From the Blog

What is average handle time (AHT)?

In this quick read, we look at average handle time (AHT) and how using YakTrak’s employee development software can help reduce AHT and improve customer satisfaction.

So, what is average handle time?

Average handle time is a critical metric used in contact centres (call centres). It represents the time it takes for a customer service representative to handle a customer query and to see it through to its resolution. It includes the post-call time taken on actions to follow up a customer query. Average handle time can also be used for chat queries and emails.

Along with customer satisfaction and net promoter score (NPS) it’s used by call centres to measure how agents are performing. Analysing average duration and handle time can also provide insights into customer interactions and customer experience.

It is an important metric when looking at operational costs, but a focus solely on reducing AHT can compromise the quality of customer service provided. This is where coaching can help – giving contact centre agents the tools to improve their service without compromising service standards.

How do you calculate average handle time?

Average handle time is calculated by dividing the total duration of time spent responding to customer queries (including talk time and follow-up actions) by the total number of calls handled (or emails and chats if that is what you are measuring).

Let’s calculate the average handle time in a contact centre where a team answers 500 calls a week. The contact centre works out the total duration of each call (talk time and hold time) and the associated post-call follow-up time (performing actions required to resolve queries). This works out to 2,750 minutes. The next step is to divide the total minutes spent handling calls by the number of calls:

  • 2,750 (minutes) / 500 (calls) = 5.5 minutes (or 5 minutes 30 seconds) average handle time (AHT)

You can use this metric to work out the AHT for individual agents too. For example, agent A answers 300 calls and spends a total of 720 minutes (43,200 seconds) on calls (talk time) and follow-up actions (after-call work time):

  • 720 / 300 = 2.4 minutes AHT or
  • 43,200 / 300 = 144 seconds AHT

Average handle time can be good for monitoring agent performance while providing insights and key metrics into customer experiences.

What is a good average handle time?

This depends on different factors, but according to the Australian Customer Experience Professionals Association (ACXPA) the industry average across Australia is 507 seconds1. The association has noticed that the average length of call times is increasing as customers self-resolve many issues, only calling when they need help with a complex issue.

A good average time for your business may be more – or less – than the industry standard. Consider service quality in partnership with AHT!

Balancing average talk time with customer satisfaction

While a low average handle time helps to improve operational efficiency, it shouldn’t be the sole focus. Resolving customer issues may take time and having positive customer sentiment is critical. After all, customers call a support team when they need help!

Of course, you may need to lower AHT if there are issues with agents overwhelming customers – there is such a thing as providing too much information. If this is the case, you need to address capability issues before focusing on a lower AHT. When agents feel pressured to hurry customers off a call without addressing their queries, you’re going to end up with unhappy customers (and unhappy staff).

Ensure that your agents have the appropriate support they need to build their capability. Tip: a regular coaching habit can make all the difference!

Consider how you can use customer satisfaction scores and other metrics to ensure that you’re balancing speed with service.

Call centre agents on customer calls with headsets and discussing follow up actions

How to reduce average handle time and keep customers happy with coaching

Clearly understanding the behaviours that drive high or low average handle time is key.

Take some time to observe team members who do it well, and take notes of the top five things they do that may have a positive impact on AHT. Compare these behaviours to your other team members who may need some help. Then coach.

Employee coaching can play a huge role in improving customer service and reducing average handle time. By providing tailored coaching to contact centre agents, team leaders can help agents use techniques like active listening and problem-solving to build rapport with customers and address their issues more quickly.

Coaching can empower agents to improve their service without feeling rushed – ensuring a customer’s issue is fully resolved before ending a call. This approach can be critical to complying with standards and meeting customer expectations.

On-the-job coaching using software that makes daily coaching a habit, like YakTrak, can help you get the most out of agent training and ensure that you are building a team that is able to deliver excellence to customers within optimal time frames.

How YakTrak can help

If you’re seeking to improve AHT and customer experience, YakTrak can support your business by:

  • creating a cadence that embeds coaching into daily operations ensuring continuous improvement and prioritising excellent customer service
  • providing insights and visibility into the coaching conversations your team leaders and agents are having
  • helping to identify trends and issues before they become problems.

Contact us today.

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1.    Australian Customer Experience Professionals Association (ACXPA; 2023) Popular Call Centre Metrics and KPIs.


Photo of call centre agent (top) by Karolina Grabowska. Photo of group of call centre agents by Mikhail Nilov. Both photos via Pexels.