Average Handle Time (AHT) is one of the most important metrics used as a key performance indicator (KPI) for call centers. AHT is the average duration of the whole customer call transaction, starting from when a customer makes a call to ending the call. It involves everything like call transfers, holds time, and also the after-call work. AHT is a vital metric for call center KPIs that can determine operational efficiency and agent effectiveness.
With the help of AHT, companies can easily find out how well agents are equipped to handle and manage customer queries. The metric can also be used to understand and improve customer experience. More than 50% of customers will likely leave a brand or company after one bad customer service experience.
How to find out AHT?
When calculating the AHT, many companies consider including the after-call works in the AHT calculation. After-call work is the average duration after each call that an agent takes to perform various post-call tasks such as updates, data entry, scheduling follow-ups, marking any other communication requirements, etc.
Therefore, to calculate the AHT, one needs to add Total talk time with total hold time and total time taken after call work. Lastly, divide the total time by the total number of calls. This is how you can get the AHT.
How to determine the best AHT?
Well, a good average handle time may vary from industry to industry. However, as per the Call Centre Magazine, the industry-standard AHT is 6 minutes and 10 seconds. Also, a report by Cornell says that the AHT for the telecommunications industry is over 8:30 minutes, while for financial and IT services, it is 4:45 minutes. Moreover, based on the complexity and high-value nature of calls, an AHT can be higher.
Effective ways to improve AHT in a call center
For more than 90% of customers, customer service is an instant response (less than 10 minutes) to a customer service request. To improve the AHT and deliver the best possible customer experience, companies must employ the following ways:
- Find out the root cause affecting AHT: One of the most effective ways to improve AHT is to determine the root causes that increase the average handle time. Find out the type of interactions that increase the length of time between the agents and customers. To determine the cause, companies must monitor each interaction. It will help in determining the key areas that are leading to lengthy conversations. Based on the understanding the interactions impacting AHT, businesses can train their agents on how they can better manage and handle those interactions without giving a negative impression.
- Use analytics to determine the reason for lengthy AHT: Various key metrics can be used to determine the root causes of a lengthy AHT. These metrics include average hold time, average call duration, first call resolution rate, percentage of missed calls, percentage of calls transferred to voicemail, and the call volume (daily/weekly/monthly). All these analytics can help to determine the common customer service issues. Nowadays, several companies are leveraging the benefits of AI tools such as Natural Language Processing and Speech Analytics tools to monitor customer interactions that include their tone, emotions, filler words, repeated complaints, and all that can add more time to AHT.
- Utilize IVR systems for better self-service: Several businesses these days are utilizing IVR or Interactive Voice response solutions to provide self-service options to their customers. The IVR system provides automated, pre-recorded call menu options to help customers answer their queries instantly. It can also be used to get instant account-related information without speaking to an agent. With an IVR system in place, organizations can ensure that their agents are free to assist customers with complex queries or queries that require one-on-one interaction and detailed support. This helps to eliminate the need for transferring the call to voicemail, callbacks, and other factors that increase the length of AHT. Additionally, by adding skills-based call routing options, organizations can instantly connect their customers to the most appropriate agent who can assist them in the best possible manner.
- Employ agent training program and improve internal knowledge bases: A strong and easy-to-search internal knowledge base system allows agents to respond to specific customer issues instantly and effectively. The agents can easily access the step-by-step instructions or call scripts that clearly show the steps using which the agents can easily guide the customers through. With proper training and a better internal knowledge base, agents can easily assist customers and deliver the best service experience. Getting frequent feedback from employees about what’s working best for them and what’s not can also help improve agent training programs and their ability to handle customer issues quickly and efficiently. Thus, it helps to reduce the AHT.
- Bring automation: To reduce the AHT, organizations must automate various call center tasks. Automation helps to reduce the pre and post-call work time, thereby allowing agents to work more efficiently. The saved time can be utilized to handle and manage more customers’ queries effectively.
There are several benefits of improving the average handle time. It helps organizations maintain higher customer retention rates, lower turnover rates, enhance profits and overall business reputation.