What is average handle time, and how important is it? It’s both more and less critical than many people think.

What is average handle time, if not a major point of stress for supervisors in every call center around the globe? The topic comes up in nearly every article on call center metrics and KPIs. It’s a factor in customer service and agent efficiency. You hear about it in webinars, podcasts, and seminars. And everyone, it seems, is offering ideas and ways to reduce the average handle time on your calls. 

But let’s step away from the noise for a minute and look at this with a touch of objectivity. Call handle time is an important metric. And reducing your call time can, in fact, improve your customer service, as well as your overall efficiency. 

At the same time, if we focus too much on reducing call times, it’s possible to negatively impact customer service. We have to remember to explore every metric in context. So, let’s take a deeper look at both of these questions: what is average handle time, and can you reduce it without sacrificing quality?

Call Logic’s auto-dialer and call management software offers dozens of helpful tools that help you and your team improve call-handling skills. Call for your free consultation today to learn more!

What is average handle time

What is average handle time?

At its root, average handle time is simply the time you can expect each call to take. More specifically, it is hold time + talk time + follow-up time divided by the number of calls. Here’s an example using nice round numbers to make the math easy for ourselves!

300 minutes of call time (hold time + talk time + post-call notes), divided by 100 calls, would give you an average handle time of 3 minutes. 

You can do this over the course of a week, day, or month. And you can determine your average call time for a particular agent, specific hours of the day, or your entire call center. It’s just a matter of adjusting the math. 

Here’s another example, again, using round numbers to make our life easy.

Let’s say you want to determine the average call time for a week for your team of 10 agents. 

10,000 minutes of call time, divided by 500 calls, gives you an average handle time of 20 minutes. 

Here’s where we get into the difficulties of looking at metrics in isolation. Depending on your product or service, a 20-minute call might be well above (or below) your industry average. We also need to consider how much of that time was hold time. Was your customer on hold for 15 of those 20 minutes? That’s probably not ideal and might be a good example of where reducing call time would be beneficial. 

In fact, numerous factors can impact call handle times. Anything from an agent being out sick to a handful of customers with especially challenging situations can significantly increase your average handle time. Therefore, it’s vital to reiterate that you have to look at metrics in context. 

That said, the customer experience is a crucial part of this metric. We don’t want them stuck on hold, nor do we want them to feel like they’re being rushed just so we can get through a call and move on to the next person. 

So, can you reduce your average call handle time without sacrificing quality and customer service? Yes. 

5 Ways to reduce call times and improve customer service

What is average handle time? We know it’s the amount of time a customer is on hold, in conversation with our agents, and any time an agent needs after a call to write notes, send follow-up emails, or do something else related to the call. We also know customers expect and deserve our full attention and our best efforts at resolving any issues. Here are a few ways all this can come together to decrease handle times. 

1. Improve customer onboarding: If you notice a pattern of specific questions or issues in calls, that points to a possible gap in your onboarding process. This won’t apply to every situation, of course, but it’s worth looking into. You might find that an additional help video or more detailed instructions can reduce the number of calls you get, thereby also reducing call handle times. As a bonus, this also improves your customer happiness. 

2. Improve employee onboarding: Do you have newer agents who fumble through calls or don’t know where to go for quick answers to common questions? Explore the idea of additional training time. Like improved customer onboarding, knowledgeable employees also improve customer satisfaction. 

3. Additional employee training: Before rolling out a new or updated product, service, sale, or promotion, ensure your team is aware of the rollout. And be sure they know what to expect. You can reduce call times simply by taking the steps to get your team ready. 

4. Improve your email templates: If you find that the bulk of your call times come after the actual calls, it might be worth taking a look at your email templates. Are they as efficient as they can be? Or do your employees have to spend a lot of time filling in basic information? 

5. Use high-quality calling software: Whether you’re making calls or answering calls, high-quality software can make a huge difference in how efficiently your team can work. Software like Call Logic includes built-in email templates and pop-out call notes, making it easy for your team to offer your customers the best possible service. 

Reduced average handle times don’t have to come at the expense of high quality customer service. In fact, with the steps above, you can improve customer satisfaction and reduce handle times all in one go. 

Make more calls in less time and improve your customer service with Call Logic. From real-time reports to automated voicemails to built-in compliance, we’ve got you covered in every aspect of your business. Call for your free consultation today to learn more!