When working on a customer case, the agent is either talking to the customer, gathering more information while they are on hold, or writing their post-call notes.
Each of these elements combines to make up handling time.
If agents spend most of their handling time talking to the customer, that is a promising sign, as it shows that they are not struggling to find information or getting bogged down in post-call processes.
Nevertheless, contact centers often want to minimize their average talk times (ATTs), as it represents a cost, and – typically – customers want their problems dealt with as quickly as possible.
As such, operations often consider ways of lowering talk time without pressurizing agents to get through the call quicker. After all, that is not conducive of good customer service.
Let’s consider how contact centers can do that after assessing the talk time metric in closer detail.
Average Talk Time Definition and Formula
Average talk time is the average time an agent spends engaging with a customer, leaving out time when the customer is on hold and post-call activities.
Here is the formula for calculating ATT:
Average talk time (ATT) = Average Handling Time (AHT) – Average Hold Time – Average Wrap Time
An alternative equation that may prove helpful – depending on the data available – is:
Average talk time (ATT) = Total Talk Time ÷ No. of Interactions
Contact centers can typically find the data for both equations available within their ACD systems.
Keep in mind that ATT is calculated in minutes or seconds, never as a percentage value.
What Is the Average Talk Time Nowadays?
The latest research into ATT comes from Talkdesk. It demonstrates an upward trend across most industries, with customer conversations getting longer.
Perhaps this is little of a surprise with self-service and conversational AI tools automating more of the simple, transactional contact center interactions.
Indeed, in 2019, the average talk time across industries for inbound contact centers was 191 seconds or 3.18 minutes. The figure climbed to 228 seconds or nearly 4 minutes in 2020.
Here are several other ATT statistics that paint a picture across various sectors:
- ATT for healthcare & life sciences is the lowest among the pack at 149 seconds. This industry also has the lowest service level at 78.63 percent.
- Consumer services, manufacturing, and consumer goods (online and offline) also have relatively low ATT at 183, 182, and 186 seconds respectively. This could be due to more transactional demand.
- Travel & Hospitality has among the highest ATTs as well as the second-highest service level. The average customer conversation lasts for 227 seconds in this industry
- Information technology (IT) has struck a good balance with its ATT – at 209 seconds – having achieved the highest service level across industries of 85.29 percent.
- Financial services registered an ATT of 208 seconds, while miscellaneous sectors saw conversations last for 221 seconds on average.
While these statistics offer some cross-sector insight, don’t consider them an indicator of how much time an agent should be spending on each call. After all, every business has a varying degree of agent-support tooling, conversation automation, and service proposition.
As such, internal benchmarks over time over much more insight.
What About Outbound Operations?
Expectedly, outbound contact centers aim for a relatively higher call duration as it gives them the opportunity to engage with the customer, persuade, convince, and convert them.
Indeed, the average cross-industry ATT for sales calls is 5.97 minutes or 358.2 seconds. Nevertheless, such a figure will vary considerably, depending on how qualified the leads are.
5 Ideas to Lower Average Talk Time
To finish up, here are five quick-fire ideas to lower ATT that do not impede agent experience or first contact resolution (FCR) rates.
- Review the knowledge base regularly – possibly by putting sell-by dates on knowledge articles – to ensure that agents have access to the best possible support materials.
- Implement agent-assist tools to proactively surface relevant knowledge articles and customer data in real-time.
- Deploy bots to capture customer information in the IVR so the agent doesn’t have to do it during the conversation.
- Coach agents call handling techniques, such as signposting, which allow them to dictate the flow of the conversation.
- Develop a quality initiative where analysts spot time that doesn’t add value to the call and coach that out.
In heeding this advice businesses may also lower AHT, as ATT is an inherent part of the metric. The result is lower costs and – with these tactics – typically happier agents.
Learn more about how to lower AHT by reading our article: Reduce Average Handling Time with These Ten Tips