December 29, 2021

What is Agent Utilization and How to Improve It (2022 Guide)

What is Agent Utilization and How to Improve It (2022 Guide) Use AI technology to turn web leads into live calls for your sales team.

Agent utilization is one of the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) a call center uses to measure its efficiency. But what is agent utilization? And how can companies improve this KPI?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine the agent utilization formula and other factors such as cost per contact, occupancy vs. utilization, and more.

What is Call Center Agent Utilization?

Agent utilization represents the calculated ratio of an agent’s productivity to their capacity. Simply put, it provides insight into overall performance and the time agents spend working during the day while handling calls.

Tracking agent utilization benefits a contact center by:

  • Improving Agent Productivity: Understand how efficiently call center agents manage their time as they handle calls to pinpoint issues and find opportunities for improvement.
  • Reducing Agent Burnout: Ensure the call center isn’t pushing agents too hard and impacting agent engagement. A less stressful job keeps agents happy and improves customer interactions and overall service level with a higher net promoter score (NPS).
  • Reducing Agent Turnover: High turnover is detrimental to productivity, and it incurs higher costs with acquiring, hiring, and training new agents.
  • Maintaining a Proper Staff Size: Manage schedule adherence and ensure the call center is properly staffed to keep up with demand without being overstaffed.
  • Setting Expectations: Knowing how agents perform gives contact centers the data they need to set reasonable expectations and goals for their team. These standards help agents strive to be efficient without being overstressed, leading to better service and customer satisfaction.

Occupancy vs. Utilization: What is Occupancy in WFM?

Although utilization and occupancy are both important KPI metrics, call center agent utilization is not synonymous with agent occupancy in workforce management (WFM).

Call center occupancy rate is the percentage of time agents are actively engaged with customers compared to idle time while they’re logged in.

What’s the difference? The occupancy rate focuses on the total time logged in for call-related work, while utilization includes the total number of hours on the clock, including team meetings, training, after-call tasks, mandatory quiet periods, and other non-call-related activities.

How to Calculate Agent Utilization Rate and Other Contact Center Metrics

Call center operations are labor-intensive, which means more than half of a call center’s costs go to agent salaries and benefits.

What is Agent Utilization and How to Improve It (2022 Guide) Use AI technology to turn web leads into live calls for your sales team.

Because labor is the largest expense, call centers have to make sure their agents are operating as efficiently as possible if the center is going to be productive.

Most contact centers rely on several formulas to take an accurate pulse of overall efficiency:

1. Agent Utilization Formula in a Call Center

Before we start calculating agent utilization, we need to collect some data first:

  • Total Call Time: The number of calls in a day or other specific time period multiplied by the average time spent on each call.
  • Total Working Hours: How many hours the agent works in a day. Make sure you use the same time period for both data points. For example, if you calculated the total time spent on calls for a week, then use the total working hours per week instead of per day.

Use this formula to calculate agent utilization:

What is Agent Utilization and How to Improve It (2022 Guide) Use AI technology to turn web leads into live calls for your sales team.

Let’s apply this formula to a real-world example. In this hypothetical, an agent has 65 calls in an 8-hour workday and spends an average of 5 minutes per contact.

Using the call center agent utilization formula above, we can calculate the percentage as ((65 x 5) / (8 x 60)) x 100. This gives us (325 / 480) x 100, which is 67.7% agent utilization.

2. Agent Occupancy Rate Formula in a Call Center

Calculating occupancy percentage requires the following data:

  • Handle Time: This includes talk time and after-call work time, such as logging notes.
  • Total Time in the Queue: Unlike call center agent utilization, which includes the full workday, occupancy is restricted to log-in time only. It doesn’t account for paid work time out of the queue.

To calculate occupancy rate, we’ll use this formula:

What is Agent Utilization and How to Improve It (2022 Guide) Use AI technology to turn web leads into live calls for your sales team.

Lower occupancy rates indicate that the call center is overpaying for labor and employees aren’t focused on call-related activities. A high occupancy rate is desirable, but if it’s too high, call centers often contend with agent burnout and high turnover.

A healthy call center occupancy rate generally falls between 80% – 90% for phone calls. Since agents often engage in multiple chats at once, the occupancy rate for live chat can exceed 100%. Email should be 90% – 100% since staff can be working on emails throughout the workday without waiting for a customer to reach out in real-time.

3. Cost per Contact Formula

Cost per contact (CPC), also sometimes called cost per call, is another workforce management metric that call centers use. This basic equation is the total cost of the call center in a given period divided by the total number of calls answered in the same period. The cost-per-contact formula is:

What is Agent Utilization and How to Improve It (2022 Guide) Use AI technology to turn web leads into live calls for your sales team.

This is the simplified traditional CPC formula. However, some call centers use variations to take a more personalized approach.

For example, do you want to include abandoned inbound calls or repeat calls in your equation? Or are you more interested in measuring first call resolution (FCR) to gauge the service level?

What is Agent Utilization and How to Improve It (2022 Guide) Use AI technology to turn web leads into live calls for your sales team.

4. COPC Utilization Formula

COPC is an acronym for Customer Operations Performance Centre. The COPC® Family of Standards is a performance management framework that provides best practices and guidelines to measure and improve customer experience operations.
The COPC call center utilization formula provides a more thorough breakdown of the standard agent utilization formula:
What is Agent Utilization and How to Improve It (2022 Guide) Use AI technology to turn web leads into live calls for your sales team.

In this formula, “total wrap” refers to the time an agent spends performing administrative duties after a phone call, such as logging data into the CRM, notating a customer’s file, etc.

6 Ways to Improve Call Center Agent Utilization Rates

Agent utilization, occupation, and cost per contact are call center metrics that can fluctuate due to a wide variety of factors, including:

  • Types of Calls: Does the center receive inbound calls, dial outbound calls, or both?
  • Type of Business: Customer service, technical support, sales, insurance, etc.
  • Size of Call Center: Small call centers have less contact volume than larger centers, often resulting in lower KPIs.
  • Location of Call Center: Offshore call centers tend to have lower agent costs and different challenges, such as a potential language barrier leading to longer call times.
  • Assigned Shifts: KPIs measured on a night shift will usually be significantly lower than metrics on a day shift.

Calculating call center occupancy and agent utilization rate helps companies make smart business decisions to serve their agents, clients, customers, and stakeholders.

How can a contact center raise a low agent utilization rate? Here are a few strategies call centers use to give their agent utilization percentage a boost:

1. Improve Real-Time Data Measurement

A call center can’t boost its agent utilization rate if it doesn’t have an accurate picture of the existing efficiency level.

Many companies rely on call center software to make sure their measurements are as precise as possible. Thorough data analysis in real-time can illuminate potential pain points, workflow inconsistencies, and opportunities for improvement so a call center can take a targeted, problem-solving approach to boost its agent utilization rate.

2. Reduce After-Call Work (ACW)

When employees spend more time typing up a lengthy report after a phone call than they spent on the call itself, efficiency takes a nosedive.

Contact-center managers can examine current processes and identify opportunities to reduce or eliminate unnecessary tasks. For example, instead of writing a full page of notes about a damaged product for the QC team, an agent can request a photo and upload it as a visual solution.

3. Filter Out Poor-Quality Leads

Time wasted on outbound calls to uninterested or unqualified leads results in low conversion rates, demotivated agents, and inefficient agent utilization, thereby hurting call center metrics.

Investing in software that filters out these low-quality leads corrects this workflow inefficiency so contact center agents can dedicate their time to speaking with more promising prospects.

4. Automate Call-Related Tasks with AI

Call centers can’t function without live agents. But over-relying on those agents for unnecessary manual tasks brings down an agent’s average percentage and leads to inefficiency. AI can handle many tasks, including:

  • Outbound dialing
  • Following up with leads
  • Call scheduling
  • Calculating optimal timing
  • Outbound scripting
  • After-call work

Automating these tasks helps to increase average speed, eliminate human error, reduce operating costs, and free up valuable time for agents to interact with customers and leads. AI also creates opportunities for self-service so agents spend less time on menial, time-consuming activities.

5. Utilize a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tool

CRM optimizes the way a company manages customer calls and other communications. It saves interactions into one comprehensive dashboard so an agent can quickly view call histories, past emails and chat transcripts, notes from previous agents, social media correspondence, etc.

With access to CRM, an agent can reduce the overall call time and understand the customer’s issue faster. The customer doesn’t have to waste time summarizing previous conversations and repeating their story with each call, resulting in higher customer satisfaction, a less stressed agent, and a higher agent utilization rate for the call center.

6. Use SMS for Pre-Dialing, Call Scheduling, and Post-Call Follow Up

Utilizing new SMS features frees up time for agents while reinforcing call impact to push leads through the sales funnel.

In the State of Texting 2021, 64% of consumers said that appointment reminder texts were the most valuable, followed by shipping updates (48%) and discounts on products or services (29%).

70% of businesses now rely on SMS to reach customers and employees. A versatile dialer that includes SMS features is a valuable tool that improves call center agent utilization while also providing impactful follow-up to customers, helping to close sales.

7. Implement Visual Assistance to Reduce Agent Training Time

Although thorough contact resolution training is important, it can sometimes last for months and reduce the total logged-in time for new agents. Visual assistance software is a valuable training tool that allows more productive time spent showing live customer issues to new agents.

A visual assistance provider prepares agents for handling calls, meeting key performance indicator goals, and bolstering a company’s internal knowledge base.

Boost Your Agent Utilization, Occupation, and Call Center Revenue

Every call center has a unique team of agents, work culture, equipment, software, and tools. One call center may have drastically different challenges than another, even if they’re the same size.

Pipes Ai is a fully customizable plug-and-play system that can be adapted to best suit your business’s needs. We have all the tools and data analytics a company needs to support its agents and boost workflow efficiency, agent utilization, and contact center revenue. Our team takes the pressure off your agents so they can focus on making sales and interacting with customers.

Do you want to boost your agent utilization? Learn more about and book a demo to see how we can help your call center.

What is Agent Utilization and How to Improve It (2022 Guide) Use AI technology to turn web leads into live calls for your sales team.