The Impact of Average Handle Time (AHT) on Business Success

6 min read
Jul 26, 2023
Ticking clock

Efficient customer service is the backbone of any successful business. One metric that plays a crucial role in evaluating customer service efficiency is the average handle time (AHT).

What is the average handle time?

Average handle time measures the total time of a customer service representative's interaction with a single customer. It encompasses the time from the moment the call is answered until its conclusion, including the actual conversation with the customer, problem-solving, and post-call tasks like note-taking and follow-up activities.

AHT is usually expressed in seconds or minutes and is a critical performance metric for contact centers and customer support teams.

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Why is AHT so important?

AHT holds significant implications for customer service and business success. Understanding its importance is essential for organizations seeking to optimize their support operations.

Customer satisfaction

Long wait times and prolonged issue resolution can lead to customer frustration and dissatisfaction. Imagine being left on hold for an eternity – a scenario no customer wants to endure.

A faster AHT translates to quicker issue resolution and happier customers. Satisfied customers are more likely to stay loyal to your brand, promote positive word-of-mouth, and attract new customers through referrals.

Dollars and sense

AHT is not merely a statistical metric but a strategic tool for resource optimization. Reducing it empowers businesses to maximize the efficiency of their customer service operations. 

Organizations can control labor costs and achieve substantial savings by resolving more customer inquiries with fewer resources.

Additionally, efficiently handling client interactions allows businesses to allocate their agents' time and efforts more effectively, leading to improved productivity and a leaner, more cost-effective operation.

Agent performance

The frontline of any customer-oriented organization is its customer service team. AHT plays a pivotal role in evaluating agent performance and identifying areas that require further training and development. Monitoring individual agents, AHT provides valuable insights into their efficiency in resolving customer inquiries.

This key metric enables managers to distinguish high-performing agents who excel at swift issue resolution from those who may benefit from additional training and support.

Implementing regular training sessions and offering skill development opportunities to agents allows businesses to enhance their customer service team's capabilities, transforming them into well-oiled customer support machines.

Making your call center shine

AHT is akin to receiving the most valuable player award for call centers. It showcases the call center's ability to handle customer interactions efficiently and seamlessly.

A high-performing call center can be a differentiator for a business, contributing to elevated customer satisfaction and a positive brand image. Managing AHT effectively is crucial to success, as it directly impacts the customer experience.

AHT optimization elevates the call center's reputation, setting the stage for a thriving business with a loyal customer base.

Factors that shape average handle time

Understanding the factors that shape average handle time is paramount to achieving optimal customer service efficiency.

Complexity of issues

The complexity of customer inquiries directly affects AHT. Customer support teams encounter various issues, from simple queries to intricate technical problems.

Tackling intricate issues requires extra time and dedication, which may increase AHT. Striking a balance between efficiency and meticulousness is vital to ensure customers get satisfying solutions while reducing AHT. 

Agent experience and ongoing training

Customer service representatives' experience and training significantly impact their ability to handle interactions efficiently.

Seasoned agents with a deep understanding of your products or services can swiftly address customer inquiries, contributing to shorter AHT.

Conversely, new or less-experienced agents may require training and additional time to build expertise. Regular and ongoing agent training also ensures agents stay up-to-date with product knowledge and customer service best practices, enabling them to deliver timely resolutions and reduce AHT.

Embracing technology and automation

In the age of technological advancement, leveraging tools and automation is critical to streamlining customer service processes. Embracing technology reduces manual effort and allows agents to focus on addressing customer needs promptly.

Implementing customer service software, automated ticketing systems, and real-time reporting tools empower agents to work more efficiently, decreasing AHT and increasing customer satisfaction.

Mastering call scripts

Good call scripts play a vital role in guiding agents during interactions. While flexibility is essential to address unique customer scenarios, well-crafted call scripts provide a structured approach, ensuring conversations remain focused and concise.

Properly executed, call scripts can expedite issue resolution and contribute to reduced AHT without compromising the quality of service.

Strategies for AHT optimization

Businesses must implement targeted strategies to achieve optimal average handle time and elevate customer service efficiency.

#1 Empower your agents

Empowering your customer service agents to make certain decisions during interactions is a strategic move that can significantly impact AHT and satisfaction.

Providing agents with the authority to resolve issues promptly without unnecessary escalation can expedite the resolution process.

Agents who can take ownership of customer inquiries demonstrate expertise and professionalism throughout the customer journey, leaving customers impressed by swift and personalized service performance. This empowerment creates a positive customer experience, increasing customer satisfaction scores and fostering customer loyalty.

#2 Real-time analytics

In order to excel in the rapidly changing realm of customer service, tracking AHT in real time is essential. With the help of real-time analytics, you can closely monitor your customer service team's performance and gain valuable insights into AHT trends. This will help you stay current with the latest developments and improve customer service quality.

Identifying potential bottlenecks and areas of improvement enables timely intervention and efficient resource allocation. Supervisors can proactively address emerging issues, ensuring a smooth customer journey and reinforcing satisfaction.

#3 Ongoing agent training

Investing in your agents' skills directly invests in your business's success. Regular and ongoing training sessions equip your support team with the knowledge and tools to handle customer inquiries swiftly and effectively.

Training ensures that agents are well-versed in product details, customer service best practices, and industry developments. Well-trained agents are more confident, resourceful, and capable of providing faster, more efficient interactions.

A knowledgeable and skilled support team improves customer experience with AHT and enhances customer satisfaction scores.

#4 Streamlining processes

Analyzing and streamlining your customer service workflow is critical in optimizing AHT. Identify and eliminate unnecessary steps that slow down your team, creating a more straightforward and efficient process.

Ensure that your agents have easy access to a comprehensive knowledge base, enabling them to find solutions to common customer inquiries quickly.

You should check out KnowledgeBase, as it covers most of the significant features for support agents. This knowledge management software is an effective way to store your team's knowledge.

Agents can provide faster answers using their internal knowledge base. This saves time because they don't need to search through multiple sources and can simply consult their KnowledgeBase.

In addition, KnowledgeBase can be integrated with LiveChat to improve problem-solving speed even more. This is possible because agents can access their KnowledgeBase while conversing with customers in the same window. By doing so, responsiveness can be enhanced, and the quality of AHT can be improved.

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Knowledge base software for lightning-fast customer support and effortless self-service.

Trusted by 2,500+ companies

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Average handle time is a cornerstone in customer service, with metrics influencing every facet of clients' journeys and business operations. Businesses can achieve unparalleled customer service efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and satisfaction by acknowledging the importance of customer service and the various factors that influence it.

The journey to AHT optimization requires steadfast commitment, ongoing refinement, and a customer-centric approach. Embracing these principles, businesses can impact their bottom line, foster enduring customer loyalty, and solidify their position as leaders in the competitive marketplace.