What is Average Handling Time and How Can You Improve It?

In the contact center, efficiency is everything. When your customers are forced to wait in queues, growing increasingly frustrated, you can’t afford to waste even a single second. Your customers expect to be answered as quickly as possible, and you should be able to accommodate that. In pursuit of this goal, Average Handling Time is an indispensable metric.

In this blog, we discuss:

  • What Average Handling Time is and how it is calculated.

  • Strategies for improving Average Handling Time, and creating efficient customer experiences.

  • Metrics relating to Average Handling Time, and the value they offer your contact center.

  • The contact center reporting technologies that make calculating Average Handling Time easy.

Outstanding Customer Experience (CX) begins with effective reporting. Understanding your contact center KPIs and performance metrics is the first step toward elevating your customer contact. Ready to learn more? Download Content Guru’s whitepaper: Keeping Up With the KPIs: The Contact Center KPIs Key to Outstanding CX.

What is Average Handling Time?

In short, Average Handling Time measures the average length of time taken to complete a customer interaction. This includes time spent talking to customers, time spent putting customers on hold, time spent conferencing with other agents, time spent on post-call wrap-up, and the total number of calls handled.

Typically, a lower Average Handling Time means a more efficient contact center. It means that interactions are being handled faster, which means more customers are being served in the same period, which means shorter queues and fewer frustrated customers.

This isn’t the only reason that Average Handling Time is significant. Average Handling Time is commonly factored into contact center staffing decisions; being used to determine both how many agents will be needed to meet demand, and what their schedules will look like.

So how do you calculate Average Handling Time?

  • AHT = (Total Talk Time + Hold Time + After-Call Work Time) / Total Number of Calls

It’s important to count all calls, even dropped or failed calls, to get an accurate picture of overall demand.

Once you’ve calculated your Average Handling Time, you can start thinking about improving it. What does this look like in practice?

Reducing Average Handling Time

A high Average Handling Time is usually a bad sign; you don’t want to keep your customers waiting. A lower Average Handling Time means more time to spend on helping as many customers as possible. To improve contact center performance, you need strategies for reducing average handling time:

  • Equip agents with customer data – Asking customers to repeat personal information at the beginning of every interaction wastes valuable time. By providing agents with complete customer data and interaction history in a screen-pop alongside the interaction saves them from wasting time on asking the customer basic questions.

  • Provide a single, unified interface – Switching between different apps wastes agent time. Bringing all communications, both internal and external, into a single pane of glass, lets agents focus on delivering efficient solutions first and foremost.

  • Speed up post-call work – Average Handling Time also factors in post-call work; that is, the filling out of forms and the updating of customer data. In the modern contact center, AI-powered technologies can speed up these processes. A Generative AI model can listen in on a call, summarize its content, and pick out the relevant details. These can be automatically uploaded to the relevant forms, with the agent only needing to check it over for mistakes. The agent is free to move on to the next interaction, their administrative responsibilities handled.

A low Average Handling Time means a more efficient contact center. The picture isn’t entirely black and white, however, and a low Average Handling Time is not always for the best. To perfect your contact center operations, you need a broad picture of your performance.

Key Customer Experience Metrics

An efficient contact center is a successful one, but too much ‘efficiency’ can erode your Customer Experience. Prioritizing speed over quality puts pressure on agents to wrap things up quickly, whether or not the customer has had their query answered sufficiently. An Average Handling Time that’s too low is indicative of rushed interactions.

You need to be factoring in more than just Average Handling Time:

  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) – The most common Customer Experience metric. This asks customers, ‘How satisfied are you with your experience’, who answer on a scale from ‘very satisfied’ to ‘very dissatisfied’. Overall, a score beyond 50 indicates that most customers are satisfied with their experience. A score above 70 is a major achievement.

  • Value Enhancement Score (VES) – A relatively new metric, VES asks two questions, ‘How successfully were you able to use our product/service?’, and, ‘How confident are you with your purchase?’ In answering these questions, the customer gives their opinion on both your business and the impression conveyed by your customer service.

  • Customer Effort Score (CES) – CES measures how much effort customers expend to find solutions to their problems. This gives you a unique glimpse into your customer service estate. A high effort score means that the customer struggled; they found your customer service confusing, irritating, or difficult to navigate.

Each of these metrics provides insight into different aspects of your Customer Experience. Ideally, your customer service should be both efficient and high quality. Reaching this standard, however, is not easy.

CX KPIs Made Easy with storm®

Average Handling Time is just one KPI of many, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t crucial. Average Handling Time often informs staffing and scheduling decisions, so getting an accurate, real-time picture is essential.

Content Guru’s CX reporting solution, storm® VIEW™, provides comprehensive, real-time, and historical Customer Experience reporting. Average Handling Time, Customer Effort Score, and endless customer metrics can be brought into a single pane of glass for easy access, or converted into secure, shareable reports. 

Want to learn more about key Customer Experience metrics and contact center KPIs? Download Content Guru’s whitepaper: Keeping Up With the KPIs: The Contact Center KPIs Key to Outstanding CX.