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In the first step, call center leaders who want to elevate their unit's performance often go for call handling time. Average handling time is an essential KPI to evaluate how well call centers are doing when providing solutions most quickly and effectively. This article looks at the AHT in detail, describes how to calculate it, and shares some practical methods to reduce it properly.

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What Is the AHT or Average Handle Time?

The AHT or Average Handle Time is every call center agent's total time in conversation with customers.

This total time includes the conversation, holding time, and spending time completing forms or other tasks related to the conversation.

The taken average can be calculated weekly, monthly, quarterly, or in any other suitable time frame for the business.

The AHT is historically a key metric for measuring call center performance when the primary contact form was the phone.

According to the notion, a call costs the business more money the longer an employee must stay on the phone to address a customer's issue and the less time that employee has to assist other callers.

However, if a more extended call solves a problem, the consumer is satisfied and won't call back.

Contact volumes, complexity levels, and channel selection are considerably more critical today.

Agents should manage social media, emails, SMSs, live chats, and other communications in addition to standard phone calls.

Thus the average handling time is a better gauge for budgeting personnel levels and ensuring that knowledge bases and scripts are practical.

The risk that a call may take longer to resolve rises as more businesses employ self-service tools to divert low-value interactions, such as FAQs, community forums, and chatbots.

The AHT can emphasize how well an agent and a customer communicate, but it cannot assess an agent's soft skills.

Soft skills and emotional intelligence are essential to successfully resolve a conflict in a critical situation in contact centers.

Why Is Average Handling Time Important?

Average handling time is crucial since it is an excellent metric for determining how well customer service meets their needs.

Nearly 70 percent of customers claim that despite expanding communication options, they still prefer to contact customer support by phone.

The research shows that after 40 seconds of calling customer service, nearly 15 percent of callers hang up.

According to a different survey, 26 percent of callers hang up after 2 to 4 minutes on hold, while 34 percent wait 6 minutes before hanging up.

According to these figures, 75 percent of callers on hold for 6 minutes or more hang up, and many do not bother to call again.

How to Calculate Call Handling Time?

Once you have gathered some data points, calculating the AHT or average handling time is simple.

Add total talk time, total hold time, and total after-call tasks. Then, divide by the total number of calls. That figure represents the average handling time rate.

For instance, 80 calls that average out to 1900 minutes, plus a total hold time of 300 minutes, plus a follow-up time of 200 minutes, divided by the number of calls.

The resulting 30 minutes is the AHT or average handling time, which may be less or more than the industry standard.

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What Is a Good AHT Rate?

According to statistics, the typical handle time ranges from 6.46 to 6.73 minutes, or an average of 6.6 minutes, depending on the industry.

The average call handling time of 6.6 minutes does not always represent a "good" average for all call centers.

Understandably, what constitutes a "good" average call processing time varies depending on the industry and the company's size.

The hold duration, average talk times, and the proportion of voicemail-bound calls are AHT characteristics that are highly impacted by these parameters.

It would be best to compare the current average handling time score to other KPIs like CSAT and NPS to be confident that it is where you want it to be.

Customer satisfaction surveys and call center analytics are valuable tools for gathering the required data.

How to Reduce Average Handling Time?

The most crucial factor to consider while figuring out how to speed up call center processing times is to ensure that you do not sacrifice the quality of customer service for speed.

The following practical tips help call center managers to improve the AHT without short-changing customers or call center agents.

  1. Use Important Metrics to Identify Causes of the AHT

Many factors of customer service affect the AHT number, so you must look at important metrics, including:

  • Average hold time
  • Percentage of missed calls
  • Average call duration
  • First call resolution rate
  • Daily, weekly, and monthly call volume

These metrics help you to identify the root causes of longer average handling time than expected based on industry standards.

1. Implement IVR Systems


Interactive Voice Response (IVR) solutions provide automated, pre-recorded call menu options that can do the following tasks:

· Answering common questions,

· Allowing customers to check information,

· Providing a higher level of self-service in a call center.

By removing the need for voicemail, callbacks, and other elements that increase the AHT in customer service, IVR solutions ensure that call center operators are free to assist clients who require more individualized, thorough support.

Your customers will be connected immediately to the agent with the specialized expertise and training to best assist them if you provide call routing options like round robin, most idle, time-based, and, most crucially, skills-based routing. 

2. Train Agents and Update Knowledge Base


Information on how call center agents should respond to each customer concern is available in a searchable knowledge base.

For example, if a customer calls because they cannot sign up for the new website, the related agent can search the knowledge base for "sign up" while on the phone.

This knowledge base wiki has systematic instructions or calls scripts that clearly outline the needed steps that call center agents should guide the customer through.

In times of high call demand, even agents with less related expertise can step in and help other departments, thanks to a robust wiki.

However, sometimes agent training is the main problem, especially if you have noticed a significant and sudden increase in the AHT in your call center.

It is suggested to get frequent feedback from agents about what is working, what is not, and recent trends and issues they have noticed.

3. Create an Escalation Matrix

Though ideally, call center representatives can resolve the majority of client issues on their own, there are occasionally calls that require being forwarded to a manager or an agent of a higher level.

When transferring a customer to a more knowledgeable and experienced agent, an escalation matrix ensures that the agents know exactly where and when to do it.

The escalation matrix need not be started only when manager-to-person communication is required.

Additionally, it can aid consumer hold times and help employees better manage heavy call volumes.

4. Consider Filling Communication Gaps


Strong internal communication is crucial to effective customer-agent communication in contact centers.

Communication problems can quickly lengthen the AHT and make customers angry because they must repeat their problem to several agents.

Agents receive real-time updates on the status of support tickets and the history of customer conversations thanks to team communication technologies, particularly instant messaging and task management programs.

These capabilities also enable agents who are unsure how to help a caller to swiftly relay a message to a more competent agent to acquire the assistance they require without cutting off the client's call.

5. Control Agents' Performance and Support them


Keep in mind that you must put up effort to maintain your optimal AHT time once you have attained it.

Inquire about the opinions and suggestions of your staff regarding your present customer care tactics.

It is advisable to reevaluate your customer service strategy at least once a year because what worked in the past might not work in the future.

Every time new regulations are posted, update your internal wikis and remove any out-of-date content as soon as possible.

Utilize resources like call recording data to track staff performance and spot gaps or problems before they substantially influence your AHT.

Utilize tools like call barge, call whisper/call coaching, and live call monitoring to be proactive in ensuring that your clients and agents get the assistance they require.

6. Automate Call Center to Shorten the AHT


Through robotic data entry, pre-populating forms, and automatically retrieving customer information before a contact, call center automation enables operators to reduce pre- and post-call work time.

Workflow automation frees up agents' time to perform time-consuming activities, adhere to if-then logic, and even guide agents automatically while taking live phone calls.

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What are the Advantages of Shorten Call Handling Time?

There are many advantages to shortening average handling time, including higher customer retention rates.

Almost 80 percent of customers claim that if a business makes a mistake, they will buy from them again if they offer excellent customer service.

Additionally, it increases total earnings and up- and cross-selling. In addition, brands and businesses that enhance customer service enjoy a 4 to 8 percent profit gain.

A better business reputation and having more customers are two additional benefits of lowering the AHT in call centers.

Positive customer service increases the likelihood that customers recommend a business to others by 38 percent.

Lower attrition rates and more excellent overall productivity result from increased team morale. Studies show that dealing with angry clients causes one in five call center employees to quit.

Final Thoughts

Finally, standard call center software solutions can improve average handling time by offering practical features. These features allow managers to shorten customer service call times and get accurate, real-time insight into where call center agents are succeeding and failing in the overall customer experience. If you need more information about the best call center software solutions, check our website.

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