Blog Post

Survey Results Uncover the ‘Dark Matter’ of Contact Center Performance and Productivity – Part 1

We recently partnered with Unisphere Research on a project to help shed light on the state of call center productivity. We will cover the survey results in two blog entries. In this first part we’ll discuss an interesting concept that distinctly describes what detracts from agent productivity – Dark Matter.

An Excerpt from Exploring the ‘Dark Matter of Contact Center Performance and Productivity

In astronomy, there is a still-mysterious force that is woven through the fabric of the universe referred to as “dark matter.” While stars and galaxies illuminate the night skies, astronomers are convinced there is unseen, immeasurable mass that holds the universe together.

Likewise, for today’s customer contact centers, between and behind all the brilliant moments when agents are interacting with customers, there is also a form of “dark matter” – the time when agents are not interacting with customers. This could take the form of difficult-to-measure offline tasks, such as account research or catch-up data entry, or the even murkier time spent waiting for the next call.

What is this dark matter, and can it be measured and tracked? Most importantly, how does – or should – this downtime contribute to the overall performance of the contact center? These are some of the questions that were posed in a new survey of contact centers across North America, conducted by CRM Magazine, the leading publication for contact center executives and professionals. The survey, conducted in partnership with Knowlagent – a leading agent productivity solution for the world’s 10 million call center agents – included input from 312 call center executives, managers or supervisors. Respondents represented a range of company sizes and types, from manufacturers to financial services firms.

A majority of companies report tracking the obvious things that keep an employee offline – such as absenteeism, tardiness, and log-in times. A substantial number of companies track some of the dark matter issues that take up call center agents’ days.

Close to half of the companies, for example, track time spent on training. Two-fifths report they actually do explicitly track the amount of “idle time” agents spend waiting between calls or online inquiries.
The average amount of idle time per day per employee is now close to an hour, as respondents report 49 minutes daily per agent on average. To put things in perspective, if a respondent manages a contact center with 100 agents, having 100 agents experiencing an average of 49 minutes a day of downtime a day translates into almost 82 hours, the equivalent of 10 employees.

While there is a substantial amount of tracking of offline time, companies still provide a great deal of discretion to their employees. Almost half provide little to no structure for completing off-phone work during this time.

Could this dark matter time be leveraged in other ways that directly impact performance and productivity in the contact center?

Good Question – If you could leverage idle time for your call center – what would you tackle first – performance or productivity?

We’ll dive deeper on what to do with ‘dark matter’ in Part 2.


About the author

Matt McConnell

Matt is chairman, president and CEO of Intradiem. Matt co-founded Intradiem in 1995 with a vision of helping companies increase the level of customer service they deliver by improving the performance of their agents. Today, Intradiem is a leader in its market with more than 300,000 call center agents around the world using Intradiem every day. Matt is the author of the book Customer Service at a Crossroads and holds 11 software patents. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in industrial and systems engineering.

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