Average Handling Time is a key metric in any contact centre. So how do you measure it?
Why is Average Handling Time important?
Average Handling Time (AHT) is a key measure for any contact centre planning system, as it tells you how long a new item of work takes to be handled, and not just the talk time.
In essence, it tells you how much time an agent spends working on a task and when they are unable to deal with a new work item.
It is the bedrock for all contact centre planning systems, as well as a key component of all Erlang calculations, and unless you know this metric you cannot plan effectively.
Average Handling Time Formula
The formula for calculating AHT is as follows:
Wrap-up time may also be known as Wrap Time or After-Call Work time.
Average Handling Time is different from Average Call Duration
Ring time and queue time are not usually included in AHT, as these are not related to the period of time that an agent spends on a call. They are normally included in Average Call Duration.
Factors that can distort AHT
There are a number of factors that can distort AHT:
- Cutting off callers. If you target agents on their AHT you may find that they cut off long callers or, if a call looks difficult, they may transfer it to another department.
- Wrap-up time should only be used for time related to the particular call. However, some agents will use this to stop taking the next call, and it is frequently misused for toilet, coffee or cigarette breaks, or for chatting between calls.
- You need to make sure that you include Hold Time in the calculation, as not doing so can result in agents spending more time on hold in order to reduce the total AHT. This can negatively impact the customer if they are put on hold unnecessarily at multiple points during the call.
Factors that drive up AHT
If your AHT is higher than it should be, there are a number of factors that could be to blame:
- Slow computer systems (this is a common problem)
- Spending time with a caller to resolve a problem (this is a good thing)
- Poor agent training (listening to agents who have long handling times may highlight individual training needs)
- Flipping between lots of different computer systems
- Long periods of time on hold
For more information on reducing AHT visit these articles:
Use of AHT as a performance metric
Many contact centres use AHT as a personal agent target as well (in fact, in a number of surveys, it is consistently cited as the most common metric in contact centres) although this is normally deemed a ‘bad thing’.
The problem is that it tends to (either intentionally or unintentionally) make agents focus on speed of service rather than quality of service. It also tells you nothing about the outcome of a call.
It tends to drive a behaviour of agents trying to manipulate the AHT.
Symptoms of this include:
- Cutting off calls as they approach the AHT target
- Not doing after-call work or following up on customers
- Transferring difficult calls to another department
- Rushing the caller off the phone
- Not listening to the caller or building rapport
- Making promises to the caller that are not kept
Companies that have removed AHT as an agent performance metric have often found that, after an initial rise in AHT, the First Contact Resolution rates tend to improve.