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The Comprehensive Guide to Reducing Average Handle Time (AHT)

Average handle time is a key metric in managing contact center effectiveness. We’ve put together The Comprehensive Guide to Reducing Average Handle Time (AHT) to answer all your AHT questions, from “What is Average Handle Time” to “The Best Ways to Reduce Average Handle Time.

If you’re looking to learn:

  • What is AHT?
  • Why should I reduce AHT?
  • What are the worst ways to reduce AHT?

…then you’re in the right place!

In this blog, we will answer these questions and provide the information you need to improve your contact center effectiveness with AHT.

Watch: How to Reduce Average Handle Time (AHT)

What Is AHT?

Average Handle Time, or AHT, is a measurement of how long an interaction with a customer takes. Average handle time also includes any time a customer spends on hold waiting for the call to be answered—and any time spent on hold during the call.  

How Does Reducing AHT Help the Bottom Line?

Despite the significant impact lowering average handle time can have for your business, AHT has been increasing. “Average handle time increased 10.99% from 2013 to 2016 and has only continued to increase since then” (Forrester, Predictions 2020: Customer Service, Oct 31, 2019). Decrease the average amount of time an agent spends on a call, and labor demands and costs go down. Even a small reduction in AHT can have a huge effect on your bottom line. Picture this: For every 100,000 calls coming into your call center a month, if you shorten each call by 10 seconds—you could save 2,700 hours in labor costs. 

Proven results: IAG, a multinational insurance company, reduced their call handle times by 20%, reduced call volume by 18%, and shifted over 40% of renewals over to self service!

The Worst Way to Reduce Average Handle Time

Reducing average handle time simply for the sake of AHT and costs is short sighted. Poorly implemented AHT plans can negatively impact your CX. It can send your NPS and CSAT scores down the drain! Your agents should prioritize the customer’s needs and provide meaningful service instead of rushing through calls. Making the customer feel valued is the most important thing. With the growth of digital self-service channels such as intelligent virtual assistants, simple requests and inquiries are being resolved online.  What remains are increasingly complex issues. Customers are turning to phone calls when the answer to their issue isn’t easily available through other means. What does this mean for how you calculate average handle time? It means you need to break down the importance and approach to AHT by call type.

Proven results: Read how PlumChoice decreased AHT by 64 seconds by emphasizing first call resolution and customer satisfaction.

For example, let’s say a customer calls in with a serious complaint, and they’re at risk for churn. Instead of feeling pressured to quickly get the customer off the phone (to meet their AHT metrics), the agent should feel empowered to spend however much time it takes to resolve the customer problem and retain their business. Customer experience and first call resolution (FCR) are additional metrics that should be balanced with AHT on an agent’s performance scorecard.

The Comprehensive Guide to Reducing AHT

So how do you go about improving the AHT in your call center? One place to look is at the different things that take your agents time to accomplish. Finding the answers to customer interaction questions, accessing data from different systems, learning why customers are calling – the list of tasks your agents handle is endless. In fact, there are several tools to help you reduce AHT, from real-time guidance for agents to a 360 degree view of the customer.

To learn more about how these tools help you reduce average handle time, how and when to evaluate AHT, and how to calculate AHT, read
“The Comprehensive Guide to Reducing Average Handle Time.”