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Is it Time to Toss Average Handle Time? - TTEC - Blog

Is it Time to Toss Average Handle Time?

When it comes to managing Average Handle Time (AHT) in any contact center, there are countless articles on how to reduce, optimize, and measure the time spent engaging with a current or prospective customer champion. However, companies that focus primarily on reducing AHT are wasting time and valuable resources; not to mention most likely negatively impacting the experience with the person with whom they are engaged.
Strategies that prioritize AHT rates fail to address the actual issue, which is how to properly incentivize teammates (employees) to ensure that customer’s needs and expectations are being met. Here’s how companies can modernize their AHT strategies and better align them with customer behaviors to deliver a more satisfying experience.
Average handle time is a widely used contact center metric that measures the total length of time it takes a representative to engage with a customer, across any channel. Having a low AHT suggests representatives who are assisting customers are highly productive. The belief is that when your brand ambassadors are encouraged to handle an issue as efficiently as possible, they are able to help more customers. And fast customer service means fewer customers are waiting and becoming irritated.

An obvious pitfall, though, to focusing on AHT is that it detracts from and overshadows other factors, such as quality. The more attention contact center managers (your customer experience stewards) and representatives give to low AHT rates, the less time they have for other concerns, such as examining the quality of their service.

Furthermore, AHT hails from an era when the telephone was the primary customer service channel. It was also a time when customers had few options in which to complain of receiving poor or rushed service.
But times have changed.

In a world that is increasingly digital-first, customers reach out to voice channels only when they have a complex issue or can’t find the answer themselves. Additionally, more and more simple inquiries are being handled by automated systems, intuitive self-service strategies tied to an optimized knowledgebase strategy, integrated mobile app support, and more. Essentially, we are headed to a place where Tier 1 support—handled mostly by human interactions today—is replaced with advanced technologies and more efficient customer engagement design principles.  Machines, bots, optimized process, and automation will essentially make “obsolete” the need for Tier 1 human interactions as we know them today, but more on this in an upcoming article.
As innovative organizations continue to “teach” their customers how to self-service their way through automated and efficient Tier 1 support, it becomes critically important to have a team of expertly skilled, customer-first brand advocates to support the more complex, nuanced interactions that become difficult to resolve.

Contact center representatives can answer questions that require more time to properly resolve and build a “customer for life” relationship. In other words, a model that prioritizes AHT rates is likely out of touch with the needs of today’s customers. And in an age of empowered, hyper-connected customers, companies can’t afford to be tone-deaf about the customer experience.

By the same token, AHT still has a role to play in the modern contact center—the challenge is balancing the value of the AHT metric with other metrics. For example, instead of prioritizing the number of answered calls or closed tickets, make sure associates understand that their performance also includes outcomes like customer satisfaction, minimal customer effort, superior teammate NPS results, or renewal rates. 
And when setting AHT metrics, look to contact center representatives who receive high marks in customer satisfaction as models. Gamifying the results your teammates achieve and presenting them to your team in real time builds teammate confidence, accelerates their performance, and challenges them to over achieve, while also bringing an element of fun and personal passion.  Doing so also helps align the AHT rate more closely with customer-centric behavior and practices. Additionally, consider setting a range of acceptable rates rather than just one rate. Armed with a range, managers can still track their team’s performance and identify outliers without employees scrambling to meet an artificial goal.
The bottom line is that to remain competitive, companies must be flexible and nimble enough to adjust their performance metrics according to the needs of their customers. And just because something worked well in the past, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work today. Low AHT rates may have been the ideal goal several years ago, but customers—and the issues they inquire about—have changed. It is up to companies to respond to those changes and deliver better customer experiences before their competitors do. 

Like this post? Subscribe to our customer experience blog.

Also, check out the most recent issue of our monthly customer experience eNewsletter, Dialogue.


Publish Date: November 10, 2016 5:00 AM

2021 Buyers Guide IVR

Call Center Studio

Call Center Studio
Call Center Studio is the world’s first call center built on Google and is one of the most secure and stable systems with some of the industry’s best reporting. It is one of the most full-featured enterprise grade systems (with the most calling features, one of the best call distribution, outbound dialing features and integrations—including IVR, AI Speech Recognition, blended inbound/outbound calling and includes Google’s new Dialogflow and Speech API. Call Center Studio is the absolute easiest to use (with a 10 minute setup), and is the price performance leader with lower equipment cost and less setup time.
PH: +1 512-872-7565

Computer Data Services, LLC

Get the benefits of an expensive, on-premise telephone system without the high price tag and annoying maintenance.

- Never miss another phone call
- No more busy signals
- Feature rich
- Answer your calls from anywhere
PH: 216.662.5870


Virtual Switchboard
Megacall provides a fully customised Virtual Switchboard software for all companies (including IVR service). No matter the size of your business, our services adapt to the needs of each client.

Are you looking for a more effective way to communicate with your customers? Discover the advantages of using the IVR and how it can help in your communications.
PH: +34 952 667 511


MightyCall's IVR that will increase your business’s efficiency at a fraction of the cost of a secretary. Your auto-attendant is designed to:
- Greet callers
- Deliver necessary information
- Forward calls to the appropriate extension
- Take human error out of the system
PH: +1 (888) 256-8312

Nuxiba Technologies

Provide your customers with an effortless self-service experience. Easily create menus using predefined or custom prompts and data dips and route customers to live agents when needed.

Enable your customers to make payments and access information 24/7 at their convenience. Request a quote or live demo today.

OpsTel Services

The SPEED solution solves for service level issues while cost optimizing the environment with automation.

Provides an enhanced way to speed up & optimize invoking temporary agent skills configuration changes into the contact center environment.

Speed allows you to schedule both future changes & temporary changes that auto-revert back to the original state when scheduled time expires.

Speed features:

*Automated / Scheduled Temporary Agent Skills Configuration Management
*Immediate Temporary or Reoccurring Schedule Skills Configuration Changes
*Easy to Use/Operations Administration Focused
*Descriptive Monitoring Activity Dashboard
*Detailed “End to End’ Audit Trail and Performance Monitoring
PH: 1+480-435-9390

Teckinfo Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

IVR Edge
IVR Edge is a high performance, robust and scalable ivr system that works on various leading hardware such as Dialogic, Keygoe and Synway etc. It can handle the simplest of simple to the most complex of requirements to when it come to creating an IVR. Integration with any 3rd party database, be it for banking, telecom, insurance, travel, payment gateway etc can be handled with ease. Ideally suited to create Hosted IVR and virtual patching solutions with scalabilities that can range from 4 to 128 E1’s per setup with voice recording and CDR functionality. Integration with leading text to speech (TTS) and speech recognition ASR engines add to the flexibility and functionality.

View more from TTEC

Recent Blog Posts:
Beyond the Bot Buzz: Balance Humans and AutomationJune 2, 2017 5:00 AM
3 Steps to Harness the Power of Advanced Contact Center AnalyticsFebruary 13, 2017 5:00 AM
Is it Time to Toss Average Handle Time?November 10, 2016 5:00 AM
Greet, Love, Engage: Three Paths to a Stress-Free Live Chat ExperienceAugust 12, 2016 5:00 AM
Getting the Most From Customer SurveysJuly 21, 2016 5:00 AM
5 Customer Experience Metrics to TrackJune 1, 2016 5:00 AM
The Ins and Outs of Creating Closed LoopsMay 19, 2016 5:00 AM
Customers Don’t Care About Your Quality Assurance ChecklistsMay 2, 2016 5:00 AM
Answer Why Questions in the Contact Center to Improve OperationsMarch 14, 2016 5:00 AM
TeleTech Research Shines Light on Gaps Between Consumers and BrandsJanuary 21, 2016 5:00 AM

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