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A crucial call center metric, Average Handle Time (AHT) is the average time involved in handling a customer call or transaction from start to end. This begins from the time a customer initiates a call till the time it ends, including the talk times, hold times, transfers, and all the tasks that an agent performs after the call too.
However, AHT isn’t a success metric – hurtling agents to close tickets instead of resolving customer issues would definitely accelerate your AHT but won’t make your customers happy. This metric can help you seamlessly calculate call center levels, assess the efficiency of specific agents, as well as establish performance benchmarks.
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As 56% of customers refuse to do business with a brand again after a poor service experience, using AHT can help call centers to effectively understand and improve the customer experience. According to Forrester, 66% of individuals believe that the most essential thing an organization can do is to value their time. Being a crucial customer service metric, an average handle time is known for relating to the most valued commodity of customers, i.e. “time.” By impacting various call center KPIs across customer satisfaction, agent effectiveness, and operational efficiency, AHT plays a key role in monitoring how well your customer support agent is able to handle customer queries and take necessary action.
A reduced AHT usually means that your support team is being more productive and resolving cases quickly. As customers don’t have to spend much time working with the reps, it boosts their overall experience! Moreover, the support agents can easily take up and resolve more cases in their daily workflow.
For calculating your Average Handle Time (AHT), you need to gather some data which includes your total talk time, total hold time, and after-call work (ACW) time. By adding all of them and dividing by the total number of calls, you can get your average handle time.
Being easy to obtain, it is the total amount of time your support agents spend on a call. It’s important to include all the interactive time during which a customer inputs some data into the system.
It sums up the total period of time for which a customer is put on hold. This number is also easy to obtain and is considered to be more finite than the total talk time.
Being most difficult to calculate, the ACW is the total work an agent is supposed to perform after post-call such as data entry & updates, schedule further follow-ups, communication requirements, etc. The time consumed in after-call work may vary depending on what a call center has been handling.
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Many brands consistently put in efforts to reduce average handle time but strive to get effective results. While meeting customers’ needs is not easy and there’s no defined shortcut for it, there are certain steps your team can adopt for delivering solutions faster. Let’s take a look at some tips that can help you reduce average handle time while delivering a better customer experience quickly:
To reduce the average handling time of your call center, it’s imperative to provide a proactive service to your customers. By ensuring your support team is ready to resolve issues even before a customer reaches out, you can certainly deliver a top-notch service that every customer craves for! For instance, you can provide proactive customer service with the help of a knowledge base. Being a part of your website that is specially tailored to solve customers’ common queries, a knowledge base plays a pivotal role in helping customers understand your products or services better. By directing customers to the knowledge base after giving them some brief explanation, service agents don’t have to repeat simple processes that customers can do on their own. This saves a lot of time and the agents are able to resolve the case faster.
As average handle time is impacted by your agents’ ability to handle customer issues, so it’s essential to train your agents well. With extensive training in CRM, hardware, software, and business tools along with in-depth information on company standards and policies, you can prepare your agents to resolve customers’ issues in an effective way! Also, it’s important to remember that agent training is not a one-time process. So, you need to continuously enrich your team by providing them coaching sessions on a regular basis. Creating an internal knowledge base that comprises guides & cheatsheets for your agents could be a great idea. This way, your agents can answer repetitive customer questions in a more quick and efficient way.
All customer service agents love to use gadgets and gizmos that can streamline their work processes and make their lives easy! By empowering your team with exceptional customer service tools that offer advanced troubleshooting options such as screen-sharing, ticket automation, API goggles, etc., you enable them to become more tech-friendly and serve their customers more efficiently. Using such tools not only adds a competitive advantage but also helps to elevate your customer experience to a great extent!
Even the high-performing agents need mentorship and monitoring at some level. By keeping an eye on the key metrics for your call center such as average talk time, hold time, call transfers, calls missed, calls declined, the average time to answer, etc. you can gain insights into the strengths or weaknesses of your contact center and identify its impact on the customer experience as well. This helps to significantly reduce and improve the average handle time.
As call routing plays an indispensable role in reducing average handle time, it’s critical for call centers to focus on their routing processes. When a call is routed to the right representative in the first go, there’s no probability of transfers or hold times. As customers are connected to a knowledgeable agent as per their inquiry, this not only saves time & reduces AHT but also improves the customer experience.
Based on the intensity of your call center issues, the increase in average handle time may not be reflected easily. However, there are certain factors that you need to consider to check if your AHT needs improvement:
This is not the total hold time that you use for calculating your AHT. An average hold time represents the time (on average) for which a customer’s call is put on hold. A longer hold time automatically increases your AHT.
If you don’t hear any complaints from your customers, that doesn’t mean they don’t have any issues or they’re fully satisfied. Using IVR surveys can help you directly communicate with customers and uncover issues that they might be experiencing at your call centers. Voxco offers omnichannel survey solutions that empower you to gain insights into customer feedback anywhere, anytime.
In case your customers have to call repeatedly (i.e. more than once) for addressing a single issue, this increases your average handle time and potentially impacts your customer service too!