The Leading Contact Centre Magazine

21 Top Tips for Reducing Average Handling Time (AHT)

Our readers share their tips on how to lower your AHT in the contact centre.

1. Automate simpler queries to reduce the general workload

It can sometimes help to take the simpler calls out of the equation by automating them. While this may mean that the AHT figures for individual calls will rise, due to the increase in complexity, the general workload will decrease.

This will have a positive impact on the overall amount of time your callers spend on the phones.

With thanks to Craig

2. “Acknowledge, Answer, Ask” can make each call more efficient

I recommend my team use the “Acknowledge, Answer, Ask” method.

Acknowledge what the customer says to indicate understanding, Answer the customer’s question in a positive and direct way, and then Ask the question that can logically move the call forward.

This systematic and focused approach can help tackle AHT.

With thanks to Elizabeth

3. Cut down on after-call work (ACW) instead of customer talk time

Focus on reducing the time spent in after-call work (ACW) instead of talk time.

You shouldn’t be cutting down on talk time with your customers… because they will notice!

With thanks to Esther

4. Aim to resolve every customer query on the first contact

If you place emphasis on First Contact Resolution (FCR) then your agents will spend just one call on a customer’s issue – rather than five.

With thanks to Jacco

5. Wrap-up codes can drive up unproductive time

We used wrap-up codes to get a better understanding of what constituted our agents’ after-call work (ACW).

We found that this practice actually drove up overall unproductive time because the agents hid in multiple codes.

With thanks to George

6. Ask your agents for the improvements that are needed

We went out to our agents to seek the types of system improvements that they felt would help the overall experience for them and the customer.

We gained funding to action the vast majority of the requests. This has helped significantly.

With thanks to David

7. Route calls based on an agent’s ability to resolve that particular query

We use an IVR that routes each call to an agent specifically trained in resolving that query.

It can cause problems, however, if the customer presses the wrong button in the IVR.

With thanks to David

8. Use AHT as a training tool

We use AHT as a training tool to increase efficiencies.

With thanks to Janet

9. Use AHT to help deal with callers with a tendency to babble

We use AHT as an indicator for the callers that tend to babble.

In these situations, we find that agents taking ownership is key.

With thanks to Yvonne

10. Get your agents to identify where too much time is being spent

Have your agents listen to their calls and grade their call.

Get them to answer “What are the ‘extras’ included in your calls that aren’t necessary?”

With thanks to Janet

11. Focus on areas that don’t affect the customer experience


Focus on reducing the time spent in areas that don’t affect the customer experience.

For example, leaving diary notes, finding answers to queries on the call, etc.

With thanks to Paddy

12. Encourage cross-functional working

Encourage cross-functional working together to ensure outside service areas understand the impacts of their actions, e.g. R&D.

Thanks to Karl

13. Scripts can hinder active listening

If not used as guide, scripts can take away from active listening by your team.

With thanks to Melody

14. Reassess your scripts for time-wasting questions

Look at the content of your agents’ scripts.

It might be the script itself that contains things that don’t need to be there.

With thanks to Paddy

15. Have different levels of scripting depending on the knowledge of staff

If using a CRM with scripting, have different levels of scripting depending on the knowledge of staff.

‘Expert’ staff can rattle through calls without the hand-holding scripts needed by staff with less knowledge.

With thanks to Lee

16. Don’t pin the blame solely on your agents

Never assume it is the staff member at fault.

Sit with your staff, understand the processes they have to go through and identify changes that can be made.

With thanks to Emma

17. Target wrap time as a percentage of talk time

When not wanting to jeopardise customer experience and quality, I find it more effective and less detrimental to target wrap time as a % of talk time.

With thanks to Paddy

18. Promote your company website to drive down overall customer contact


Invest in increasing the AHT slightly by giving the agents extra time on the call to promote using a website as the first point of contact in the future.

This will drive down future overall volume, meaning cost savings through reducing headcount.

With thanks to George

19. Enrol struggling agents on an 8-week programme to reduce their AHT

We have an 8-week programme for those agents who are consistently above our AHT expectations. This expectation is set using a call centre-wide AHT average as a benchmark (with 12 weeks’ worth of data).

Once on this programme, our agents are buddied with fellow advisors and different team leaders in order for them to gain a new perspective in handling calls efficiently.

With thanks to Matt

20. Build a customer-focused website to reduce incoming calls

Build a customer-focused website to encourage customers to use this as a first point of contact.

Customers can also be referred to online resources once they contact the call centre, which can help reduce AHT, improve productivity and improve handling volume.

With thanks to Laura

21. Coach agents on what defines the beginning, middle and end of a call

During coaching sessions, break the call down into 3 elements (beginning, middle and end).

Also highlight the phrases that keep the conversation moving.

With thanks to Jade

Click here for our 49 Tips for Reducing Average Handling Time

What have you done to reduce Average Handling Time (AHT) in your contact centre?

Published On: 11th Feb 2015 - Last modified: 2nd Jan 2019
Read more about - Customer Service Strategy, , , ,

1 Comment
  1. We pay close attention to the agents with high AHT. Listening their calls more frequently to determine the reason. In most cases the lack of knowledge or self confidence causes high AHT. We include these agents in our 4 week CIP process, with specific subjects tailored for the specific agent.

    Zoltan 19 Mar at 4:21 pm
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