Executives in every type of organization are concerned with how well the company’s resources are being put to use. That is especially true in a call center environment where the overwhelming majority of operating expenses are related to personnel costs.
Agent occupancy is the measure of actual time busy on customer contacts compared to available or idle time, calculated by dividing workload hours by staff hours. Occupancy is an important measure of how well the call center has scheduled its staff and how efficiently resources are being used. If occupancy is too low, agents are sitting around idle with not enough to do. If occupancy is too high, the personnel may be overworked.
Agent occupancy is the end result of how staffing is matched to randomly arriving workload in a call center. However, the desired level of occupancy may actually drive staffing decisions in a sequential work environment like processing emails. Since web chat interactions are essentially random events like incoming calls, the same measures of occupancy apply here as in an incoming call scenario.
Staff shrinkage is defined as the percentage of time that employees are not available to handle calls. It is classified as non-productive time, and is made up of meeting and training time, breaks, paid time off, off-phone work, and general unexplained time where agents are not available to handle customer interactions. Staff shrinkage is an important number to track, since it plays an important role in how many people will need to be scheduled each half-hour. The same measures of shrinkage that are used for call center calculations apply to the multichannel contact center as well.
It is important to track shrinkage by individual category. While some time categories are unavoidable, such as paid time off and training time, other categories should be tracked with an objective of controlling the loss of available hours over time.
Workforce management is all about getting the “just right” number of people in place each period of the day to handle customer contacts—not too many and not too few. Schedule efficiency measures the degree of overstaffing and understaffing that exist as a result of scheduling design. Net staffing may be measured by half-hour as an indication of how well the resources in the center are being utilized.
Schedule efficiency for responding to the randomly arriving web chats should be measured just like that for incoming call centers. Since emails typically represent sequential rather than random workload, the work fits the schedule and therefore overstaffing and understaffing measures are less relevant.
Just like for measures of service, it is likely that schedule efficiency varies over the day and week as peaks and valleys of incoming contacts make it difficult to get the exact right number of staff each half-hour. Rather than looking at the plus and minus status averaged out over the day, it is important to look at the variation that occurs by half-hour so that schedule plans can be adjusted to best match workforce to workload.
Schedule adherence measures the degree to which the specific hours scheduled are actually worked by the agents. It is an overall call center measure and is also one of the most important team and individual measures of performance since it has such as great impact on productivity and service.
Schedule adherence is one of the most important measures the multichannel contact center as well. Specific hours worked is less of an issue in a group responding to emails rather than real-time demand of calls and Web chats, but is still relevant in processing the work in a timely manner, especially if response time guarantees exist.
A common measure of contact handling is the average handle time (AHT), made up of talk time plus after-call work (ACW). To accommodate differences in calling patterns, it should be measured and identified by time of day as well as by day of week.
Average handle time is also a measure that is important in determining the other types of multichannel contact workload. It is much harder to calculate, however, given the difficulties of truly measuring how long it takes to handle an email or a Web chat transaction. An email may be opened and put aside for varying amounts of time before completing. Likewise, a web chat session may appear to take longer than it actually does since a web agent typically has several sessions open at once. Therefore each one takes longer based on start and end time. Automated tracking of these actual handle times is difficult with numbers coming from email management systems often overstated in terms of actual handle time.
While AHT is almost always one of the top metrics on any contact center’s list, it’s critical not to focus coaching efforts too directly on the AHT number itself. While it is often desirable to correct procedures that lengthen AHT, you don’t want to coach to AHT numbers. When this is done, AHT goals may be reached, but at the expense of proper call-handling techniques. It’s best to identify the specific steps, words, and behaviors needed on a call and coach to those, not to an AHT number.
System availability and accessibility
When response time from the computer system is slow, or if it is cumbersome to move from application to application, it can add seconds or minutes to the handle time of a transaction. In the call center, system speed, uptime, and overall availability should be measured on an ongoing basis to ensure maximum response time and efficiency as well as service to callers. For example, if the IVR typically handles 50% of calls to completion, but the IVR is out of service, many more calls will require agent assistance than normal causing overtime costs, long delays, and generally poor service. Or, if multiple applications are needed and it’s difficult to move from one to another, it can mean much additional handle time. Often this will be a measure of performance that resides in the IT department, but is also a crucial measure of contact center performance.