What is average handling time and how does it change with AI?

Natalie Smithson
AI enthusiast | Tea addict | Focused on using AI assistants to win the working week

What is average handling time?

Average handling time measures how long it takes you to deal with an interaction from start to finish, whether it’s a call, a chat, or an email. This metric plays a crucial role in helping you resolve customer queries promptly to enhance customer satisfaction.

How do you calculate your average handling time?

Calculating average handling time involves adding up the total time taken for all interactions and dividing this by the total number of interactions. This calculation gives the average time required to address each customer query. Say you managed 10 customer queries and the total time taken was 100 minutes, the average handling time would be 10 minutes per interaction.

What is a good average handling time benchmark?

The ideal benchmark for average handling time may vary depending on your industry and the complexity of customer enquiries, but as a guide, a high-performing team might target an average handling time of:

Why does the average handling time matter?

The average handling time helps you better understand the efficiency of your team and how much time and money you spend on each customer query.

If the average cost per call is £6 in the UK and the average handling time is 7 minutes, you can work out how many enquiries you can tackle in a day and how much that costs you as a business. A lower average handling time can indicate a well-trained team that can quickly and effectively assist customers and you can better allocate your resources, since you can predict how many agents you need to handle your volume of queries.

The goal will always be to reduce the average handling time, so less resource is spent on each query, and importantly, you can improve your customer satisfaction score too because customers are waiting around for less time for help.

It’s vital not to rush calls to reduce your average handling time, or to reduce the quality of service support, since this might improve your average handling time metric but increase customer churn and escalation rate at the same time, which puts a dent in your brand reputation and revenue, as well as creating more stress for your teams. Automating for a faster average handling time is increasingly becoming the most popular option.

Rethinking average handling time strategies to suit the age of AI

AI automation changes everything for average handling times. Where you previously might have had to wait on hold with your local council to report a missed bin, perhaps be passed to different departments while you’re on hold and repeat your missed bin report a couple of times at least, an AI assistant could be trained to report your missed bin to the correct department in seconds. That means the most important metric to track re average handling time is how long it takes a human to handle a query and how long it takes an AI assistant.

While tracking the difference, you’ll need to track accuracy too. If a person comes up with the wrong part number, when and how do you notice this? Is it a more experienced manager who pulls up the error, or the customer when the wrong part arrives? Calculate the time wasted on solving the issue and how much money it costs you. With an AI assistant, you can check upfront the correct training details are being represented in the responses to spot checking answers.

“Having an Assistant can reduce your AHT in a number of different ways. AI assistants can be used to pre-gather information from customers so agents have a better understanding when they take a call, also using the assistant to make sure the customer is directed to the right person/department who can help them most efficiently. They also provide valuable insight into gaps in your customers’ knowledge by highlighting the most asked about topics and questions, and they show where you might need to improve your website or communications in certain areas. This all helps reduce AHT as, ultimately, noone wants to be on a call to a supplier longer then they need to be.” ~ Aaron Gleeson, Implementation Lead at EBI.AI

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What role does monitoring average handling time play in customer service efficiency?

Monitoring average handling time is crucial for assessing operational productivity and service quality, so you can analyse average response times, enhance processes, and improve overall customer satisfaction scores. But while AHT is an important metric in identifying efficiencies, having an AI assistant can also help reduce the number of contacts overall, so your contact teams have more time to provide a better quality of experience to the customer.

How can businesses enhance employee performance in relation to average handling time?

Improving employee performance directly affects average handling time metrics as efficient and skilled agents can handle customer enquiries swiftly and accurately. Training, motivation, and performance incentives play a key role in optimising handling times and service quality.

What impact does effective communication have on average handling time?

Effective communication reduces misunderstandings, improves response clarity, and makes query resolution easier all round. Clear and concise communication can lead to quicker handling times, first contact resolution, and enhanced customer satisfaction.

How does customer feedback influence strategies to improve average handling time?

Customer feedback helps in lots of ways, like identifying pain points, improving service quality, and refining processes to enhance average handling time performance. By incorporating feedback loop mechanisms, you can adapt and optimise your operations to meet customer expectations and reduce handling times effectively, as well as customer churn.