Call center KPIs

Average Wait Time

According to a survey, 44% of customers are unsatisfied with 5-15 minutes of wait time. Additionally, 56% of them said that long wait times are the most frustrating forms of poor customer service.

To avoid leaving a negative impression on your (potential) customers, it’s recommended to track your contact center’s Average Wait Time and introduce a few changes to shorten it. Read on to learn more about this KPI, its importance in your business and a few tips to improve it.

Average Wait Time definition

Average Wait Time a contact center refers to the typical amount of time a customer spends waiting in a queue before their call or inquiry is answered by a customer service agent. Average Wait Time is a key metric used to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of a contact center’s operations, as well as the level of service provided to customers.

AWT formula

The formula for calculating Average Wait Time is:

AWT = Total Wait Time    
Number of Calls


  • Total Wait Time is the sum of the wait times for all callers in the queue.
  • Number of Calls Handled is the total number of callers in the queue.

This formula gives you the average amount of time customers are waiting in the queue before their calls are answered by a customer service representative.

Industry benchmarks for AWT

Industry benchmarks for Average Wait Time can vary depending on factors such as the type of contact center, the nature of the business, and customer expectations. However, here are some general benchmarks for Average Wait Time in different types of contact centers:

  • Inbound call centers typically aim for an Average Wait Time of around 30 seconds to 2 minutes. This ensures that customers are attended to promptly and their issues are addressed in a timely manner.
  • Customer support hotlines often target an Average Wait Time of less than 1 minute. Quick resolution of customer issues is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Technical support centers may have slightly longer Average Wait Times, ranging from 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the complexity of the technical issues being addressed.
  • For sales and order support centers, the Average Wait Time is often kept relatively short, typically around 1 to 3 minutes. Prompt response times are important to capitalize on sales opportunities and prevent customers from abandoning their purchases.
  • In emergency response centers such as those handling medical or roadside assistance calls, the benchmark for Average Wait Time is extremely low, often aiming for immediate or near-immediate response.

These benchmarks are not fixed standards and can vary based on industry norms, company policies, and customer expectations. It’s important for contact centers to continually monitor and optimize their Average Wait Times to meet or exceed industry benchmarks and provide exceptional service to customers.

The importance of measuring AWT

Measuring Average Wait Time in a contact center is important for several reasons.

Customer satisfaction

Long wait times can lead to frustration and dissatisfaction among customers. By measuring Average Wait Time, contact centers can identify areas for improvement and work towards reducing wait times to enhance customer satisfaction.

Service Level Agreement (SLA) compliance

Many contact centers have SLAs in place that define the acceptable level of service, including response times. Measuring Average Wait Time allows contact centers to track their performance against these SLAs and ensure compliance.

Resource allocation

Understanding Average Wait Times helps contact center managers allocate resources more effectively. They can adjust staffing levels and schedules to match call volumes and peak periods, ensuring that there are enough agents available to handle incoming calls without excessive wait times.

Operational efficiency

By monitoring Average Wait Time, contact centers can identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies in their processes. This allows them to implement improvements and streamline operations to reduce wait times and increase productivity.

Cost management

Long wait times can result in increased costs for contact centers due to higher call abandonment rates and the need for additional staffing to handle peak periods. Measuring and reducing Average Wait Time can help control costs by improving call handling efficiency and reducing the need for extra resources.

Overall, measuring AWT is essential for delivering a positive customer experience, ensuring operational efficiency, and achieving organizational goals in a contact center environment.

Improving Average Wait Time – Example scenario

Using AWT

Let’s consider a customer support hotline for an e-commerce company.

Before implementing any changes, the contact center’s Average Wait Time is calculated to be 3 minutes using the formula:

  • Total Wait Time: 300 minutes.
  • Total Number of Calls: 100 calls.
  • Now, let’s add these values into the AWT formula:

    AWT = 300 minutes    
    100 calls

    AWT = 3 minutes.    

    The company’s management realizes that a 3-minute Average Wait Time is higher than desired and could potentially lead to customer dissatisfaction and increased call abandonment rates.

    They decide to hire additional customer service representatives to handle the incoming call volume more efficiently. They add 3 more agents to the team, increasing the total number of agents from 10 to 13.

    They also implement a more sophisticated call routing system that directs calls to the most appropriate agent based on the nature of the inquiry. This reduces the time spent transferring calls between agents and ensures that customers are connected to the right representative more quickly.

    Management provides additional training and coaching to the existing agents to improve their efficiency and effectiveness in handling customer inquiries. This includes techniques for reducing call handling times without sacrificing quality.

    After implementing these changes and allowing some time for adjustment, the contact center measures the Average Wait Time again and finds that it has decreased to 1.5 minutes. This led to improved customer satisfaction, lower call abandonment rates, and increased efficiency in the contact center’s operations.

    Should Average Wait Time be a high-priority KPI for you?

    While average wait time is an important metric for most contact centers, its significance can vary depending on the nature of the contact center’s operations, industry norms, and customer expectations. Here’s a breakdown of contact centers where low wait times should be a priority, and others where it may not be as critical:

    Contact centers that should focus on low wait times

    • Contact centers that primarily handle customer support inquiries, such as product troubleshooting, billing issues, or account assistance, should prioritize low wait times. Customers often seek immediate resolution to their problems, and long wait times can lead to frustration and dissatisfaction.
    • Emergency response centers, including those for medical assistance, roadside assistance, or crisis hotlines, require rapid response times to address urgent situations. In these cases, even a few minutes of wait time can have serious consequences, making low wait times critical.
    • Contact centers that handle sales inquiries or order support should focus on low wait times to capitalize on sales opportunities and prevent customers from abandoning their purchases due to long wait times. Prompt assistance can help convert inquiries into sales and enhance customer satisfaction.

    Contact centers that don’t need to prioritize low wait times as much

    • Contact centers that provide technical support for complex products or services may not need to prioritize extremely low wait times. Customers may understand that resolving technical issues may take time, and they may be willing to wait longer for thorough assistance.
    • Some contact centers offer consultative support, such as financial advisory services or legal assistance, where callers may expect and value in-depth consultations over quick resolutions. In such cases, the focus may be more on providing comprehensive assistance rather than minimizing wait times.
    • Contact centers that handle specialized inquiries with low call volumes may have more flexibility in managing wait times. With fewer callers in the queue, longer wait times may be more manageable, and the focus may shift to providing personalized and high-quality support.

    Overall, the priority placed on low wait times will vary depending on the nature of the inquiries, customer expectations, and the urgency of the situations being addressed by the contact center.

    Reasons for high Average Talk Time

    High call volume:

    A sudden influx of calls or peak periods can overwhelm the contact center’s capacity, leading to longer wait times as callers queue up for assistance.


    Insufficient staffing levels, especially during busy periods, can result in longer wait times as there are not enough agents available to handle the incoming call volume.

    Inefficient call routing:

    Poorly designed call routing systems or inadequate training for agents on how to route calls effectively can lead to delays in connecting callers to the appropriate representative.

    Complex issues:

    Calls that require more time to resolve due to the complexity of the issue or the need for multiple levels of support can contribute to longer wait times for other callers in the queue.

    Technical issues:

    Technical problems such as system outages, slow response times from software applications, or equipment failures can hinder agents’ ability to handle calls efficiently, leading to longer wait times for callers.

    Lengthy call handling times:

    Agents taking longer than necessary to resolve customer inquiries or not being adequately trained to handle calls efficiently can prolong wait times for other callers.

    Poor forecasting and planning:

    Inaccurate forecasting of call volumes or inadequate planning for staffing and resource allocation can result in longer wait times during peak periods.

    Call abandonment:

    As wait times increase, some callers may choose to abandon their calls rather than wait for assistance, which can further exacerbate the problem by increasing call volume and prolonging wait times for other callers.

    Addressing these factors through improved staffing, better call routing systems, efficient training programs, and proactive planning can help reduce wait times and improve the overall customer experience in contact centers.

    What to measure along with Average Wait Time

    Here are some important KPIs to consider measuring along AWT for maximum efficiency:

    • First Call Resolution (FCR): FCR measures the percentage of customer inquiries or issues that are resolved during the first interaction with a customer service representative, without the need for follow-up calls or escalation. A high FCR indicates efficient and effective resolution of customer problems, reducing the need for customers to wait in the queue multiple times for the same issue.
    • Service Level Agreement (SLA) Compliance: SLA compliance tracks the percentage of calls that are answered within a predefined target time frame, typically measured in seconds or minutes. Meeting or exceeding SLAs ensures that customers receive timely assistance and helps maintain customer satisfaction levels.
    • Average Handle Time (AHT): AHT measures the average amount of time it takes for a customer service representative to handle a call, including both talk time and after-call work (such as documenting the interaction or follow-up tasks). Monitoring AHT helps identify opportunities to streamline call handling processes and improve overall efficiency.
    • Occupancy Rate: Occupancy rate measures the percentage of time that agents spend actively engaged in handling customer interactions, including talking to customers, processing transactions, and completing after-call work. Maintaining an optimal occupancy rate ensures that agents are utilized efficiently without being overburdened, which can lead to burnout and decreased productivity.
    • Call Abandonment Rate: Call abandonment rate tracks the percentage of callers who hang up or abandon their calls while waiting in the queue for assistance. A high abandonment rate can indicate long wait times or dissatisfaction with the level of service provided, highlighting areas for improvement in queue management and staffing levels.
    • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Score: CSAT measures the level of satisfaction among customers who have interacted with the contact center, typically obtained through post-interaction surveys or feedback channels. Monitoring CSAT scores provides valuable insights into the quality of service provided and helps identify areas for improvement to enhance customer satisfaction.

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