Average Handle Time (AHT) indicates the average time it takes for a business to handle a customer interaction. It is one of the most important customer service metric as it clearly shows the efficiency of a customer service team. If businesses take too long to handle customers, they will suffer from customer attrition and decreased profits. Similarly, if businesses have a low AHT, they will be able to improve their customer service operations and boost their revenues. Initially, AHT was a metric that was widely used for measuring handle times of call centers. However, the versatile metric is currently being used by many reputed brands to measure customer handling times across all customer service platforms including mail and chat.

How to calculate

AHT is generally measured using a simple formula Average Handle Time = Total Handle Time (call/chat/mail reply time + hold/delay time + Follow-up Time) / Total No. of Interactions (calls/chats/mails) When calculating AHT, businesses should note that the Average Handle Time for each customer service channel is different. For example, a call might last nearly 2 minutes while a chat might take much lesser time. Therefore, businesses should focus on creating individual AHTs for each channel rather than a blended one. This average handle time should then be compared with the industry benchmark to understand where the company’s customer support team stands.

Steps to be taken

One of the reasons AHT is heralded as a key customer support metric because of its immediate impact on the customer support team. If businesses identify their AHT is high, they can take the following steps to reduce their AHT

• Conduct training programs to improve the speed and quality of call/chat service rendered by each agent.

• Create a centralized knowledge bank that agents can refer for quickly resolving issues.

• Create self-service resources like FAQs, guides, tutorial videos, etc., to help customers resolve issues themselves. This will reduce call/chat volumes and improve AHT.

• Create an agent monitoring program that can help identify customer service experts in the team.

• Streamline call/chat routing process to ensure that complicated calls and chats are sent to experts and not newcomers.

What are the benefits?

With these steps, businesses will be able to lower their AHT significantly, which could result in various significant benefits. Some of them include

• Since customers expect fast responses, a lower AHT will increase customer satisfaction. However, it is also important to ensure that the team does not sacrifice quality while lowering AHT.

• A lower AHT means a single customer can handle more customers. Since the agents are more productive, the team can perform efficiently with minimal workforce. This will drastically reduce operational costs.

• AHT supports omnichannel customer service. Since AHT is a metric that can be adopted for all customer service channels, it can greatly improve consistency across all the channels.

• Along with customer attrition, employee attrition is another major hurdle for customer service teams. By improving the overall customer service operation with the help of self-serve tools, businesses can lessen the burden of customer service agents and allow them to work smarter. This increases employee satisfaction, thereby cutting down employee attrition.

• Most measures taken to lower AHT times, like self-serve options and knowledge bank creation, will help increase customer retention. Since agents can resolve customer queries/issues as soon as possible, existing customers will be delighted. Thus, a lower AHT also improves customer loyalty and retention.

Mistakes to avoid

Like many customer service initiatives, lowering AHT values will also have its fair share of challenges. Businesses should avoid making the below mistakes while trying to lower their AHT

• Some businesses fail to realize that each customer service channel has a different AHT. If the business sets unachievable AHT targets, it will result in employee dissonance and customer dissatisfaction.

• To lower AHTs, some agents will rush the customers. This is a costly mistake as it will result in customer attrition and decreased revenues.

• Most businesses fail to understand that AHT is a process that requires periodic monitoring and review, and tend to lose focus after the initial period.

• Some businesses tend to overtly focus on making employee-related changes and fail to adopt new technologies or systems to decrease AHT and improve their overall customer service quality.

• Some businesses fail to realize the importance of self-help options and tend to ignore them over time. By constantly identifying common queries and updating the self-help options (FAQs, tutorials) with the latest questions, businesses will be able to greatly reduce their call volumes.

As you can see, Average Handle Time is a key performance metric that will greatly impact businesses from all sectors. By lowering the AHT, businesses will be able to improve the efficiency of their customer service team and greatly improve their profit margins. Therefore, businesses should adopt AHT into their customer service metrics and look to improve their customer service.