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TASKE Technology's Call Center Blog

Last month, we talked about ways to keep agents engaged during the holiday season. When call volumes peak, it’s important that agents continue to excel at customer satisfaction to gain new customers and retain existing ones through excellent customer service.

When looking at your agents’ ability to perform well when call volumes peak, it’s also important to monitor how busy they are on an ongoing basis. If agents are too busy most of the time, you may start to have problems with agent frustration and burnout. These conditions can mean that agents no longer handle calls as well as expected. As well, your turnover rate may increase at a time when you least need it.

In anticipation of expected higher call volumes, you may increase the number of agents scheduled for shifts. However, if you overstaff queues, or if call volumes aren’t as high as expected, you may find that agents aren’t busy enough. Although your agents have time to take necessary breaks and spend an appropriate amount of time with callers, you’ll have unnecessarily increased your labor costs, which typically already represent 80% of your call center expenses.

Measure Occupancy

A good way to determine how busy your agents are is to look at the occupancy statistic (sometimes referred to as utilization). This statistic identifies the percentage of time during a defined period (such as a shift) that an agent spent performing work-related duties while logged into a queue.

Occupancy = Work time
Shift time

Typically, work-related duties include time spent on ACD calls, recording notes after a call, performing research into callers’ issues, training, and so on. Excluded from this time are non-working activities while agents are logged into the queue, including when they’re idle waiting for calls or unavailable because their phones are on Do Not Disturb.

The higher the occupancy rate, the busier your agents are. For example, if three agents working a shift spend a sum of eighteen hours on work-related duties during an eight-hour shift, the occupancy rate is 75%. At this rate, 25% of the agents’ shift time is spent on non-working activities.

While the occupancy rate you want to achieve depends on your service level agreements, internal procedures, and other factors, an industry-standard rate is between 80-85%.

A Note about Economies of Scale

The size of your call center may somewhat determine the degree to which you can control occupancy.

Smaller call centers may need a minimum number of agents per queue, meaning that when call volumes drop, agents will have more non-working time. For example, a queue with low call volumes may only require one agent each shift. Given that you can’t control call volumes, there’s little that you can do to increase the occupancy rate in this case.

The Call Center School discusses economies of scale in “Understanding Agent Occupancy”, as follows:

Centers handling larger volumes of calls will naturally be more efficient than smaller ones…[W]ith a higher volume of calls, there’s a greater likelihood that when an agent is finished with a call, there’s another one coming in right behind it for that person to handle. With a bigger volume, each person has the opportunity to process more calls each hour. Each person spends less time in available state waiting on a call to arrive—in other words, they’re busier or more occupied with call workload.

The holidays can be a challenging time to manage call volumes and provide the level of customer satisfaction that your customers have come to expect. By monitoring your occupancy rate through this busy time of year, you’ll have a better sense of when your agents are at the “right” level of  busy, helping you decide when you need to adjust schedules to balance call volumes and labor costs.

Happy holidays, and we’ll see you next month.

Tags: agent activity, agent productivity, call volume, customer satisfaction, customers, forecasting, motivation, occupancy, operating costs, work time.

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