Average Handle Time, also known as AHT, is the real cost in a contact or call center

One thing I come across every time I visit a customer’s contact center is the concern about AHT (Average Handle Time). The issues are taking too long to solve, taking up valuable time for the agent, and creating a poor customer experience.

In this article I am going to put AHT under the microscope and let you in on how you can get it under control.


By Torbjörn Hörberg, Contact Center Expert at TM Group


The definition of Average Handle Time (AHT)

Average Handle Time, or AHT as it is widely referred to in contact centers and by us, is one of the most important, if not the most important, KPI in a contact center.

It is measured by taking the total time spent on customer interactions in a contact center (live interaction time, hold time, and wrap-up time) for each channel separately (phone, e-mail, chat, etc.), converting it to seconds, and then dividing the seconds with the total number of customer interactions handled in the channel during the same period. This leaves you with a result in seconds, which then is your AHT for that specific channel.


AHT formular: 

Totel seconds (live interaction time + hold time + wrap up time) / Number of interactions handled during the same period


Do not compare the AHT from one channel to the other, and do not measure AHT in bulk. The way an agent handles the interaction on the phone is different from the way the same agent handles an interaction on e-mail, and to bulk these in one AHT KPI would show is an incorrect result.


Impact of AHT

AHT has one of the biggest impacts to the total cost of a contact center, epically for an outsourced contact center, and often we solve a complex issue by bringing in one more “head” to the process and more staff in general, to manage the load of interactions.

But what if we could reduce the effort required by the agent to solve this issue instead of adding more agents?

Does “we have done it like this for ages now”, sound familiar?

It should. Many contact centers and customer service departments have a certain way of doing things, and the agents are being trained in performing their job this way from the beginning of their employment, either due to internally developed processes or the demands and requirements from the customers. What we, as consultants can see while overseeing the processes from the outside and in, is that we can often help by semi-automating the process, letting the agents and the robot solve the issue together in symbiosis. We do not go into automating the processes from end to end. It often has many variables to consider, which make a full-blown robotic process atomization (RPA) impossible, or at least far too complex to get ROI from it.


The results from bringing down the AHT

Bringing down the AHT for each interaction using automation will enable the agent to take more calls within the hour and shift. By doing this, you will:

  • Free up time for the agents to take more interactions, and giving them more room and time to make the tougher decisions and put more effort into the more demanding interactions.
  • Improving the customer and agent experience.
  • Better SLA.
  • Saving money – mostly because you do not have to invest in an additional head to solve this issue (there might be other reasons, though).


“Well, it’s not that is easy to do, is it?”, most people then wonder.

“But it is”, I then tell them! But it is important not to focus on the big, complexed issues alone. We need to focus on the smaller ones – the lower hanging, with the biggest immediate impact, and those that are coming in big numbers and regularity.

We can create a “big robot” for you, that solves the most complexed process you have, but that is not the best way to do it, and here is why. Let us look at the numbers.

  • We have a process that takes a lot of steps to complete and the agent needs to fill in data in three different systems. We automate that and take away 2,000 calls each month, the calls take 15 minutes each to complete, which equals a saving of 500 hours.
  • But we also found that you have 2 types of calls coming in that takes the agent 7 minutes to complete, with only 2 applications to handle. The volume of these calls is 8,000 each month. If we semi-automated this call type and cut 6 minutes of that call, due to taking away the aftercall work completely we will save 800 hours each month.

The complexity of implement a semi-automated robot is also far less then creating a end-to-end automated robot and will save you money in consultancy hours.

I am not saying we should not do the fully automated robot, we should but as step 2.

So, do not forget that it is in the AHT we can add the most impactful value to your contact center, with lower cost for the same amount of staff members.


Want to know more? Book me (Torbjörn) for a short conversation here.

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