Here’s the scenario:
Customer A contacts you about a complex problem at 9 AM on Wednesday. You have all the information you need, and you spend 2 hours working on the case, resolving it at 11 AM.
Customer B contacts you about a simple problem at 9 AM on Thursday. You can resolve this case easily, but you need some information from the customer. Customer B is busy all day on Thursday, and they don’t give you the information you need until Friday at 9 AM. Then, you spend 5 minutes working on the case and have it resolved at 9:05 AM on Friday.
Which case was resolved more efficiently?
Based on time to resolution alone, customer A’s problem was resolved more efficiently. But that doesn’t tell the full story.
By measuring average handle time, you know that customer B’s problem was resolved more efficiently, in reality. Their problem took you far less time to resolve than customer A’s problem.
What is average handle time?
Average handle time (also known as average handling time or AHT) is the average amount of time (typically in minutes) that your team spends working on each case. It reflects the efficiency of your team by measuring how long it takes to resolve a problem.
How is it calculated?
Handle time includes any time that a rep spends working to resolve the case. Communicating with the customer, researching the problem, identifying the solution, and resolving the problem are all activities that count towards time spent handling a case.
To calculate your team’s average handle time, you add up the total time spent handling cases and divide it by the total number of cases you resolved. Here’s the formula:
Why does it matter?
In customer service, time is of the essence. If you’re managing a customer service team, it’s critical to know how long it take your reps to work on cases in order to resolve them. Analyzing your average handle team gives you quantitative insights on your team’s efficiency. You need to be keeping tabs on your team’s efficiency and striving to improve it.
How should average handle time be analyzed?
1. Trends Over Time
You should look at the trend of your team’s average handle time in a given period of time. When looking at your average handle time over the past year or quarter, you want to see a gradual decline. As illustrated below, your team should be resolving cases more quickly and becoming more efficient over time.
If your average handle time has increased over the past year or quarter, that means your team is becoming less efficient. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe your CSAT score was tanking, so you made a point to have more thorough (thus longer) interactions with customers.
You should compare the fluctuations of average handle time of specific time periods to the total average for whole period of time. This will give you a better idea of how the average handle time during each time period impacts the total average. Look for peaks that soar far above the average, and find out why your handle time was so high.
2. Median vs. Average
It can be useful to compare your median handle time to your average handle time. This will give you a better sense of how long it actually takes to resolve a randomly selected case. If you have a some complex cases that are skewing your average handle time, you should give more weight to the median.
3. Compare with Other Metrics
Recently, customer service leaders have started to question the importance of average handle time. Some have even gone as far as to say that average handle time is a terrible metric. [Gasp!] This is mainly because some customer service teams put too much emphasis on this metric. Some are probably guilty of managing to the metric, or juking the stats.
You should not be pressuring your reps to decrease their average handle time or making too much of an effort to find ways to reduce your average handle time. That could result in rushed conversations with customers, prematurely closed cases, more reopened cases, more effort required from customers, and, ultimately, fewer happy customers. You don’t want that. So don’t treat average handle time like the end-all-be-all of customer service metrics — because it’s not.
Nonetheless, when analyzed properly, tracking average handle time can be very telling. On its own, average handle time is an accurate way to gauge your team’s efficiency. And when it’s compared to other efficiency metrics, such as time to resolution and first contact resolution, it helps to paint a fuller picture.
By leveraging data to make decisions, you’ll be able to improve your weaknesses, provide better service, and make more customers happy.