By Chris Recio, Dir. Contact Center & Advanced Applications
Managing people and expectations is one of the most rewarding and simultaneously the most challenging aspects of the contact center. There are a lot of expectations, and by nature, many individuals are social creatures. And those that have a desire to help others often do really well in customer service centric roles. One of the reasons I find myself in my particular role is that I truly enjoy helping others with knowledge, education, and removing obstacles to success, in a career or personally. I also enjoy helping others understand that technology is a practical process – don’t let the bits and bytes fool you. A key part of what I enjoy is the user or agent experience. With that in mind, there are some good metrics focused on offering insight into the agent experience. These include Agent Availability and Agent Occupancy.
This metric is the percentage time the agent is logged in ready for calls, taking calls, and doing any after call work associated with taking those calls. It is often calculated as:
(Waiting for Calls Time + Talk Time + Wrap Time)/Login Time * 100.
I have seen some contact center operations remove Wrap Time from the Agent Availability calculation to prevent agents from “sitting” in a wrap state to log time. Keep in mind that there will be times that an agent will not be available for calls and this usually accounts of the amount of time they are at lunch, on break, or a number of other reasons.
Many contact centers look for a high rate of availability, which would seem appropriate. After all, agents are there to be available to assist customers. But ultimately, the answer is: whatever level gets you the service levels that you require while minimizing the potential for agent burnout. Finding a healthy balance is key, in my opinion.
If you have a Service Level requirement of 80/20, then you will probably have to have a higher availability percentage to meet that. If availability is low, then callers will be queuing and you won’t meet that target. Low availability may also point to opportunities for agent focus. It is always a good idea to explore where agents become distracted – and I use that term loosely here. Often other aspects of the agent’s job may not have been taken into account when addressing the full impact of agent availability.
Agent Availability is about agent focus, ensuring the agent is attentive and available for the task at hand while also adhering to Service Level goals. I believe it’s also important to regularly reassess what is being required of agents in satisfying customer inquiries.
Industry Guideline: 60 percent – 80 percent
This metric is one of my favorite metrics, as it directly relates to the human experience of the agent. This metric, often misunderstood, can give us insight into the agent experience and perhaps give us a heads up on agent morale, agent burnout, and ultimately agent attrition.
Agent Occupancy is the amount of time an agent spends handling customer facing calls and interactions during a given period of time – usually per hour. This also includes any work that is directly related to handling the customer call, such as: updating a record, sending a follow up email, etc.
If an agent spends 57 minutes out of 60 minutes handling customer calls and the associated work with that call, the agent is said to be at approximately 95 percent Occupancy.
The reality is this: the agent’s job is a difficult job. Handling communication from the customer – one after another, after another – is a demanding and often stressful job. Agents are often subjected to varying personalities and temperaments from customers that the agent is expected to handle. After all, it is their job.
However, it is a metric that I monitor closely. The work experience impacts the agent’s perception of his/her job. Everyone should enjoy where they work and the type of work they do on a daily basis. But, over inflated expectations for Agent Occupancy can turn to agent burnout in no time. Likewise, low Agent Occupancy can lead to agent boredom and could impact agent morale equally.
The most expensive resource in any contact center is the people that do the work, especially the agents. Agent job satisfaction reduces turnover and creates long-term efficiencies in the contact center. An agent that has been with your company for years can likely handle any customer facing communication promptly and efficiently. This quite possibly reduces wait times, call handle times, after call work, and overall customer satisfaction.
While the industry guideline is between 60 and 80 percent, it is important to consider other factors in arriving at a number that suits your industry. Certain industries have higher degrees of stress and should be considered thoughtfully.
Highly technical jobs require a different level of care and attention than other industries. Healthcare and Suicide Hotlines have a much different degree of emotional stress and severity which can dramatically change from call to call. All of this can lead to agent burnout and this is an important factor to consider. Acknowledging the need for downtime in such stressful environments might be something to consider in assessing how Agent Occupancy is applied in your contact center environment.
Ultimately, in my opinion, agents are our internal customers. How they feel and react to their environments typically presents itself to customers making contact with the contact center. Finding a healthy balance between expectation and the agent experience will help you manage agent attrition and can help you develop an ongoing strategy for maintaining those value and experience agents within your contact center.
Founded in 1997, Inflow is one of the nation’s top Unified Communications and Contact Center consultants in today’s market. Pioneers in cloud unified communications and cloud contact center success, Inflow is the first company to provide contact center consulting and training focused solely on helping you elevate your customer experience.
With over 200,000 endpoints supported under Inflow’s innovative success programs around the world, Inflow built its brand and reputation around providing unrivaled customer support. Inflow is in Mitel/ShoreTel’s top 2% in global customer satisfaction, and quickly acquiring a top spot with RingCentral, Genesys PureCloud and NICE inContact.
By partnering with Inflow, you can expect the highest level of strategic consultation, execution, and optimization available in the industry.