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I once sat down with a call centre director to explain to her that the problem with service levels in her centre were largely down to the AHTs; there were rather too many outbound calls for an inbound function and the wrap-up time was excessive.

With a pitying frown, she explained to me in very simple terms that I had misunderstood the dynamic of her centre:  “You see,” she explained, “some of our calls might only last a minute or two and are dealt with very easily.  Other calls are much more complex and can easily take up to twelve or fifteen minutes each:  There is no such thing as an average call.

I remembered hearing that from an inexperienced supervisor a few years before, but to hear it from a call centre director was incredible.  There might not be an average call, but there most certainly are manageable elements that make up AHT.

Interestingly, she didn’t last long in the job.

AHT is as much an influencing factor on headcount modelling as call volume, and yet it is generally less understood and receives little or no attention in many call centres – but why?  One reason is because it doesn’t move as much as other measures; another is because it’s often harder to define drivers to enable any sensible kind of forecast or analysis to be made.  Over the next few pages we’ll investigate some of the things we can do better to understand and use AHTs.