Along with other essential metrics used to monitor call center efficiency and performance, occupancy rate is vastly important. With the rise of virtual contact centers, leaders need to stay on top of customer interactions and understand the time agents spend resolving customer inquiries. This has become a bigger challenge with the digital transformation of many contact centers and how they manage remote agents.
Occupancy rate refers to the percentage of time that agents spend directly dealing with customers. Call-related activity includes hold, talk-time and after-call work (ACW), but it can also include time spent on emails, chats and other non-voice channels.
Modern contact centers aim to have an occupancy rate between 85% and 95%, but this is highly dependent on the call center’s management style and what is expected of the agents and callers. Let’s examine why calculating occupancy rate in contact centers is an essential metric to consider not only for budgetary reasons but also for the health and wellness of your employees.
Understanding occupancy is essential for managers to evaluate and improve. Leaders can see how busy their agents are, what staffing requirements they have throughout the day and how effective the service they provide is. An occupancy rate of 85% in the contact center means that agents were working with customers for 85% of the time they were scheduled to work with customers. That means the agents have the remaining 15% to regroup between contacts, prep and support their team as needed.
To calculate occupancy, first, quantify the total time each of your agents spend with “call-related activities.” Then, divide the time your advisors spend on call-related activities by their scheduled time to talk with customers.
An occupancy rate that is too low could be due to an overstaffing issues, low volume of calls or poor management. More importantly, it results in financial waste. Conversely, an occupancy rate that’s over 95% means agents have no time in between calls, which can negatively affect their mental health long term. Overworked and stressed agents may see dips in evaluations, be less empathetic with customers or leave the industry if these issues are not addressed.
In major contact centers, it’s essential to factor in the maximum occupancy to ensure facilities are not understaffed. From an efficiency perspective, higher occupancy rates are better because they mean agents are using all their available time to help customers. That being said, an occupancy rate that surpasses 90% can have negative impacts throughout a contact center. That’s because an occupancy rate of 90% or higher means agents have little to no time between calls.
High volume calls with little breaks in between lead to agent burnout, In fact, agent attrition is at an all-time high in contact centers, with one in three agents considering leaving the profession completely. As call centers continue to grow, it’s even more important to monitor the occupancy rate so that it doesn’t surpass 90%.
The occupancy rate helps decision-makers set and maintain the appropriate staff levels throughout the day so the occupancy rate isn’t too low or too high. Below, explore some helpful ways that contact centers can maintain a good occupancy rate:
Although hiring more people seems like the easy answer to decreasing occupancy, that’s easier said than done. If your call center’s occupancy rate is too high, you can suggest that managers hire more live agents to offer relief to overworked employees. A great way to improve a low occupancy rate is by reducing staffing levels at certain times to match the volume of phone calls with the right number of live agents.
Since retaining top talent has been a struggle for many cloud-based contact centers with growing pressures placed on agents, managers must find ways to inspire and engage agents. Engaged agents tend to be more efficient, which can help keep occupancy at manageable levels.
You can help manage occupancy levels by implementing more self-service options or an AI Bot that can handle simple contacts. By doing so, you can reduce the number of contacts being offered to associates and, in turn, provide your contact center agents with a more manageable workflow that allows them to catch a breath in between customer conversations.
Using automated quality management or analytic tools can help identify opportunities to reduce occupancy through self-service. Look for contacts that have low complexity, a high handle time, or communications challenges. This methodical approach will yield impressive results in occupancy rates for your contact center.
Call volume fluctuates throughout the day, and it’s up to call center managers to track peak hours and quieter periods. By monitoring the call volume ebb and flow, managers can decide on appropriate staffing levels for busier or slower periods.
If occupancy is too high during peak hours, more agents can be scheduled in the future to balance out those numbers. On the other hand, if occupancy is low, you can offer associates to leave early or work on off-phone projects to naturally bring up your occupancy rate. Always be mindful of your forecast for the next few hours when doing so to ensure you aren’t jeopardizing your efforts to maintain a solid occupancy rate.
While looking at ways to improve the management of your call center occupancy rates, it’s essential to discuss harmful policies and mindsets to avoid. See some examples of practices that call center leaders should avoid when trying to improve occupancy:
Improving communication channels between managers and agents can help address areas for performance coaching opportunities. The goal of capturing occupancy rate should be to improve customer engagement and minimize costs across the enterprise. It’s important to note that managers gauge the occupancy rate of contact centers, not individual agents. This metric shouldn’t be used against the agent, but rather, create an opportunity for growth.
Remember: Improved performance coaching can lead to more efficient calls and healthier occupancy rates. That’s because agents without adequate training could unintentionally cause more customers to abandon their call or call back. This could lead to a higher call volume, and, therefore, a higher occupancy rate. Performance coaching opens the door for greater skill development among agents to continually improve their abilities.
While occupancy rate can help measure overall agent productivity, it shouldn’t be the only metric used. Average handle time is another great KPI used to evaluate agents because it helps managers pinpoint areas for improvement to boost overall agent performance and customer satisfaction. Along with calculating occupancy rate and the average handle time, there are many different types of quality management-related KPIs that contact centers use to gauge agent performance and focus on customer satisfaction, including:
Managing efficiency in call centers is truly a delicate balance of monitoring these KPIs through contact center software to ensure they are providing optimal quality management.
A contact center is a complex and dynamic environment where one metric can influence a slew of other ones. The occupancy rate is the perfect example. Effectively managing occupancy over an extended period can reduce stress among your agents which leads to lower attrition and turnover. This ensures added savings on recruiting and training while also improving the customer experience.
It is of the utmost importance that contact center leaders know how to quantify and manage occupancy rates to help prevent agent burnout and budgetary discretions. Remember that when this metric is used in tandem with other KPIs, you can find greater employee engagement and customer satisfaction.
To hear more about industry best practices from contact center experts, check out the Calabrio Podcast’s page to learn more.