Average handle time is one of the vital customer service metrics, tracking the average time it takes to handle a customer chat or call, including hold time and time spent following the call to perform administrative tasks.
How to Calculate Average Handle Time
Calculating AHT is simple once you have the required data. First, add the total conversation time to hold time and after-conversation tasks. Then divide that number by the total number of conversations. That number is your average handle time.
AHT by itself cannot be used as a standalone metric. It's much more important to resolve an issue than rush to close the ticket. Nonetheless, average handle time is still a key metric to assess customer service efficiency.
Why is AHT Important?
AHT is a valuable metric used to assess and analyze customer agents' efficiency. It helps get a clearer image of the service organization as a whole. Once you have the data, it's much easier to establish benchmarks or customer service goals.
While AHT has classically been used for phone support, companies with an omnichannel approach can still use AHT to assess and compare customer service support on various channels.
One example is how TaskUs (a BPO company) was able to reduce their average handle time by 10% and their first response time by 35% through using Sapling’s AI messaging tools.
Benefits of tracking AHT:
Customer service agents should never rush to close tickets. Instead, they should keep their open conversations in mind and help resolve customer issues in a timely but effective manner.
What is the AHT Industry Standard?
This is going to be dependent on your industry and sector, as well as if you're considering calls, chats, or other channels.
That being said, it turns out the industry standard is around 6 minutes.
An older study by Cornell provided an even lower industry average call handling time of 3 minutes 10 seconds -- this held true for different countries as well.
We recommend starting by determining a baseline AHT for your team, segmented by activity and channel, then work to improve from there.
How to Reduce Average Hold Time
There are a couple of steps to reduce AHT:
Improving average handle time should not only yield higher efficiency and lower costs, but also improved customer satisfaction.