What is Conversational Intelligence?
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The Team at CallMiner
June 05, 2020
Average handle time, or AHT, is a vitally important call center KPI. In the simplest terms, AHT is the average time it takes to handle a call or transaction from start to finish – from call initiation, to hold time, to talk time, and all the way through to any related tasks an agent must perform post-phone call to resolve that call.
To calculate AHT, add your total talk time + total hold time + total after-call tasks, and then divide by the number of total calls. That is your average handle time.
Ultimately, AHT is not a success metric – rushing agents to close tickets, rather than resolve issues, would hasten your AHT but would not make for happy customers – but it is an important metric for calculating call center levels, assessing efficiency for the call center overall or for specific agents, and establishing performance benchmarks.
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Your average handle time is easy to calculate once you’ve gathered some data points. Add your total talk time, your total hold time, and your total after-call tasks. Then, divide by the total number of calls – that figure represents your average handle time.
Depending on the severity of call center problems, handling time may not easily show issues in your facility. However, there are a number of factors to look into to see signs of a need to improve your AHT.
Some of these signs include:
As explained above, there’s an important difference between improving average handle time vs. reducing average handle time: While a call center could cut corners – ex. hurry customers off the phone, whether their problems are resolved or not – to reduce AHT, this would lead to dissatisfied customers and other declining call center performance metrics, for example first call resolution (due to repeat callers attempting to resolve their issues). The real benchmark for improved AHT is reduced resolution times PLUS high levels of customer satisfaction.
With this in mind, we define improved AHT as decreasing your average handle time, while also increasing your overall customer satisfaction. Additionally, improved AHT may also extend to reducing your call center costs.
There are several things you can do to improve AHT:
Sometimes, improving AHT can be as simple as leveraging powerful software to ferret out inefficiencies. For example, one company leveraged CallMiner Eureka to identify the problem behind long silence blocks during billing calls: these happened as agents waited for the billing system to respond to their voice prompts.
After identifying the issue, the problem was handed off to the IT team, who promptly tweaked the system. Literally overnight, AHT fell by 11 seconds.
The most obvious benefit of improved AHT is customer satisfaction: successfully resolve an issue faster, and customers are happy. But, improved AHT also improves contact center efficiency and reduces costs. By improving AHT, you can:
The biggest challenge to improving your AHT is identifying deficiencies. Thanks to technology, however, this stumbling block has grown smaller; powerful conversation analytics software can make quick work of your customer interactions, for example – audio, email, chats, surveys, social media, and texts – to identify common inefficiencies and areas for improvement.
Leverage these insights to optimize contact center processes and policies, and you’ll be well on your way to improved average handle time.
Best practices for average handle time go back to the core definition of AHT: stellar AHT is a function of decreased handle time, increased customer satisfaction, and reduced costs.
This comprehensive approach to AHT defines best practices – the same as listed above for reducing your AHT:
Remember – customer satisfaction is your top priority. As you work toward boosting satisfaction while reducing average handle time, cost reductions will follow.
Learn how to leverage speech analytics for contact center efficiency and performance improvements