Talk time

What is talk time?   

Talk time is a call center metric that represents the total amount of time an agent spends on a call interacting with a customer. Therefore, it is most useful when measured and presented as an average number.

Unfortunatelyaverage talk time (also known as ATT) is often neglected by call center managers. As a result, other popular key call center metrics and KPIs, such as average handle time (AHT) or abandonment rate, are prioritized more often. 

However, even though ATT doesn’t provide the entire picture of an interaction, as does the AHT, it does show the actual time agents spend conversing with customers on the phone. Thus, along with other crucial metrics and KPIs, it can give call center managers a more holistic view of agent’s efficiency and performance. In return, it provides them with an opportunity to offer guidance to employees that require it. Therefore, it’s still a valuable call center metric that contributes to the overall positive customer experience. 

In addition to utilizing the customer service tools, managing single or multiple knowledge bases, the call center agent’s skillset should contain — active listening, call control, the ability to craft clear explanations, handle complaints, and customer issues. All of that drives accurate handle times data and improves the overall call handling process. 

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Consistently reviewing talk time and keeping an eye on average talk time trends helps call centers meet service level goals, achieve high levels of customer satisfaction, and maintain the efficiency of the call center staffing operatives. 

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How do you measure the average talk time?

Average talk time is the average number of minutes/ seconds an agent is engaged on the phone with each customer. It is basically the time agents spend talking to customers.

To measure the average talk time in a call center, you need to calculate the sum of talk time of all calls and divide it by the total number of completed calls. The formula will look like following:

                                       (Talk time of call A + Talk time of call B + … + Talk time of call X)

Average talk time =     ———————————————————————————-

                                                           Total number of handled calls

This number should not include average hold time — time a customer spends in the IVR menu before being connected to an agent, call transfers, and any after-call work (call wrap-up time). In addition, inbound calls that were resolved within the IVR system should also be excluded from this calculation.

A high value for this metric may indicate that agents have issues with average call time and call handling and may need additional system training. Typically, when call handling times are higher than the target KPI, call center managers may attribute it to higher hold times or call wrap-up times. However, by looking at just the amount of time an agent spends in an actual conversation with a customer, call center managers may identify agents who require more call control training. 

Overall, talk time is a metric that should not be looked at in isolation. To ensure effective call center productivityperformance, and adequate customer service levels, call center managers should consider a full range of call center metrics and KPIs.

What is the difference between average talk time and average handle time?

Average talk time is in many cases mixed with average handle time. Therefore, understanding the difference between the two metrics is essential. Both average talk time (ATT) and average handle time (AHT) are used to measure the amount of time a call center rep commits to an interaction with a customer. However, they differ in the formula for calculating each metric and the final result. 

While average talk time is simply the time an agent spends talking to a customer, average handling time takes into account everything from when a customer initiates a call to when a call ends. That can include hold times, call transfers, and call wrap-up work needed to resolve a customer’s issue and closing the case. Therefore, call center talk time is only a part of the average handle time formula.

                                              Total talk time + total hold time + total call wrap up time)

Average handle time =     ——————————————————————————

                                                           Total number of handled calls

It has been estimated that the industry standard for the average handle time is a little over 6 minutes, though that number can significantly vary based on the sector of business. Since average handle time is a common customer experience metric, many call centers aim to reduce AHT to improve customer experience and maximize call center’s efficiency. But lowering AHT is not always a good thing as it can have a negative impact on service quality.

However, call centers can apply proactive customer service strategies and workforce optimization to help reduce average handle time without compromising the level of service.

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Frequently asked questions

What is talk time?

Talk time is one of the critical call center metrics used to measure call center agents' efficiency and overall performance. It shows the total amount of time an agent spends on a call with a customer resolving their issue and is typically presented as an average number. Therefore, reviewing talk time trends helps call center managers keep tabs on call handling efficiency and customer experience.

How do you measure the average talk time?

Call center average talk time is measured as the sum of talk time of all calls divided by the total number of answered calls. When calculating the average talk time, make sure to exclude hold time, call transfers, post-call processing, and time a customer spends navigating the IVR menu before actually speaking to a call center agent.

What is the difference between average talk time and average handle time?

Average talk time (ATT) and average handle time (AHT) are both related to measuring the time call center agents spend interacting with customers on customer service calls. However, average handle time is a broader metric. The average talk time is only a component of the average handle time metric. In addition, to talk time, it also includes call transfers, hold time, and any required post-call processing activity (post-call work).

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