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Average Handle Time (AHT)

Average Handle Time (AHT) Formula

\noindent To compute AHT, take the sum of the handle times for each interaction, then divide by the total number of interactions. $$\large{\frac{\text{sum}(\text{transaction times})}{\text{number of transactions}}}$$

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.

TaskUs reduced their average handle time (AHT)

Benefits of tracking AHT:

  • Lower hold times
  • Optimized chat/talk times
  • Increased number of conversations handled
  • Improved customer satisfaction

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:

  • Adequate training of customer service agents
  • Using knowledge bases and relevant help articles
  • Monitoring agent performance, for example by recording calls and chats to use in training
  • Ticket routing and effective internal communication to make sure tickets are handled by the most capable agent
  • Ongoing coaching based off of handle time analytics, and
  • Streamlining processes and workflow, perhaps through use of additional software tools

Improving average handle time should not only yield higher efficiency and lower costs, but also improved customer satisfaction.