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What Is Average Handle Time (AHT) & How To Reduce It?

15 mins read

Average handle time is a crucial customer service metric that analyzes agent effectiveness and customer support quality at contact centers. Time is a determining factor for customer satisfaction and contact center operational excellence, steering organizations to take proactive measures to assess and reduce average handle times.

What is the Average Handle Time? 

Average handle time or AHT is the average amount of time needed to resolve a support ticket or service request, including time spent on holds, delays, call transfers, or follow-up actions to fulfill the customer’s needs.

AHT is the total of talk time, hold time, and after-call tasks divided by the total number of calls. 

measure AHT

Why is AHT important? 

  • Average handle time is an essential customer service metric because it relates to the customer’s most valued commodity, that is time. Forrester states that 66% of adults believe that the most important thing a company can do is value its time.
  • Reduced AHT at contact centers is a mark of agent productivity. This improves customer satisfaction and allows agents to take on more cases in their daily workflow.

What is a good average handle time? 

  • According to Call Centre Magazine, the industry-standard AHT is 6 minutes and 10 seconds.
  •  However, every business is different. Even two organizations with similar products and services take a unique approach to customer service, and therefore, the average handle time is bound to be different for every company.
  • Essentially a good average handle time is the manageable AHT that does not disrupt the customer experience(CX) and business profits

What causes a high Average Handle Time? 

1. Long search times

When customer support representatives do not have the requisite procedural information at their disposal and sift through multiple platforms to source solutions, it increases the search times. Consequently, it results in a high average handle time.

2. Irrelevant probing

Irrelevant probing results from support agents asking unneeded questions and information to the customers, which can be otherwise easily traced from historical customer data. This slows the resolution process, impacts customer experience, and increases the average handle time.

3. Lengthy explanations

Average handle time shoots up when agents struggle to communicate the instructions to customers, especially while troubleshooting technical problems. Lengthy explanations during calls increase AHT and require customers to put in extra effort to comprehend agent instructions, lowering customer satisfaction with the brand.

4. Inefficient ways to assess AHT

Assessing average handle time by merely taking into account the time metrics isn’t enough. The quality of customer support disseminated by the agent and the information used to help customers should be equally considered to approach AHT correctly.

5. Untrained agents

Untrained agents are most likely to be unsure of their knowledge and take longer to answer customer queries, increasing the average handle time and negatively impacting the service quality.

Knowmax helped a leading enterprise reduce its AHT by 15% – You can be next

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How to reduce the average handle time? 

Reducing AHT without compromising customer service quality is a big struggle for support managers. However, identifying the causes that delay the response times and diagnosing them with a robust customer experience strategy can ensure organizations take the right approach toward AHT. 

Here is how Knowmax, a Knowledge Management solution for modern contact centers, can help organizations orient their CX strategy towards a reduced AHT while at the same ensuring a top-notch customer service experience.

1. Build a comprehensive Knowledge base

  • Bringing down the search times by creating comprehensive Knowledge base articles and FAQs which are easily searchable can empower agents with the right procedural knowledge at their fingertips.
  • A comprehensive Knowledge base reduces AHT by eliminating the need for agents to travel multiple platforms to consolidate information for customers. With the Knowmax Knowledge Management solution, users can create knowledge base articles and link them with different support modules for convenient agent access to all the possible information needed during customer calls.
  • While helping agents troubleshoot issues faster, the Knowledge base can also be employed to power self-service portals to enable ticket deflection for simpler concerns. As the number of support tickets reduces, agents can better manage the average handle time for each call while ensuring superior customer support.

2. Equip agents with intuitive workflows to speed up the resolution process

  • Well-structured call center talk scripts can go a long way in delivering excellent customer support while reducing the average handle times. When agents themselves are confident of the next best question to ask the customer, they invariably reduce the time to resolve the problem and ensure customers find satisfactory answers.
  • Intuitive workflows that are well connected with the Application Programming Interface(APIs) eliminate the need for agents to probe through every customer question manually. Historical customer information can be easily auto traversed to fast-track the troubleshooting process while adhering to standard operating procedures (SOPs).
  • Intuitive workflows that help agents with the contextual knowledge to act upon customer requests reduce the chances of agent error while at the same time speeding up the resolution process, resulting in reduced AHT that is contributive to customer satisfaction.

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3. Employ picture guides for efficient customer service

  • Complex customer problems take up longer average handle times. However, simulative visual guides can supercharge agents’ communication with the customer, transforming how agents instruct their customers.
  • Visual how-to guides cut down the lengthy explanations during calls that cause high AHT. With pictorial support, agents can efficiently help customers navigate through the resolution steps without spending a long time explaining the directions in detail.
  • Reduced confusion and better clarity about the solutions result in reduced AHT while improving customer engagement with immersive visual support.

4. Monitor agent performance to optimize business processes

  • Assessing AHT by tracking the resourcefulness of information used by agents during calls leads to reduced average handle time for the long term.
  • Agent performance reports in the form of interactive dashboards, and visual charts can be efficiently processed to discern the causes of longer handle times. With the Knowmax admin dashboard, supervisors can identify the top-performing content and track time spent on various knowledge base articles and how-to guides.
  • This helps management monitor agent performance with the available information resources to optimize the business processes and produce relevant and updated content that empowers agents to deliver speedy and supportive customer experiences. 

5. Improve agent training

  • Creating constantly viable opportunities for agents to take up new courses and acquire skill-based training can augment their efficiency in delivering great customer service with reduced AHT. 
  • With Knowmax Learning Management System, support managers can create a unified repository of learning materials for agents to refer to and refresh their knowledge timely. 
  • Gamifying the learning experience for agents with quiz management and tracking agents’ training journeys can lead to improved agent engagement, ultimately facilitating reduced AHT customer-friendly calls. 

Conclusion

While it’s great to reduce AHT (average handling time), it is equally vital to ensure that customer service quality is not compromised. Some agents may be over-enthusiastic to close tickets and rush through troubleshooting steps or cut corners to save time. This often leads to agent error and ultimately costs them more time and effort as a result.

Rather than motivating agents to provide the fastest support possible, it is wiser to focus on delivering the most-effective support instead, and the team’s AHT will take care of itself.     

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