Is it time to kill the Average Handle Time Metric?

Average Handling Time Metric in the call centre

Why it’s time to ditch the Average Handling Time Metric

Mounting evidence suggests it’s time to let go of your Average Handle Time metric.

We have all heard the business mantra “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” and while this is true, an incorrect focus on specific contact centre metrics is the quickest way to drive the wrong behaviour and damage the customer experience.

Perhaps a better way to position things is “you are what you measure.”

In a recent article by Genesys, they asked the question Is the Average Handle Time Metric dead?

One of the foundational metrics used by almost all contact centres is Average Handle Time (AHT).

An explanation on the Average Handling Time metric 

So just what is AHT? According to our Contact Centre Glossary:

The total length of time from start of the conversation with the customer to the end of the customer contact (including the After Call Work). 

To calculate it: Add up the total talk time, total hold time and total wrap up time divided by the total number of calls.

While often used by contact centre planning and forecasting systems to determine appropriate staffing levels, in some contact centres it is used as an agent-level performance measurement. Some of the common symptoms of just using AHT as an agent performance metric are:

  • Cutting off calls as they approach the AHT target
  • Transferring difficult calls to another department
  • Rushing the caller off the phone
  • Having the agent focus more on the speed of service rather than the quality of service.

As more companies transform their services to enable self-service,  the resulting calls that come into a contact centre will be increasingly more complex in nature and with it, typically a longer AHT.

So what’s the solution?

So what can a contact centre manager do to rectify or prevent this type of situation?

The simplest solution to make sure the AHT metric is balanced with other metrics that are more qualitative in nature. Think First Contact Resolution (FCR), Customer Effort Score, Net Promoter Score (NPS) or an internal quality metric.

As all the research is pointing towards voice becoming more as an escalation point, there has never been a better time to review your agent performance metrics to ensure you are driving the right customer experience.

Recommended further reading:

Need some help measuring the right metrics in your contact centre? Find a list of contact centre specialist consultants in the free CX Directory >>> 

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About Justin Tippett 74 Articles

Justin is the founder of CX Central and one of the leading authorities on Contact Centres and Customer Experience in Australia.


As well as CX Central, Justin manages CX Skills, the leading source of specialist customer experience and contact centre courses in Asia Pacific. He was named as one of the Top 25 Global CX Influencers in 2019.


Justin also provides consulting services for call centres and CX through his CX Consult business including call centre health checks/audits.


He is also responsible for the memes on the Call Centre Legends page followed by over 30k people ?


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