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Call center productivity, and success depends on excellent customer service. When customers call, it generally means an urgent situation requires a quick answer. This is why it is vital to have efficient call center practices that make each customer interaction both fast and productive. Agents must provide a positive experience for the customer from start to finish, with resolution as the end goal. One way to do this is by understanding one of the critical metrics in a call center quality assurance plan, the call center’s secret weapon to success: understanding and lowering your Average Handling Time (AHT).  

This handy metric has a dual purpose: to raise customer service standards and monitor agent performance. It is important to remember that the AHT is one of several critical KPIs for call center success. Other metrics include: 

  • Customer Satisfaction Scores
  • Net Promoter Scores
  • First call resolution rate
  • Annual turnover rate  
     
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Even though the AHT is not the only key to quality assurance, it is an important metric to explore. Let’s look at what Average Handling Time is, why it is essential, and how to calculate and use it in a call center quality assurance plan.  

Why is Average Handling Time Important? 

First of all, what is the average handling time? The AHT is the time an agent spends resolving a customer call. This metric measures time across various platforms, like text bot and email, including holds, delays, and transfers. Average Handling Time is necessary because:  

  • 66% of customers prefer to resolve issues over the phone. 
  • 32% of customers will leave a company after a single bad experience.  
  • 60% of unhappy customers will share their thoughts on social media platforms. 

These statistics show how vital it is to improve customer experience. Understanding and lowering AHT helps call centers refine processes and training procedures and improve satisfaction scores over time.  

AHT can and does vary by industry. AHT is important to track for measuring agent efficiency and understanding customer satisfaction in a contact centre. 

  • Average handling times per channel. When examining AHT, make sure to account for handling times on all communication channels, not just the phone. These channels include text bots, emails, and messenger apps.   
  • Average handling time in contact centers. Understanding AHT has a two-fold benefit for contact centers. It measures agent effectiveness and training level and provides an overview of the call center’s overall productivity.  

The AHT is not the ‘be all and end all’ of QA metrics. But it is essential because it is part of the overall picture of improving the customer journey 

How Do You Calculate Average Handling Time? 

The industry standard AHT time is 6 minutes and 10 seconds. This is an excellent baseline to shoot for when calculating your own AHT. Once you have some data available, it is easy to calculate your average handling time. Your AHT is your total talk time plus your total hold time and your total after-call tasks. When you’ve added these together, divide that total by the number of calls. 

(Talk + Hold + Delay + Follow-Up) / #Calls = Average Handle Time (calculated in minutes or seconds)  

Make sure to adjust this formula for each channel you are monitoring. For example, an email will not have a hold time, but a text chat may have holds and delays. Be cognizant of your channels to measure AHT correctly each time.  

How Can You Improve Average Handling Time? 

The AHT can be your secret weapon in quality assurance. But it needs to be understood and used appropriately. It is important to remember that lower AHT times alone do not mean an automatic improvement in customer service. Instead, AHT is best viewed as part of a whole suite of performance metrics that require equal focus and attention. 

But AHT is a great metric to start with as you explore quality assurance further. Here are a few ways you can improve your average handling time:   

  1. Identify the root cause of lengthy AHT numbers.
    This is only achievable through 100% call monitoring. Quality assurance tools like scorecards and reporting and analytical tools can quickly and efficiently track hold times, customer moods, and other impacts on AHT. Identifying the root cause can identify patterns, issues, and problem areas that might be causing longer AHT. 

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  1. Put agent coaching sessions front and center. Proper training is imperative for reducing AHT. Untrained agents risk fumbling through calls, increasing both hold times and customer dissatisfaction. Focusing on data-driven, long-term improvements and emphasising empathy will help agents get better and faster on calls.
  2. Review average handling time over time. Month-on-month reviews will give an idea of the efficiency of your contact center. Prioritize comparing your AHT numbers monthly to get an idea of trends.
  3. Get your knowledge base in order. Sometimes AHT is more than agent performance, but their resources are available to them. Agents need a knowledge base that they can refer to quickly and easily. Create a resource library with helpful articles, blogs, and tutorials that can help them grasp the importance of reducing AHT.
  4. Embrace automation. AI automation can assist with time-consuming tasks like chat-bot interactions or email processes. AI can also help monitor trends, issues, and complications with an agent or production process.  

Average handling time is a great metric to get your head around. While many might call it a lazy metric, AHT is anything but lazy. It can point to efficiencies (or inefficiencies) and works best as part of the big picture of data analysis. It helps call centers understand what they are doing right and where they need improvements in their processes.  

The Bottom Line: AHT Is a Crucial Part of a Quality Assurance Plan 

Reducing average handling time is essential to measure a call center’s efficiency. But it isn’t the only QA metric that matters. Instead, AHT is part of a larger plan to raise customer service standards. It is essential to understand how these tools work together to get call centers to their goals. Ready to learn how these quality assurance metrics work together in a QA plan? Request a demo today!  

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