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What is AHT (Average Handle Time) and Why Does it Matter for Your Business?

What is AHT (Average Handle Time)

When it comes to productivity, contact center metrics serve as vital indicators of performance and efficiency. Among these metrics, the Average Handle Time stands as a key measure of operational efficiency and customer service quality.

In this blog, we will delve into the nuances of AHT, exploring its significance and actionable strategies for improvement.

What is the Average Handle Time (AHT)?

As the name suggests, Average Handle Time refers to the average duration it takes for a customer service representative to handle customer interaction, right from the moment the call is initiated until it’s concluded.

The various components of Average Handle Time include the total talk time ( time spent conversing with the customer), hold time, and post-call work (which can include note-taking and updating the records).

Understanding the Significance of Average Handle Time

Let’s understand the importance of this metric by delving into two critical perspectives: operational efficiency and customer experience.

Operational Efficiency:

AHT can be a pivotal benchmark in assessing the efficiency of your support and service operations. Contact Centers can gain insights into the efficiency of call routing, escalation procedures, and after-call tasks. Optimization of these processes can help contact centers reduce unnecessary delays and boost their AHT.

Customer Experience:

One of the most crucial aspects of customer experience is time. AHT (Average Handle Time) directly impacts customer service by influencing wait times, first-call resolution rates, and overall satisfaction levels. AHT can also impact the quality of customer service, as shorter handle times are often associated with more efficient and effective interactions. By prioritizing initiatives to reduce AHT (Average Handle Time), call centers can deliver faster, more responsive service, positively impacting the customer experience and fostering customer loyalty.

How to Calculate the Average Handle Time (Formula)?

To calculate AHT for any channel, follow these steps. For a voice channel, this can be the number of calls, for the digital channel you can consider the chats and for email, you can consider the number of tickets raised or cases.

Step 1:Specify a time period

Define the period for which you wish to calculate the average handle time. This can range from a day to a week, month or year.

Step 2: Calculate the total handle time

This includes the time spent talking to customers, along with the hold times and the time spent doing post-call work or follow-up action.

Step 3: Divide the total handle time by the number of calls handled

Lastly, calculate the Average Handle Time by dividing the sum of the total handle time by the total number of calls received during the specified period.

How to Calculate the Average Handle Time
What’s the Industrial Benchmark for Average Handle Time(AHT)?

There is no universal “good” average handle time that applies to all contact centers across industries because a lot of factors come into play depending on the type of industry and the complexity of the product or service.

Based on Call Center Magazine the industry standard for average call handle time is 6 minutes and 3 seconds.

However, the metric can vary for industries:

Sector of Business  Average Handle Time (in seconds) 
Telecom                            528
Retail                            324
Financial services                            282
Business and IT Services                            282

However, isolating only the AHT for industries might not be a correct interpretation of business productivity. To get a holistic picture, the AHT must be understood in conjunction with other crucial metrics like NPS, CSAT score, etc.

💡CX Scoop | Reduce AHT and Elevate CX with Contextual Call Transfers 

Balancing Service Quality and Speed: CX and AHT

As we have discussed above, it’s quite crucial to aim for faster resolutions but businesses need to realize that it is equally important to ensure quality customer service. This calls for a balance between AHT and Service Quality.
A seamless customer journey hinges on striking the right chord between speedy resolutions and meaningful engagement. While reducing AHT can expedite processes, it must maintain the human touch and maintain service quality. Adopting innovative strategies that mix efficiency and empathy can be the cornerstone of modern customer service excellence.

💡CX Scoop | Value Your Customer’s Time with Faster and Better Service

Ultimately the need to harmonize the CX and AHT is all about meeting and exceeding customer expectations. It’s about transforming routine interactions into memorable experiences that leave a lasting impression – which can become the foundation of sustainable success.

7 Tips to Surpass the Industrial Benchmark for Average Handle Time(AHT) ?

Now, that we have understood what AHT is and why it matters for businesses, let’s now focus on achieving lower handle times with some strategies and best practices.

1. Focus on Agent training

Invest in comprehensive training programs to equip agents with the skills needed to handle interactions efficiently. Emphasize active listening, problem-solving, product knowledge, and empathy to empower agents to resolve queries swiftly and accurately.

💡Learn How | Contact Center Software Integration Can Boost Agent Productivity

2. Automate Workflows

Streamline processes by automating repetitive tasks and workflows. Implement workflow automation tools and CRM systems to eliminate manual interventions, reducing unnecessary delays and improving overall efficiency.

3. Offer Self-service options

Empower customers to find answers to their queries independently through self-service options such as knowledge bases, FAQs, and chatbots. By providing self-service options, you can reduce call volumes and alleviate pressure on agents, leading to lower handle times.

💡Download Whitepaper | Transform the Face of Customer Support with AI-enabled Self-service

4. Opt for the Right Technology

Leverage advanced technologies such as AI-powered chatbots, predictive analytics, and speech recognition to enhance efficiency and accuracy in handling interactions. Choose technology solutions that align with your business needs and enable seamless integration with existing systems.

5. Monitor Performance and Feedback

Regularly monitor AHT metrics and provide constructive feedback to agents based on performance data. Use call center analytics tools to identify trends, areas for improvement, and opportunities to optimize processes. Encourage continuous learning and development to enhance agent performance.

6. Foster Collaboration Across Departments

Break down silos and promote collaboration between departments to optimize call center operations. Engage stakeholders from customer service, IT, and operations in cross-functional teams to identify process improvements and implement best practices.

7. Make the Most of Insights and Analytics

Utilize data analytics tools to gain insights into customer behavior, preferences, and trends. Leverage predictive analytics to anticipate customer needs and proactively address issues before they escalate. Use insights from data analytics to optimize call routing strategies, refine scripting and decision-making processes, and enhance overall efficiency in handling customer interactions.

Wrap up

Average Handle Time (AHT) is a crucial metric that reflects the efficiency of interactions between customers and agents. Optimizing the AHT is crucial for businesses aiming to drive customer engagement and loyalty. This makes it equally important to strike a balance between customer experience and average handle time. Leveraging advanced innovative solutions can be the answer to achieving this delicate balance.

Speaking of innovative solutions, NovelVox offers a suite of cutting-edge solutions designed to empower contact centers in achieving this goal. From advanced CTI Integrations to omnichannel support and AI-powered automation, NovelVox solutions enable businesses to optimize AHT while delivering exceptional customer experiences.

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