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How to Reduce Call Center Average Handling Time

Insurance call centers are often the first line of defense in answering a customer query. 

Whether it’s earned or not, customers may judge your insurance company based on their interactions with your call center. The best way to improve this part of the customer journey is by reducing your agents' average handling time (AHT). In this article, we'll discuss the importance of your agents' AHT and how reducing it can improve the customer experience. 

The State of Insurance Call Centers

Insurance consumers have come to expect a quicker and more digital customer experience. Claims call centers are feeling this demand more than any other part of the industry. Some believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to this shift. Studies have shown that the average time in queue went down from 79 seconds in 2019 to 37 seconds in 2020

That means that people have become more impatient. Once consumers experienced quicker wait times, they didn't want to go back. Insurtechs are becoming increasingly common, and the line between those start-ups and traditional insurance companies is becoming blurred. Customers expect the same speed that new, technology-focused Insurtech startups can offer. 

If your team can't keep up with that demand, you may lose customers to the competition. 

A 2019 study showed that life insurance consumers who experience high support satisfaction with their insurance companies are more likely to remain loyal customers and recommend those companies to friends and family. The same statistic likely applies to any sector of the insurance industry, meaning that fast customer service is more important than ever. 

Why Does Average Handle Time Matter? 


Source: Nextiva

AHT is perhaps one of the most crucial call center metrics, as it measures the amount of time a customer call takes from start to finish. This includes the entire journey — everything from automated greetings, call routing, to hold time. This metric shows how effective your agents are and how cost-efficient your call center is as a whole.

In order to calculate average handle time, add up the talk time (amount of time agents spend on a customer call), hold time (amount of time the customer spends on hold), and wrap-up time (the post-call work an agent does to wrap up a call). Divide this total by the number of calls a customer service representative handles in their given shift. This total number will give you that agent's individual AHT.

Lowering your agents' AHT across the board will offer a number of benefits to your call center. Not only does it improve the insurance customer experience, but it will reduce the cost of operating your call center. While you can't control how many calls your agents receive on a daily basis, there are a number of tactics you can take to help agents handle their calls more efficiently. 

Six Tips for Reducing Your Agents' Average Handle Time

The more calls your agents can take, the more profitable your call center can become. But your agents need to be moving through each call quickly and efficiently to make the most out of it. Here are six tips for reducing the average handle time for each call. 

Choose the Right Software

Call center technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Insurance call centers receive a large volume of questions from customers looking for quick answers about their policies or receiving payments. You need technology that can keep up with those demands because using the wrong software will only slow your agents down. Consider solutions that offer features such as omnichannel communication, intelligent routing, and the option for agents to see all customer interaction records. 

Improve Agent Training

Without proper training, agent performance will suffer. Develop a fully fleshed-out training program for all agents to go through before they start taking calls. This will help to reduce transfers, which will lower AHT and improve the overall customer experience. Here are a few points to emphasize during agent onboarding:

  • Familiarize your insurance operations team with internal or insurance industry webinars and relevant blog posts
  • Offer recommended call-handling techniques, such as quick greetings and close-ended questions
  • Review scenarios that result in the most lengthy and complicated calls
  • Allow agents to collaborate with one another 

Build Out Your Knowledge Base

Your call center agents are trained in customer support and likely do not have an insurance background — that means they need thorough documentation at their disposal to best assist your insureds. The best way to do that is by building out and organizing your knowledge base. 

Take the time to conduct an internal content audit in order to best assess the state of your internal documents. Gather all existing content and remove the inaccurate or outdated pieces — you’d be surprised how much you’ll be able to trim down your content library. Then, identify the gaps in your content and create pieces that will fill that need. 

Create Scripts for Your Agents

Call scripts can guide agents through commonly asked questions. Look into your knowledge base to see what the most commonly searched queries are. Compile that into an FAQ for agents to have at their disposal. These documents can be turned into scripts so agents can quickly answer questions related to policy coverage.

Keep All Lines of Communication and Collaboration Open

Each department within an insurance company operates with its own documents and processes. But when those aren't widely available to the rest of the organization, that can unintentionally create data silos

Make sure your call center agents have access to any documents from policy guidelines to underwriting manuals that will help them answer common customer questions. You should also consider implementing an internal messaging platform so your agents can reach out to colleagues in different departments for easier collaboration. 

Record Your Calls

Real-life customer interactions are great training tools for new agents and those that need to review best practices. Keep a playlist of your most successful calls and make them available to all agents. Not only will this enable you to keep tabs on calls overall, but this will help agents get up to speed and learn industry and internal language and acronyms.  

Take the first step in reducing your AHT with a knowledge management system built for the insurance industry. Contact us today to learn more.