A lack of timely customer service can be a significant challenge for contact center leaders. For example, Forbes research found that 96% of consumers will leave a brand that delivers poor service. A vital indicator of a company’s success in meeting that demand is the average handle time (often abbreviated, AHT) with which call agents solve incoming issues.
Customers increasingly expect their challenges to be solved as quickly as possible and, if self-service isn’t an option, want agents to be knowledgeable enough to resolve the issue swiftly. But it’s not just customers who care about how quickly an agent can solve their problem. Average handle time is also a critical key performance indicator that managers can use to assess their team’s efficiency.
Why Customer Service Leaders Care About Average Handle Time
Average handle time offers critical insight into how well customer service teams perform. So, monitoring how well and how quickly agents deal with customer requests is crucial to enhancing customer experience.
Measuring average handle time enables contact centers to track how successfully agents meet customer demand and how productive their teams are. Customer service leaders can adjust their approaches to improve support service and reduce average handling time. As a result, customers should spend less time on the phone with call agents, and the team will solve issues more quickly. This improves the customer experience and enables call agents to handle more cases and be more productive.
The Impact of AHT on Customer Satisfaction
Average handle time can massively impact customers’ perception of a brand. Factors like long hold times, slow systems that prevent agents from having all the information they need at hand and poorly performing or uninformed agents can frustrate customers. As a result, customers are likely to take their business to a competitor that offers better support or the option to self-serve their issue.
What Is a Good Average Handle Time?
Customer service leaders can measure their teams’ success using an average handling time formula. Keep in mind that results may vary depending on an organization’s approach, its products and services and its support team structure. However, using the average handling time formula will help minimize hold times, optimize call lengths, increase the number of calls agents can handle and boost customer satisfaction.
That said, a lower average handling time doesn’t automatically mean the contact center is performing optimally. It is vital to ensure customer calls don’t end prematurely purely to decrease average handle time. Instead, contact centers should prioritize a great customer experience and deliver the timely support customers require.
A good average handle time will also depend on contributing factors like the industry in which a company operates. Furthermore, companies should assess average handle time based on metrics like customer satisfaction to gain a broader understanding of the success of their support service.
How to Calculate Average Handle Time
Contact center leaders can calculate their agents’ average handle time using the average handle time formula. Simply add together the amount of time callers spend on hold, the amount of time spent talking to an agent and the time agents spend following up on the issue, and divide that by the total number of calls they receive:
Talk + Hold + Follow-up time / Calls = Average handle time
The average handle time also varies depending on whether incoming queries are via phone, email or chat. For example, calculating chat is done by adding the time it takes to handle chat requests and the follow-up time divided by the total number of chats. While email- and web-based conversations are measured by adding the amount of time spent on cases divided by the number of cases.
These variants are vital for any contact center that offers multiple customer support channels. So, an organization that provides chat email, and phone support functions can easily calculate the average handle time across all channels. For example:
Email average handle time
Companies monitoring email responses only need to measure follow-up time. So, the average handle time is measured by adding the time taken to resolve cases from when they received the request and dividing it by the number of email requests received.
Chat support average handle time
Businesses measuring chat responses also only need to monitor follow-up time. The average handle time is calculated by dividing the total time it takes to deal with cases by the number of requests received.
Strategies for Improving AHT Without Compromising Quality
There are several ways contact center leaders can reduce their average handle time without compromising the quality of service they offer to customers. Below are a few strategies to keep customers happy and help businesses understand how to reduce average handling time.
Delight Customers by Improving Average Handle Time
Reducing average handle time is a critical factor in ensuring happy customers. It’s vital to prevent users from being held in lengthy call queues or frustrated by significant hold times, which may encourage them to abandon the call and take their business elsewhere. Contact center leaders need to consider strategies that help them boost agent performance and improve their average handling time.
However, reducing average handling time isn’t the be-all, end-all of improving customer experience. It’s crucial to ensure that call agents aren’t prioritizing completing call requests as quickly as possible at the expense of quality customer service. Instead of motivating agents by rewarding the fastest support, contact centers should focus on delivering the most effective customer support—and leveraging the vast array of optimization tools available—across every channel and customer touchpoint.
Find out more by reading our blog on five ways that AI can reduce average handle time in contact centers.