Contact Center Trends

3 ways to optimize your contact center average talk time

Filipa Silva

By Filipa Silva

0 min read

Optimize Your Average Talk Time

Average talk time allows you to dig deeper into your contact center’s interactions and customer experience.

Average talk time (ATT) has a very straightforward meaning: the amount of time an agent spends talking with customers. It must not be confused with average handle time (AHT), which corresponds to the total time spent by an agent completing a call (including talk time, hold, and wrap-up time).

AHT and ATT serve different purposes. While the first comprises the whole interaction, the ATT only considers the time spent talking to the customer. Being part of AHT, ATT gives you important information on the customer experience.

Overall, ATT alone doesn’t say much when analyzed alone. It’s the ATT percentage, as part of AHT, that you should focus on—ideally, most of AHT should be spent talking, not on caller waiting or administrative work.

Average Talk Time

What does average talk time mean for your contact center?

Having a higher or lower ATT is not necessarily a good or a bad thing. You may want to scrutinize this metric regarding its impacts on AHT and customer-facing metrics, such as customer satisfaction (CSAT), net promoter score (NPS), or customer effort score (CES).

But if you look at ATT taking into account the AHT, you can get some relevant insights on what measures you need to take.

How Low Average Handle Time

High AHT and low ATT, for example, could indicate inadequate staff training or inadequate call routing, meaning that the customers are often transferred more than once before having their queries resolved.

Low AHT and low ATT could indicate that calls are being handled incorrectly due to cost-driven pressures, that staff is undertrained, and that the systems are slow and after-call procedures are too complex.

On the other hand, high AHT and low ATT could mean that your agents are effectively trained on CX and call control, but the systems are limited, and the call routing is not effective.

Optimize your contact center average talk time in three steps.

Decreasing AHT reduces contact centers’ cost per contact, allowing you to handle more calls with the same number of agents. The dilemma is balancing productivity and efficiency while ensuring agents remain focused on providing quality over speed when serving clients.

If you already put in place initiatives to drive AHT and call wrap time reduction, but you still need to further drive down AHT, then decreasing ATT should be the last resort. That being said, balancing ATT and CX is quite challenging, but there are three steps you can take without hurting your customer experience.

Step 1: Drive training improvement insights by listening to calls.

By analyzing all conversations and comparing which ones have higher talk times and the most frequent issues that arise, you can drive essential insights to improve ATT.

An AI-powered speech analytics tool will help you showcase what customers are saying on every call, focusing on identifying conversation time that doesn’t add value and insights into potential customer journey pain points. With these findings, you will be able to adequately guide agents through interactions and identify gaps in agents’ expertise, allowing you to better tailor training, coaching, and best practices.

Step 2: Leverage faster responses with intelligent call routing.

Another way to improve ATT is to shift from the traditional queue to a skill-based or historical-based routing approach. Instead of delivering a call to the agent available at the moment that may not be suitable to resolve a specific issue, a skill-based routing will ensure the call is delivered to the best-skilled available agent. If it’s a repeated call, historical-based routing will guarantee the same agent answers the caller, providing a better experience for the customer.

Both options promote a reduction in ATT by diminishing the need for transfers while improving first call resolution (FCR) and effectively reducing time spent on exploratory questions when delivered to an agent who had already contacted the customer.

Step 3: Simplify agent effort with agent assistance technology.

Agents will be as fast as their knowledge allows them to. When not proficient in product features or specific issues, they rely on knowledge bases to guide their answers. However, all this information is frequently scattered on different platforms and not correctly adapted for in-call research.

An AI-powered agent assistant presents important customer information as soon as an agent picks up the call, making it easier to access systems and information, removing the need to lookup data in multiple systems. It can also identify interaction warning signs and suggest escalation to protect both the customer and the agent experience.

Not only will you lower the ATT by eliminating search and browsing tasks, but you will also improve CX scores with more accurate and timely resolutions.

Focus How Low Average Handle Time

Benchmark average talk time and other contact center metrics.

ATT is an interesting metric to look at if you’re trying to identify CX gaps in your contact center. However, as with any other metric, the goal shouldn’t be having the highest or the lowest ATT but rather understanding what it means to the customer experience.

It also might be helpful to compare your AHT and ATT against the competitors. 2021 Talkdesk global contact center KPI benchmarking report gathers the call data of more than 2,200 Talkdesk customers in different locations and industries, from SMBs to enterprise organizations. It allows you to see where you stand against your peers and compare key metrics to recognize trends, fix pitfalls, and uncover opportunities to improve customer experience.

Hero Benchmark Split 2021


2021 Talkdesk global contact center KPI benchmarking report


Filipa Silva

Filipa Silva

Filipa is product marketing manager at Talkdesk. Before joining Talkdesk, she developed go-to-market strategies and product positioning in the B2B telecommunications industry, focusing on analytics and data monetization. Inspired by the power of cloud technology, her passion is to connect business problems with powerful solutions that positively impact customer experiences.


How do you calculate average talk time?

To calculate average talk time, use the following formula: Average talk time = Total handling time – Total hold time – Total Wwrap-up time / Number of calls handled
The total duration of all calls sums up the duration of each call handled by agents. This includes the time spent by agents talking to callers, excluding hold times, transfers, and after-call work.

The number of calls answered counts all calls that have been handled by agents within the specified time frame.

Once you have these figures, divide the total duration of all calls by the number of calls answered to get the average talk time. This metric helps in understanding the average duration agents spend actively engaged in conversations with callers, providing insights into contact center productivity and efficiency in handling customer interactions.

What is the average customer service talk time?

The average customer service talk time typically ranges between 3 to 6 minutes per call. However, talk time can vary significantly based on the industry, the type of queries handled, the complexity of issues, and the nature of customer interactions. For some industries or specific types of calls, like technical support or more complex inquiries, the average talk time might be longer due to the detailed nature of discussions needed to resolve issues. Simpler inquiries or routine customer service calls may have shorter average talk times.

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

Average talk time is the duration agents spend actively engaging in conversation with customers, encompassing the time devoted to addressing queries and providing assistance. Average handle time accounts for the entirety of a call’s duration, starting from when it’s answered by an agent to when it’s concluded. AHT includes not only the talk time but also other elements such as hold time, after-call work, and any additional tasks or processes associated with managing the call from its initiation to completion.