduce your call center's average handle time without compromising on the customer service quality, keep reading further.
What is Average Handle Time (AHT)?
Average handle time or AHT is the average time needed to resolve a customer or prospect's support ticket or service request, starting when a customer initiates the call until it ends. This includes time spent on holds, delays, call transfers, or follow-up actions to satisfy the customer’s requirement.
At Convin, we discovered a few common reasons for long Average handle Times in the Call Center.
AHT depicts how well-equipped the agent is to handle customer queries. That’s why consistent monitoring and taking action on AHT is an essential KPI for any call center.
How do you calculate average call handling time and what is the AHT Formula?
As important as the term is, the Average Handle Time Formula and Calculator are equally important. Because that’s when contact centers can make changes and improve AHT.
You can calculate the average handle time using the following:
- Total talk time- The total duration of time that agents spend actively engaged in conversation with the caller.
- Total Hold Time: The total time that callers spend on hold during their interactions with the call center.
- Total Wrap-Up Time: The total time that agents spend on wrap-up tasks or completing any required post-call work after the conversation with the caller has ended.
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How To Calculate Average Call Handling Time For Non-Voice Conversations?
To calculate Average Handle Time (AHT) for non-voice conversations, such as live chat or messaging interactions, you can follow these steps:
- Record Interaction Duration: Measure the total time duration from the beginning of the conversation until its completion. This includes the time spent typing and responding to messages.
- Include Handling Time: In addition to the actual conversation time, consider any handling time or after-call work (ACW) required to complete the conversation, such as sending follow-up information or closing the chat session.
- Add Total Interaction and Handling Time: Combine the total duration of the conversation (interaction time) with the handling time to get the complete AHT for the non-voice conversation.
Calculate AHT: Divide the sum of total interaction time and handling time by the total number of non-voice conversations.
The formula for calculating AHT for non-voice conversations is:
By calculating AHT for non-voice conversations, businesses can assess agent performance, optimize response times, and improve overall efficiency in managing non-voice customer interactions.
What is a Good Average Handle Time?
Average call handling time in a call center varies from industry to industry. Every business, with all its complexities, is different. Thus no one standard fits all. The AHT benchmark varies from industry to industry. According to a report by Cornell University, a good Average Handle Time ranges between five to 8:48 minutes.
For instance, the AHT for a financial services company is less than 5 mins, but telecom and other large businesses maintain an AHT over 8 mins.
The product/service complexity, support team structure, and ticket size often determine the AHT. Logically, the expectation is not to cross the industry benchmarks.
Why is AHT an Important call center metric?
Research reveals that 66% of adults believe that the most important thing a company can do is value its time. Thus, AHT is one of the most critical call center metrics as it is associated with the customer’s most valued commodity-Time.
Some of the benefits a reduced AHT entails:
1. Improve Customer Satisfaction
A survey conducted by Bain & Company states that only 1 in 26 unhappy customers will ever reach out to your customer support team about a negative experience with your brand. The rest will churn without any response.
Customers understand it is natural to expect issues occasionally, but they will only continue to do business with you if the problems are resolved quickly. Thus, increased customer satisfaction is the most significant benefit that a lower AHT offers.
2. Win Loyal Brand Advocates
A study by Esteban Kolsky, a CX researcher, states that an average of 72% of customers are likely to share positive experiences with a brand with six or more acquaintances.
On the other hand, 13% of your unhappy customers will go out of their way to tell 15 other potential customers to stay away.
The main aim of optimizing AHT is not about taking calls as fast as possible but about offering a positive & customer-friendly experience that helps you bring back customers.
Delighted customers can thus share their positive reviews online, where potential customers researching your brand can find them with a simple Google search.
Eventually, a reduced AHT time will add more positive experiences to your customers pocket & turn them into evangelists (to advocate for your brand by word of mouth).
3. Shorten Your Sales Cycle
Depending on your industry type, the sales cycle can range from a few weeks to more than a year. It also depends on many other factors, like the number of stakeholders involved in the sales process or average deal value.
If you successfully optimize Average Handle Time, you can save time on exchanges between your stakeholders & prospects–helping you accelerate your sales cycle, leading to more profitability.
- Increase Revenue & Profitability
A Progress Report by Walker suggests that 86% of customers don't mind paying more for a better customer experience. It includes, among many other factors, a lower waiting time to get transferred between agents on calls.
Thus, a shorter sales cycle coupled with satisfied customers & confident prospects will help your business increase revenue & profitability to an all-time high with minimal effort.
What Causes a High Average Call Handling Time in a Call Center?
Among other call center metrics, a relatively higher AHT can be detrimental to the growth of a call center. This can be due to several factors, including:
1. Long or Unstructured Call Scripts
Trying to create a bond, using long opening or closing statements & paraphrasing information can contribute to long scripts.
A non-optimized & long call script can significantly increase the Average Handle Time as multiple client interactions can lead to arguments. This is a non-value-adding activity, leading to the deflection of customers.
2. Irrelevant Probing
While the customer wants to inquire about a particular issue, asking irrelevant questions can prove to turn them off.
It happens because agents ask for unnecessary customer information that can be traced from customer data. This can slow the resolution process, impact customer experience & increase the AHT.
3. Repetitive Queries
The failure to present the customer with all information at once can be disastrous to the entire customer experience.
Even if the customer doesn't churn, it will eventually lead to repeated queries by the customer, thus increasing the call duration & AHT.
4. Unnecessary Hold or Transfer Time
Often, putting the customer on hold for a long time or transferring the call to another section may bring out a solution to the customer's query.
But it will eventually lead to a considerable wait time, including the time consumed by the first agent. Thus, increasing the AHT.
5. Lack of Coaching
Agents lacking adequate training are most likely unsure of the essential information, thus taking longer to resolve customer queries.
This will eventually lead to a higher Average Handle Time & impact the service quality negatively.
Lastly, Dead air, which is a period of silence or inactivity during a call, can increase Average Handle Time (AHT). To reduce AHT and improve call center efficiency, it's essential to identify and address the root causes of dead air.
Agents should be trained to minimize dead air, and call center technologies, such as automatic call distribution (ACD) and interactive voice response (IVR) systems, can help route calls more effectively, reducing waiting times and dead air occurrences.
How To Reduce/Improve Average Handle Time In A Call Center?
Despite complicated challenges, it is possible to reduce the Average Handle Time of a contact center without compromising service quality.
It may seem like a difficult task. But, identifying the causes that delay response times & diagnosing with a robust customer experience strategy can thus ensure the right approach for businesses towards AHT.
Below are five tactics that will help you reduce call center metrics like Average Handle Times ( and improve First Call Resolution) without impacting the quality of the conversations your call center agents have with prospects and customers.
1. Creating a Knowledge Base
Research by Forrester reports that 53% of adult shoppers in the US are likely to abandon a purchase if they fail to discover a quick answer to their question.
So, the biggest reason why customer conversations drag on & increase AHT is that they can't find quick answers to their queries on your website or other content assets.
Building a knowledge base of articles & FAQs that are easily accessible can bring down search times. It also helps empower agents with adequate procedural knowledge.
Even if the customer fails to find it, this will still decrease the AHT by eliminating the need for your call center agents to travel multiple platforms to consolidate customer information.
As the number of support tickets keeps reducing, agents can better manage the average handle time for each call while ensuring high-quality customer support.
2. Enabling Automation
AI-powered recommendations to help analyze the call quality of ongoing conversations and predict the adequate resources to support the agents assisting the customer.
Call Center Analytics record each agent's time on conversations, including wrap times and gaps (if any) during the discussion. The contact center managers can then segment this data to highlight those who need more call center coaching to reduce their handle times.
Conversation AI can also help customers with a wide range of suggested resources & and connect them with a skilled agent if they still can’t figure their issues out.
The main aim of automating customer interactions isn’t to entirely remove humans from the loop. Instead, automation in the form of call center software can help your agents engage customers better and solve their issues faster.
3. Revamping Call Scripts
Recorded calls can also serve as references on what worked the best during previous conversations & what is to improve to help agents reduce their handle times.
In that case, you can revamp a call script based on insights provided by recorded calls to help serve customers better by reducing the average call handling time.
4. Improving Call Routing & Prioritization
Most support calls take longer because the agent doesn’t know enough about the issue or the customer’s account to be able to provide the support customers need.
That issue can be resolved by routing calls to the right agent based on the issue or the agent’s expertise.
This can minimize unnecessary exchanges between agents & customers by helping the latter connect with agents with the background to help them instantly.
5. Empowering Agents With Adequate Coaching
It is imperative to create viable opportunities for agents to take up new skills & improve their existing ones. This helps augment agent performance to deliver excellent customer service with reduced AHT.
Moreover, gamifying the learning experience for agents & tracking their journeys can also lead to improved agent engagement & reduced AHT customer-friendly calls.
6. Reduce AHT But Focus on Quality
While reducing AHT is vital to providing efficient customer service, it is imperative to remember that quality counts above all.
What are the Challenges of AHT reduction?
Visibility into the issues causing AHT to increase is the biggest challenge. Majority leaders are still stuck at identifying the problems. Implementing the changes comes at a later stage and the consequent results even later.
However, call monitoring software have clearly solved the problem and invited a more streamlined approach to reduce AHT.
At Convin, we help businesses like yours reduce AHT. We help in vetting thoroughly call scripts, and qualify agents who can avoid the contact center pitfalls.
Start you AHT reduction journey with Convin.
- Give a simple average handle time definition.
AHT in a call center is the average time an agent takes to resolve a customer query.
- What does average handle time mean in call center?
Average Handle Time (AHT) is a key performance metric in a call center that measures the average duration of time agents spend on a single customer interaction, from the moment the call is answered to its completion.
- Your average call handle time appears to be stable meaning?
The phrase "Your average call handle time appears to be stable" suggests that the average duration of time taken by call center agents to handle customer calls has remained relatively consistent over a period.
- What is average ticket handle time?
Average Ticket Handle Time (ATH) refers to the average duration it takes for a support agent or a team to resolve a customer support ticket from the time it is created until it is marked as resolved or closed.