If you had to make a list of some of the most valuable assets that any business has, its relationship with its customers would undoubtedly be right at the top.
Those customers are what allow an organization to continue to grow and become more successful. The quality of the experience they’re able to offer is what turns individual buyers into loyal brand advocates. But those customers will often have questions and concerns that the company itself might not have the resources to address.
That’s where a call center comes into play.
Call center agents play a variety of critical roles including in terms of keeping customers informed, addressing their concerns and generally offering a much-needed level of support to the organizations they represent. In terms of the metrics that show just what an impact a call center is making, occupancy is undoubtedly chief among them.
How is Occupancy Calculated for a Call Center?
In the context of a call center, occupancy is a metric that helps key decision-makers better understand how busy individual agents are. You always want to make sure that agents have the time necessary to give their full attention to individual callers. Nobody wants to call in with a question or concern only to be rushed off the phone. By proactively monitoring occupancy, call center management professionals can go a long way towards preventing precisely that.
It’s also important for making sure that agents are operating to the best of their ability. By tracking the occupancy rate, you can understand A) if they’re too overwhelmed and additional agents are needed, B) if they’re largely at peak efficiency, or C) are available to do more work. It provides actionable data to organizational leaders so that they can make the most informed decision possible.
To understand how occupancy is calculated, one must first learn two terms: Total Handle Time and Total Time Available for Work (also referred to as Availability). The former refers to the total amount of time it takes, on average, to handle whatever a customer has called in to address. The latter refers to the total amount of time an agent is actually working in a given day.
By taking Total Handle Time and dividing it by Total Time Available for Work, you arrive at the occupancy metric for that particular agent.
The Difference Between Occupancy and Utilization in Call Centers
Generally speaking, occupancy refers to all time that agents are spending on call-related activities. This not only includes the time they’re spending talking directly with customers but also the amount of time they spend on hold and wrap time as well. This is one of the reasons why occupancy is also commonly referred to as “productive time.”
Utilization, on the other hand, is a different matter. This is a calculation of the amount of time agents are spending logged at all while taking shrinkage into account. That’s the major difference – occupancy doesn’t factor in shrinkage.
In a call center, shrinkage has to do with activities where an agent may be logged in, but they’re not necessarily available to answer calls or assist customers in any way. Examples of this include but are certainly not limited to time spent in training sessions, participating in team meetings, instances where they may have stepped away to assist someone in another department and more.
This, too, is important because it helps shed light on how productive a call center really is. If someone is logged in and being paid for eight hours, but they’re spending two hours on unrelated activities, that could very well point to a larger problem that should be addressed. That’s why these two metrics should always be considered within the context of one another for the best results.
The Ideal Occupancy Rate for Call Centers
Occupancy is certainly one of those metrics where lower numbers are better. If you calculate the occupancy rate for an agent and arrive at 100%, this is actually a bad thing – it means they’re having virtually no down-time and are essentially being pushed to their limits.
While it will vary depending on the call center in question, a good rule of thumb is to aim for occupancy rates of between 80% and 90%. That way, you know that agents are operating efficiently but they’re not being too overwhelmed with call volumes.
It’s a narrow target to hit, yes – but it’s also important to acknowledge. In many situations where the occupancy rate falls too low across the board, it means that organizations are paying too much for agents they don’t need. Those employees aren’t being utilized to the best of their abilities and, because pay to workers tends to make up the most of a business’ overhead costs, it’s an expense that you always want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth for.
As stated, when the occupancy rate climbs too high, employees start to become disengaged with the entire affair. They start to feel burned out, which will mean the quality of their work will likely suffer as well. They’ll begin to feel stressed and at an organizational level, the turnover rate will likely increase. Not to mention the fact that this will lead to a negative consumer experience for those people calling in – which may drive them into the arms of a competitor before you know it.
In the end, call centers play an important role in businesses of virtually all industries. This is especially true given everything going on in the world right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. People have questions they need answered. They have problems that need solutions. They have concerns that need to be addressed. Call center agents can provide all of this and more – provided that factors like occupancy are always considered.
If you’d like to find out more information about why call center occupancy is of paramount importance, or if you’d just like to discuss your own needs with someone in a bit more detail, please don’t delay – contact us today.