What is average handle time and how to reduce it?

Average Handle Time

What is Average Handle Time?

Average Handle Time is the average time spent by an agent in resolving a customer’s query. Average Handle Time includes the time from when a customer initiates a call to when the customer ends a call, which includes but not limited to hold times, transfers, dead air and more. Average Handle Time is not just the time spent on phone but also the work done before or after the call to resolve a customer query.


Why is Average Handle Time Important?

“Today with more and more noise and lesser patience, it is hard to bring back customers even with a single bad experience.”

Average handle time is important because the metric impacts many other important call center KPI’s. AHT is a litmus test of the efficiency and effectiveness of your call centre operations. It simply goes to show how well the agents are trained, how efficient are the call setup processes and knowledge base. 

Average handle time (AHT) shows how well the agents are equipped to handle customer queries. It is therefore important to continuously measure and improve average handling time. Best call center continuously monitor, measure and improve AHT through training, and technology.

What is a good Average Handle Time?

While it is subjective and depends on the nature of the industry, it is always good to have your average handle time as low as possible. A standard AHT in the healthcare industry stands at 5 minutes 30 seconds for even queries like appointment confirmation. Read on to understand how one can reduce AHT.

How do you calculate average handle time?

Different companies calculate handle time in a different way. The two primary differences are that some companies include after call work (ACW) to their calculation and some companies dont. ACW or after call work is the time an agent spends to carry out tasks like: data entry in CRM, post call customer communication, time taken to resolve the query or any other task related to the customer call.

In order to efficiently calculate the time taken by the agent to handle a call on average or simply put AHT, add the total talk time, total hold time and after call work and divide it by the total number of calls.

AHT calculation

AHT = (Total talk time + total hold time + after call work time) / total number of calls

Take a look at a sample AHT calculation below:

Suppose an agent handled 100 calls in a day. Total talk time by the agents was 300 minutes, hold time was 30 minutes and the after call work time was 20 minutes. The Average handle time in this case would result in 300+30+20/100 = 3.5 minutes.

 How to reduce and improve average handle time in your call centre

Step 1: Identify the reason behind high AHT. As a head of call centre, one can easily do this by simply focussing on the calls with the highest handle time. Ensure all your conversations are monitored and analyzed by using a call recording software.

Common factors to consider when analysing high average handle time calls are to look at the calls with high numbers of transfers, dead time, on hold time, unhappy customer conversations, agents asking repetitive questions, agents not able to find answers to customer queries  and others. 

Step 2: Once the following has been done, list down the biggest contributors to the average handle time. At Emitrr, we’ve monitors millions of calls to identify some of the biggest reasons for high AHT:


Agents asking repetitive questions lead to high handling times: The fact that most call centres even today are not equipped with technology that can inform the agent ahead of time with details like – who is calling, the activity history, their complaints raised in the passed and so on can lead to unnecessary questions being asked by the agent. This is specially true in the healthcare industry, given that most call centre softwares don’t interact with EHR’s and PMS’s. 


Phone Agent/Call Pop
Source: Nextiva


– Ensuring agents have easy access to all the information they need to handle queries. Often times it is not the agent productivity that is responsible for high average handle time (AHT) but all a result of the knowledge available to them to answer queries. It is extremely important to have a dynamic, easy to use knowledge base that can be accessed from within the call center software to quickly search and answer customer queries, thus resulting in low AHT.


Want to reduce AHT for your call centre? Schedule a demo today!