Call Center AHT: How Can You Measure and Reduce It?

Call Center AHT: How Can You Measure and Reduce It?

Did you know that 59% of customers prefer to use the telephone to contact companies (Salesforce 2022 study)? The call center is still at the heart of companies' strategies.

You should know that call centers require HR, technology, and optimal incoming call management. If the call center is mismanaged, it could cost you financially and in terms of customer satisfaction rather than improve your customer experience.

So, how can you determine your call center's efficiency? There are plenty of specific KPIs for call centers, but one of the most important ones is average handle time or AHT.

The goal of a call center is to offer quality customer service since there's a lot at stake for companies. They have to ensure operational efficiency, affordability, and customer satisfaction.

AHT plays a crucial role in this, as it is a key indicator of how efficiently a call center is handling customer queries and requests.

Optimizing the AHT for a call center enhances customer service and contributes to the company's financial growth. In this article, we'll explore strategies to optimize AHT without compromising the customer experience, boosting your company's profitability.

What is the AHT in a Call Center?

The acronym "AHT" stands for "average handle time" and is one of the main KPIs for a call center.

The AHT is more than simply measuring the time taken for an incoming call. It includes all the time needed to handle the call and anything after it. If there's one indicator to consider for your call center, it's AHT.

Analyzing AHT provides a macroscopic view of your call center's efficiency in terms of profitability, operations, or customer experience.

How Do You Calculate Average Call Time (AHT)?

Let’s see how you can calculate the AHT for a call center.

The AHT is the sum of three other indicators and represents the whole process for a call in a call center (before, during, and after the call):

  • Hold Time: The time the caller spends before their query is handled.

  • Average Talking Time (ATT): This is the time spent talking to an agent on the phone.

  • After-Call Work (ACW): This is the time agents take care of post-call tasks.

Why Is Monitoring AHT Important?

Monitoring AHT comes with several benefits:

  • Evaluate your workforce more effectively to respond to the incoming call demand and improve your employees' well-being.

  • Optimize your callers' customer experience and customer satisfaction.

  • Monetize your call center.

This is a comprehensive KPI as it considers several factors. It allows you to continually monitor the operational efficiency of your call center and evaluate your staff more fairly in terms of incoming call volume.

Each of the three indicators that make up AHT gives you valuable information to help you better manage your call center:

  • Significant Hold Time could result in lower customer satisfaction. By minimizing wait and hold times, call centers can improve the overall experience for callers and offer more reactive customer service.

  • Average Talk Time (ATT) measures how efficiently queries are resolved. A short ATT might indicate that agents effectively handle requests, are productive, and offer optimal customer satisfaction.

  • Efficient After-Call Work (ACW) is essential for properly handling customer queries. This can include updating files, documenting exchanges, or even prepping work for the next interaction. Effective ACW contributes to quality customer service in the long term.

How Can You Effectively Optimize AHT?

Now that we've seen what makes up AHT, let's get to the key question: How can you reduce AHT without compromising the quality of your service? It's important to understand that reducing AHT can be a complex process, as it involves balancing efficiency with customer satisfaction. You need to understand how fluctuations in AHT occur in order to optimize it properly.

1. Properly Understanding AHT Fluctuations

It's important to note that your strategic choices following the analysis of your AHT could alter one factor while causing another to change. For example:

  • You could be tempted to ask your agents to cut to the chase when speaking to users to optimize ATT (shortening processes, treating requests quickly, etc.). However, this might not result in things being done quickly if this involves more ACW. Automate your ACW with AI tools and RPA (Robot Process Automation) technology to reduce this long-term.

  • You could have the best agents effectively handling calls while automating after-call work. However, if the customer wait or hold time is long, your AHT will still be long. Factor in increases in staff workloads.

  • Similarly, if you concentrate on reducing hold time by integrating a vocal AI tool, your AHT could remain high if your agents spend a lot of time talking to customers. You should consider optimizing the query-handling process.

To improve AHT long-term, you need to optimize each of the three performance indicators mentioned above.

Above all, if you prioritize reducing the whole call process, you'll guarantee excellent customer experience, efficient HR, and an exceptional ROI.

AHT variations could result from complex requests, agent skill, and peak call times. Analyzing these variations will help you identify opportunities for improvement.

2. Things to Do to Monitor and Reduce Your AHT Permanently

As this article has already shown, reducing AHT while maintaining customer service quality requires careful strategic planning.

To optimize AHT, you should consider the following:

  • Give agents initial training and continued training.

  • Automate specific tasks in your call center to alleviate agents' workloads.

  • Implement conversational AI tools like voicebots, callbots, and chatbots when you can.

  • Monitor fluctuations in wait time, ATT, and ACW so you can continually alter and change your AHT and its indicators.