What Is Average Handle Time? How You Can Calculate It

To make your customer service efficient, you have to make your calls fast and well. It is because the customers expect both the quality of calls and a quick solution to their problems. It is where Average Handle Time (AHT) comes into play with your customer support team. It is an important KPI to evaluate how your call centre is meeting customers’ expectations regarding providing quality assistance and fast solutions.  The time of customers and agents is precious. Average handle time helps contact centres in call management and monitoring agent performance.

In this article, we will describe everything you need to know about average handle time and how it impacts the customer experience.

What Is Average Handle Time (AHT)?

The average handle time is when assisting a customer in a call centre. This metric is closely monitored in call centres and considered a key performance indicator (KPI) to evaluate efficiency. AHT encompasses the entire customer interaction, from the beginning of the call to any hold time and post-call work required. The call centre software tracks this metric for analysis purposes.

AHT usually relates to the agent’s performance and customer satisfaction. It is known that the quicker you solve the issues of customers, the happier they will be. However, there is also a significant human impact here. 

It is one of the five data points that contact centre leaders must track to improve their customer experience. The other metrics include first-call resolution, speed of answer, Net Promoter Score and customer satisfaction score. You can make your customers happy and satisfied if you resolve their issues on the first call, which means only a shorter handle time is not better alone. 

The metric of average handle time is relevant for managing customer service queries across various communication channels such as live chat, SMS, email, video calling, and others.

Why Is Average Handle Time Important?

Average handle time is an important customer service metric for the most valued commodity: time. Measuring AHT is crucial in meeting customers’ expectations for immediate support engagement. By tracking AHT, you can monitor your customer service team’s performance and adjust your support and service offerings to meet this demand.

Despite an increased number of communication channels available in this era, almost 70% of customers say they still prefer to talk with customer service agents over the phone. But in 2021, a study by TCN showed that 59% of customers complained about the time waste while waiting for a resolution. It means that excessive average handle time is more frustrating to customers than not having their issues resolved.      

We can say that AHT is one of the most significant indicators of the quality of customer support services of any business.

Measuring AHT is crucial in meeting customers’ expectations for immediate support engagement. By tracking AHT, you can monitor your customer service team’s performance and adjust your support and service offerings to meet this demand.

To sum it up, average handle time is important as an indicator of: 

  • Average call hold time
  • Customer experience quality 
  • Performance of individual agent 
  • Whether your current number of the agent can handle your average call volume
  • Overall customer satisfaction 
  • Effectiveness of your IVR menu

How Can You Calculate Average Handle Time?

Calculate Average Handle Time

Here is the most used formula to calculate the average handling time: 

Total talk time + Total hold time +Follow uptime divided by the total number of conversations 

Let’s understand it with an example: 

Suppose you had 10 calls daily and spent 60 minutes talking, five minutes making notes and 5 minutes on hold. So your average handling time formula will look like this: 

[60 minutes + 5 minutes +5 minutes] / 10 = 7 minutes AHT 

Once you have found your AHT, optimising your call centre practices and staffing is easier. You can forecast the number of agents if you know the average time to assist each customer. 

Once you have calculated your call volume and AHT, you can enter it into an Erlang calculator to find the best number of agents at peak time so that your customer experience remains at its best.

What Is A Good Average Handle Time?

Instead of acting as standalone service metrics, leaders can use AHT to drive improvement in different operations. For example, high call times can be reduced by publishing in-depth articles regularly on a knowledge base.

Understandably, what is considered a good average handling time will vary depending on the size and type of the industry. It significantly impacts key AHT factors such as average talk time, hold times, and percentage of calls sent to voicemail. Studies show that average handle time varies between 6.46 minutes to 6.73 minutes depending on the industry.  

Typically, a good average handle time depends on your industry averages. If your call handle time is below average or at it, you are providing a quick solution to your customers. If you are higher than average, it means you are taking a bit more time to solve the concerns of your customers that may stand in the processes for growth opportunities.

You need to assess your average handle time about other business metrics to get a complete picture of your support practices and see whether your customers are satisfied with your support service.

How Can You Reduce Average Handle Time?


The most important thing you must remember when determining the best way to lower your average handle time is to ensure that you are not compromising customer service quality for convenience.  

Here are some actionable tips that you can use to improve average handling time without being unfair to your customers or call centre agents.

I. Use Analytics And Identify Causes Of Long AHT

Although so many factors influence AHT, it is essential to look at the key metrics such as average hold time, average call duration, percentage of calls that went to voicemail, percentage of missed calls, daily/weekly/monthly call volume and first call resolution rate.  

All these factors will help you to identify the root cause of longer AHT, and you can also find out the common customer service issues.   

The utilisation of AI tools such as Natural Language Processing and Speech Analytics can provide valuable insights into customer sentiment, recurring complaints, and even the frequency of “filler words” like “um” and “like,” which can significantly increase Average Handle Time.

II. Implement IVR And Call Routing Strategies

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) solutions offer automated call menus that quickly answer frequently asked questions, enable customers to check their account information and provide a self-service experience. By utilising IVR, agents can focus on providing more detailed one-on-one support to customers, reducing the need for callbacks, voicemail, and other factors that can increase Average Handle Time.

Furthermore, incorporating call routing options such as round-robin, most idle, time-based, and skills-based routing will guarantee that customers are immediately connected to the most suitable agent with the necessary expertise and training to provide the best assistance.

III. Train Agents And Update the Knowledge Base

A searchable internal knowledge base enables agents to promptly access information on handling specific customer issues. During a customer call, if they are experiencing difficulty accessing their account, the agent can search the knowledge base for relevant articles or scripts such as “account access” or “customer locked out of account.” These resources provide detailed instructions and call scripts that guide the agent through the necessary steps to assist the customer effectively.

A strong knowledge base empowers agents without specific training to support other departments during peak call periods. It means that even when call volumes are high, agents can quickly access the information to assist, enabling smoother operations across the organisation.

The cause of extended Average Handle Time (AHT) could be attributed to the training approach being used. A sudden and noticeable rise in AHT or a recurrent occurrence of prolonged AHTs relating to specific issues could indicate that your training materials require updating. To ensure effective training, it’s important to solicit frequent feedback from agents regarding what is working, what’s not, and any emerging customer service trends they have observed.

IV. Use Customer Service Tools

Customer service representatives often appreciate innovative tools and technologies that simplify their work processes. Introducing additional tech solutions such as screen-sharing, API goggles, and ticket automation can provide advanced troubleshooting capabilities and streamline customer support operations. These tools provide a technological edge for the support team and can enhance the overall customer experience.

Virtual assistants are a great example of technology that can benefit customer service representatives. This tool enables reps to share their screen with customers and even take control of their mouse to execute troubleshooting steps, saving valuable time and effort.

Moreover, reps can record the interaction, allowing the customer to replay the explanation later. This feature helps to ensure that customers fully understand the troubleshooting process, reducing the likelihood of callbacks and enhancing the customer experience.

V. Provide Ongoing Support

It is important to note that achieving an optimal Average Handle Time (AHT) is the first step; the real challenge is maintaining it. To sustain good AHT, gathering input and feedback from your employees is crucial. Reassess your customer service approach at least once a year, as what worked well in the past may not be effective in the future. Keep your internal wikis updated with the latest policies and remove outdated information promptly.

Additionally, leverage call recording data to proactively monitor employees and detect any issues that may affect your AHT. Features like call barge, call whisper/coaching, and live call monitoring can help ensure your agents have the support they need to provide exceptional customer service. You can maintain optimal AHT levels and provide a superior customer experience by remaining vigilant and proactive.

Benefits Of Improved Average Handling Time

There are several benefits of improved AHT, including: 

  • It increases customer retention rate because most customers continue to purchase from a company even if it makes an error, but it is excellent customer service. 
  • High team morale is also an advantage of average call handle time, which leads to lower turnover rates and increased productivity.  
  • It results in increased upselling, cross-selling and overall profit. Companies prioritising customer services see a 4-8% increase in overall profit. 
  • Another significant advantage is improved business reputation and more clients.

How VoIP Reduces Average Handle Time?

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) can contribute to reducing average handle time (AHT) in call centers through several mechanisms:

Efficient Call Routing

VoIP systems often incorporate intelligent call routing features that direct calls to the most appropriate agents based on skills, workload, or other predefined criteria. It reduces the time it takes for customers to connect with the right person, thereby minimizing AHT.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems

IVR systems integrated with VoIP can streamline call handling by allowing customers to navigate through automated menus to access information or perform specific tasks without agent assistance. It helps resolve queries faster and lowers AHT for routine inquiries.

Unified Communication Tools

VoIP systems often include unified communication features like instant messaging and collaboration tools. Agents can use these tools to communicate internally, seeking assistance or information from colleagues without leaving the call interface, which can expedite issue resolution and decrease AHT.

Efficient Handling of Outbound Calls

VoIP systems often offer features like predictive dialing for call centers involved in outbound activities, such as telemarketing or follow-up calls. These features automate the dialing process, ensuring that agents spend more time in actual conversations rather than waiting for calls to connect, thereby reducing AHT.

Quality Assurance and Training

VoIP’s call recording capabilities aid in quality assurance efforts. By reviewing recorded calls, supervisors can identify areas for improvement, implement targeted training, and refine processes to enhance overall efficiency and decrease AHT.

Conclusion - Average Handle Time

Average Handle Time (AHT) is a key metric that measures the duration of customer interaction from start to finish. It’s an essential metric for any organisation that values customer service and aims to provide an exceptional experience to its customers. By calculating AHT and working to optimise it, businesses can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and boost customer satisfaction.

Businesses must invest in training, technology, and tools that support their customer service teams so that they can To achieve optimal AHT. Providing easy access to internal knowledge bases, adopting customer service tools like virtual assistants, and leveraging call recording data are all effective ways to enhance agent performance and improve the customer experience. Remember, AHT is not a static metric. It requires continuous evaluation and re-evaluation of customer service strategies to maintain optimal levels. Moreover, by using advanced features, VoIP systems enable call centers to streamline operations, improve agent productivity, and enhance overall efficiency, all of which contribute to a reduction in average handle time.

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