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The Importance of Average Handle Time

December 21, 2013 Amit Kachhawa

Numbers, numbers, numbers. If you have any experience working with, or at a Call Center you know that numbers have a huge role in the success of your Call Center. One of the most important metrics and numbers to measure, regardless of communication channel, is Average Handle Time (a.k.a AHT.) This metric measures the total length of time it takes the call center agent to handle the customer and their issue. Based on the specifics of the campaign and its requirements, some campaigns stress having a low AHT, while others do not put much emphasis on it because they want the agent to engage and carry on a conversation with the customer. In this blog, we are going to look at several questions a company should ask itself to help in deciding whether or not to lower their AHT.

What are the benefits of having a low Average Handle Time?

One of the most noticeable benefits a call center will recognize in having a low AHT is an increase in productivity amongst the agents. When the agents are encouraged to handle the issue with the customer as efficient as possible, they are able to handle more customers. More customers being handled, means less customers waiting in the queue and becoming irritated.

However, this is just one side of the coin. Low AHT can sometimes lead to agents rushing customers off the phone or chat because they are so focused on having a low AHT. When agents have that mindset they can end up leaving customers with unanswered questions. It is vital for companies to find that happy medium between rushing the customers of the phone and having a full on lengthy conversation with the customer. We will discuss this a little more in depth later on in the blog.

Do your customers want you to have a low AHT?

Every customer wants to be treated special, where their questions are listened too and are resolved immediately. This question is a little tricky because this is really dependant on the type of campaign that is being offered. Majority of the campaigns and people calling in alike, want to spend as little time on the phone as possible as long as the issue is addressed and solved! If the call center is able to properly assess the customer issue and come to a conclusion on the first call, then the customers will be happy with their experience and will be happy that they did not have to spend a chunk of their day on the phone with an agent. In this case, the customers want the call center to have a low AHT.

One thing, which we have seen time and time again, is call center agents trying to keep their AHT down so they actually end up rushing the customer off the conversation. While this may look good in regards to AHT, we can almost guaranty that the Customer Satisfaction metric will suffer tremendously. More than likely that customer who was just rushed off the call will have to call back in again and again until all their issues are properly addressed and we all know how frustrating that can be. 

Are your agents ready to reduce AHT?

This last and final question puts the focus on the people who will handle the customers directly, the call center agents. While every agent different and unique in their own way, the call center doing the hiring needs to pay close attention to the agent’s conversational skills and properly place them in the correct campaign. This will help in the overall success of the campaign down the road as nothing is more important than the people working for you. While some agents may have the tendency to chit chat and some may be very skilled at resolving issues right away, it goes back to the call center’s ability to strategically place the right type of agent where they belong.

How do we manage to achieve low AHT yet maintain good C-Sat?

In this competitive environment a lower AHT with good C-Sat (Customer Satisfaction) is something which every client would like to look at as this shows the efficiency and the quality of people the company has. A low AHT can be achieved through an optimization process of voice or chat through various steps.

  • Through a quality study it is necessary to identify the kind of customers coming in and the questions they have and the answers provided by the agents. There can be tweaks to the answers to get it accomplished is the shortest time.
  • Pre call or chat survey also helps in identifying the customers concern and moving them to the right representative.
  • Modifications on the website to make it more user friendly so that the basic knowledge of the product is imparted to the customer before getting on the phone or chat with the representative.
  • A constant check on the customer behavior and creating a business intelligence data to make the necessary tweaks is a must to efficiently control AHT while maintaining a high customer satisfaction rate.

All this can be accomplished through constant calibration sessions with the Client and working as partners to grow the business to create a win win situation for all.

Amit Kachhawa

Amit Kachhawa is the Assistant Vice President for Corporate Strategy. His overall experience of over 14 years has been garnered at various levels at Etech starting his journey as an OCR and thereafter, crossing many milestones and today Amit is an esteemed member of Etech Global Management Team. Amit is responsible for formulating and implementing strategic plans with focus on Digital Marketing including social media, Product Development, Business Development, Reporting and Workforce Management Analytics.