What is Average Handle Time and How to Reduce it?

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Average Handle Time (AHT) is a key factor in how your call center plays a part in the success or failure of your support people.

If you’re doing everything right on the first contact, there is no reason for the customer to call back.

But if you don’t get it right either by having long hold times, poor wait times, or not spending enough time to understand the customer problem, they are going to call you back again.

This is why Average Handle Time is a closely monitored call center metric in every setup.

An agent with too less an AHT is an indication that he is not spending enough effort to understand the customer pain point.

Alternatively, an agent spending exceeding the threshhold AHT is an indication that he is either not equipped enough to understand the customer pain point, or she is not performing her duty in the right way.

In this guide, you’ll find:

  • What is average handle time?
  • Average handle time formula?
  • Why should you pay attention to it?
  • Some tips on how you can reduce average handle time.
  • Benefits of considering AHT

A. What is average handle time (AHT)?

AHT is a metric that measures the average amount of time taken  to resolve a customer request, handling a call from start to finish . AHT includes hold time, talk time and wrapup time.

  • Hold time equals the time an agent takes to pick up a call.
  • Talk time refers to the actual time the agent is with the customer on phone.
  • Wrap-up time includes the time taken by the agent to complete post call tasks (e.g. creating a helpdesk ticket)

AHT helps you to understand how efficient your agents are or call center is while handling calls.

You can use this metric to establish performance metrics as well.

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B. How do you calculate AHT?

Average Handle Time (AHT) is calculated by adding the total amount of time spent handling a customer call, email or chat and then dividing it by the number of interactions handled. 

The handle time includes the time spent talking to the customer, researching, documenting, and any after-call work.

Average Handle Time Formula


Total Talk Time = total duration of all customer interactions (calls, chats, emails, etc.)

After-Call Work Time = time spent on activities related to the interaction after the interaction has ended (e.g. documenting, researching, etc.)

Number of customer conversations = total number of customer interactions handled.

Average handle time example: A customer service call with a talk time of 10 minutes, 2 minutes on hold, and 5 minutes for post-call work results in an Average Handle Time of 17 minutes.

B. 7 Tips to reduce average handle time

1. Identify agent coaching opportunities

2. Record calls to monitor agent performance

3. Optimize call routing

4. Optimize internal communications

5. Streamline processes

6. Monitor agent performance

7. Build a knowledge base

1. Identify agent coaching opportunities 

Agents are responsible for handling customer issues.

You need to ensure agents are well-trained to handle them.

Proper and comprehensive training of agents will make sure that average handle time is reduced. 

Agents need to be well-versed with call center software, CRM, business tools, computer and headset, helpdesk, etc.

They also should know about the product/service and be well versed with the terminology.

2. Record calls to monitor agent performance

Call centers should use call recording tools to understand how agents performed during the calls.

It helps to identify inefficiencies and problems that arise during the course of the call and also find out areas where there is a need for improvement. 

Also, you will understand how customers react after a long wait on the call, how they engage during the call and how customer experience as a whole was.

You can use conversation intelligence software like Enthu.ai, that records every call and provides you insights without listening to a single call.

3. Optimize call routing

Call centers must have a defined system in which agents know the right agent to whom they have to route calls.

When you transfer calls to wrong agents it only leads to excessive hold times, i.e, loss of valuable time of the customers. It only deteriorates customer experience. 

Proper call routing ensures that agents are connected to the right agents in the first attempt itself and it also ensures reducing average handle time.

4. Optimize internal communications

Agents should be able to communicate with other agents easily. Avoid using slow email communications or having a third party app to communicate with fellow agents.

Call centers must enable internal agent chat systems for effective internal communications and this will result in higher customer satisfaction.

5. Streamline processes

Streamlining agent workforce and processes is a great way to reduce average handle time. 

You must monitor the tasks that agents are doing and eliminate any task that is contributing to increase in average handle time. 

Agents must perform only those work that cannot be performed by anyone else. All other work should be automated so that the team can be best at what they do.

6. Monitor agent performance

Performance of the agents must be monitored on a regular basis. 

One of the ways to monitor agent performance is by using call center software with call monitoring features. 

The software will help you listen to live calls without agent knowing and conference in to talk with both agents and customers between the calls.

This is important for training purposes and also improves call center metrics such as call transfers, escalated calls and hold time.

According to Mckinsey advanced analytics helps call centers proactively reduce average handle time.

7. Build a knowledge base

Building a knowledge base can help agents to acquire knowledge that they want in an instant.

It helps them to solve customer issues quickly without making customers wait for long.

Hence, it increases customer satisfaction and decreases handle time.

C. What is the importance of AHT?

Importance of AHT

Solving customer issues efficiently and effectively helps you gain customers’ loyalty.

That’s why average handle time is an essential metric because it helps you understand how quickly agents are solving customer issues.

Also, reducing your AHT means productivity gains.

It shows that your agents are performing better and the customers are getting their queries solved quickly, ultimately impacting the overall customer experience. This also reflects in scores like CSAT, Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer reviews.

1.Customer Satisfaction

AHT helps in measuring the time a customer spends on a call with the support team, which can be used to assess the quality of customer service and improve customer satisfaction.

2. Agent Performance

AHT is a crucial metric in evaluating agent performance and helps in identifying areas for improvement and training needs.

3. Resource Allocation

AHT data provides insights into how long agents take to resolve specific issues, which can be used to optimize resource allocation and improve overall efficiency.

4. Cost Savings

By reducing AHT, companies can reduce the cost of operation and increase profitability.

5. Quality Assurance

Average handle time data can be used to monitor and improve the quality of support services, ensuring that customers receive efficient and effective support.

6. Customer Experience

Reducing AHT can improve the customer experience by reducing wait times and improving the speed of resolution.

D. What is “good” average handle time? 

There cannot be a defined “good” average handle time as it would differ for every organization, for every process.

Average handle time depends upon the structure of the organization, the products/services they offer and what a company thinks is a good customer experience.

Instead of focusing too much on the metric, focus on the impact that you want to accomplish using AHT as the KPI:-

1. Quickly solve customer issues

2. Do not make customers hold for too long

3. Increase per agent throughput for calls handled

4. Improve customer satisfaction 

But remember that solving customer issues quickly should not come at the expense of the customer being dissatisfied with your response.

So, stay focussed to resolve the customer issue first.


F. Standard average handle time

The industry benchmark for Average Handle Time (AHT) varies across different industries and the type of support being offered.

However, the standard AHT for a call center is typically considered to be around 5 to 7 minutes.

According to research, the average AHT for inbound customer service call centers is around 6 minutes. However, this can vary greatly depending on factors such as the complexity of the issue, the skills of the agent, and the size of the call center.

It is important to note that while AHT is a key metric, it should not be the only focus of a call center.

Balancing AHT with other metrics such as First Call Resolution (FCR) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) is crucial in providing high-quality customer service.

The report by Cornell University tracks AHT by company size and sector:

Report by Cornell University

G. What are the benefits of improved average handle time?

1. Increased Efficiency

Lowering AHT can lead to more calls handled and faster resolution of customer issues, leading to increased efficiency and productivity.

2. Better Customer Experience

Improved AHT can reduce wait times for customers, providing them with a faster and more efficient support experience.

3. Increased Agent Morale

Agents will be able to handle more calls and resolve issues more quickly, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and morale.

4. Cost Savings

By reducing AHT, companies can reduce the cost of operation, increase profitability, and improve the bottom line.

5. Improved Quality of Service

Lowering AHT can improve the quality of support services, ensuring that customers receive efficient and effective support.

6. Enhanced Reputation

Improved AHT can enhance a company’s reputation and reduces customer churn rate for providing high-quality customer service and support.

Benefits of improved Average handle time


Average handle time is an essential metric when it comes to understanding customer experience.

Aim to reduce average handle time because not only it improves customer satisfaction but also it leads to reduced costs.

But you should also remember that solving customer issues quickly should not leave the customers dissatisfied.

Therefore, resolving customer issues efficiently and effectively should be your goal.


1. How to calculate average talk time?

Calculating average talk time is not that hard, especially if you know how to use a calculator. Just look at the number of calls you make and divide that number by the time period you are looking at to get average talk time.

2. Average Talk Time Formula

The formula for average talk time is: add your total talk time + total hold time + total after-call tasks, and then divide by the number of total calls. That is your average handle time.

3. How can I improve call handling time?

To improve call handling time, focus on clear communication, efficient processes, active listening, and regular training. Utilize AI technology and continuously gather feedback for improvement.


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