What is agent utilization and how to improve it

by Andy Nguyen
agent utilization

Agent utilization or the ratio of an agent’s work done to their work capacity is an essential metric that represents a call center’s efficiency. It tells you if your call center agents are underutilized or have too much work on their plates. 

That’s why call center managers must have a clear idea about agent utilization. 

They should know how to calculate and manage it to boost agent engagement and business growth. 

In this article, we’ll cover what agent utilization is, how to calculate it, and how to set the right agent utilization goal. We’ll also discuss how to increase it using visual assistance and other software solutions.

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Let’s get started.

What is agent utilization?

Agent utilization is the percentage of time an agent spends attending calls and working on other call-related tasks. 

The measure of agent utilization represents how long an agent actually works during a day. It also shows their performance, giving insights into how far you’re from achieving your business objectives. 

Now, agent utilization is often confused with agent occupancy. However, both are different. 

Agent occupancy is the percentage of time agents spend on call-related activities during the total time they were logged in. While occupancy deals with total logged-in time, utilization is about the total number of hours worked (including meetings and training).

Interested in call center metrics?

Explore 15 call center metrics you should track today.

How to calculate agent utilization 

You’ll need two types of data to calculate the agent utilization percentage:

  • Total time your agent spends attending calls (in a day or a specific time period). It’s the product of the total number of calls and the average time spent on each call.
  • Total hours of operation of your agent in a day or a particular time period (same time frame as above).

You can calculate agent utilization with this formula:  

Agent Utilization rate

For example, let’s say your agents attend 50 calls in a day and spend 5 minutes per contact on average. If they work for 8 hours per day,

Agent utilization rate = (5 x 50 / (8 x 60))*100 = 52.08%

Note: We calculated the time in minutes. 

4 considerations for setting realistic agent utilization goals

Setting an agent utilization goal can motivate your agents to improve their performance. 

But you should consider a few factors before setting an agent utilization goal.

Let’s look at a few of these: 

1. Type of calls

You should consider whether your call center deals with inbound, outbound, or both types of calls.

Your call center’s outbound calls are more likely to be short as customers may not engage in long conversations if they aren’t interested. This means that outbound call centers can engage in a higher number of calls but spend less time on a call.

For example, let’s say your client is a health maintenance organization. A customer who isn’t looking for health care insurance may not entertain your agent when they call. 

On the other hand, inbound contact may be longer as customers initiate the call and the interaction may continue till they find a suitable solution.

Consequently, the agent utilization percentage of an agent who manages inbound calls can be higher than someone who handles the same number of outbound calls.

2. Business type

Agent utilization also depends on the business your agency handles. So it can vary from one call center to another. 

For example, an organization providing technical support may have longer breaks and conduct meetings to improve its customer support. They may consider the time they spent in meetings while calculating agent utilization.

On the other hand, a call center handling inbound call tickets may not engage in many meetings — because of which they may not include it while calculating agent utilization.

3. Size of the call center

Agent utilization rate varies based on the size of your call center.

Usually, the KPI  (Key Performance Indicator) for small call centers can be low and those for the large ones can be high due to the difference in contact volume. For example, service desk agents of smaller companies may have lower agent utilization while those of large ones may have high agent utilization.  

4. Assigned shift

The agent utilization of your agents who work the night shift can be significantly lesser than those who work the morning shift. This is mainly because the number of calls made or received at night is less than in the morning. 

However, this may not be the case in an offshore call center where the customers are from a country in a different time zone.

In such cases, the offshore call center will receive more calls during the night shifts as customers make calls based on the working hours of their country.

Want to know about offshore call centers?

Here’s our in-depth guide to offshore call centers.

What agent utilization rate is important

You must understand your agent utilization patterns. It can show you the effect of your decisions on your call center’s growth, based on which you can take appropriate steps. 

Let’s look at what low and high agent utilization represents:

1. Low agent utilization

Setting an unrealistic goal can be the root cause of a low agent utilization rate.

Your agents may feel pressured and unmotivated to achieve a goal that seems impossible. This may also disturb their work-life balance.

When this happens, they may start looking for better opportunities or a less stressful job, decreasing the number of agents in your call center.

Consequently, you may have to invest time and money to hire new agents as the agent turnover rate increases. This can reduce the time you invest in improving agent productivity and business. 

That’s why decreasing your agent turnover rate is as important as increasing agent productivity. 

You can maintain a balance between the two by analyzing the talents of your agents and setting goals accordingly.

For example, you can set a high agent utilization goal for an agent who handles more customer calls. But you may have to give a lower agent utilization goal to an agent who attends fewer calls but provides higher customer service. 

This way, you can keep your agents happy and increase the call center’s performance.

Other reasons for low agent utilization may be poor schedule adherence and overstaffing. 

Your agents can miss calls when they’re tardy, leading to a low agent utilization rate. And in the case of overstaffing, there may not be enough calls to engage all agents — resulting in a low agent utilization rate.

Sometimes, the nature of the business can also influence agent utilization figures.

For example, the average agent utilization percentage of service desks (offices where users call their IT service provider to solve an IT-related query, make a service request, etc.) can be lower than that of a contact center that deals with a wider customer base. 

2. High agent utilization

Your call center agent utilization can be high when your agents attend more calls in less time. Your agent utilization rate can also surpass your goal.

While this sounds great, it could also mean that your agents are overworking. This may increase utilization but lead to agent burnout.

Additionally, the agent turnover in a service desk usually increases when the utilization rate goes beyond 60%. That’s why you should find creative and less stressful ways to improve your agent time utilization. 

One of the easiest methods you can use here is a visual assistance solution.

3 ways to increase agent utilization with visual assistance tools

Visual assistance software is a resource that can help you increase agent utilization without pressurizing your agents or causing burnout. 

A visual solution enables your agents to complete different tasks innovatively and increase their productivity during their daily activities.

Let’s look at how visual assistance software can increase agent utilization:

1. Reduces ACW & training times

ACW (After Call Work) are the duties that an employee has to perform after they attend a call. This usually involves logging the purpose of the call, actions taken, scheduling follow-up calls, and updating your company’s internal knowledge base.

While these activities are vital for your call center’s functioning, they can reduce the time your agents have left to handle calls. 

You also have call center training, which is a time-consuming, non-call requirement. Sometimes, agent training can extend to months, especially when the client is from a core field like medical insurance.

For example, suppose your client is a medical insurance company.

In that case, the training program may groom your agents to deal with insurer queries regarding utilization review (conducted to confirm whether a patient needs financial help) or adverse determination (a negative determination following a utilization review) — which are exclusive to the field.

How can visual assistance software reduce training time & ACW?

You can use visual assistance software to show your agents live customer issues and how to handle them, reducing the training time significantly. This can also decrease the errors that may occur due to poor understanding of the issue as agents can actually visualize it.

This way, your agents can grasp the concepts easily and complete training quickly.

Visual assistance software can also simplify ACW and meetings. 

For example, your agents can feed an image of the damaged item sent by the customer instead of writing a lengthy report. Consequently, they can save the time they would spend on ACW.

Your agents can simplify meetings by using images sent by customers so that others may understand the issue better. This way, they can find efficient solutions in less time.

2. Empowers new agents

Call centers tend to have a high attrition rate due to high agent effort and unexciting work profiles — which means that these offices get new agents frequently. 

However, new agents may not have enough experience in the field. 

They may not be able to provide the standard customer service since they can take more time to find solutions or make decisions. This can also prolong customer interactions.

Visual assistance can help your new agents’ work by simplifying the search process in the knowledge base — a place with solutions to frequent customer queries. This way, you can determine the customer’s issue in minutes and also suggest solutions.

This can boost the agents’ overall productivity and engagement, giving them a sense of contentment at work — which, in turn, helps increase your customer satisfaction. 

3. Offers better understanding of customer problems

Your agents can find it difficult to understand customers’ issues when it’s complicated, especially when the customers can’t explain them properly via a phone call.

In such situations, visual assistance software can help you.

Visual assistance software allows your agent to see and understand the customer’s problem via a computer or smartphone camera. Additionally, the software can also let your agents use augmented reality to guide the customer for better resolution of the issue. 

According to a survey conducted by Techsee (a visual assistance provider), call centers using visual assistance solutions have experienced improvements in:

  • First Contact Resolution (FCR) rate
  • Average Handle Time (AHT)
  • Agent Engagement and Satisfaction (ESAT)
  • Contacts per agent per month
  • Other metrics like NPS (Net Promoter Score), CES (Customer Effort Score), and CSAT (Call Center Customer Satisfaction)

3 other tools that can improve agent utilization

In addition to using visual assistance software, you can use CRMs and other call center management tools to boost the performance at the agent level.

Call center tools can carry out certain call center operations to make your agent’s work easy, improve their productivity, and help you maintain control over agent utilization. 

Let’s look at a few call center tools that can help you improve agent utilization:

1. Predictive dialer

A predictive dialer is a software solution that automatically dials a number and passes it on to an agent when it connects. The predictive dialer algorithm considers factors like the agents’ average contact handle time, connect rates, etc., to make and place the outbound calls.

2. Customer relationship management (CRM)

CRM is a tool that saves all the information related to your customers’ communication in one place. Your agents can easily understand the customer’s issue based on their previous queries and call history.

3. Automatic call distributor (ACD)

An ACD is a tool that can automatically connect inbound calls depending on agent availability, which depends on their contact handle time. With an ACD, you can keep your agents engaged and productive throughout their working hours.

Learn more about different methods of Automatic Call Distribution here.

Other than these call center software solutions, you can also use Time Doctor to boost agent performance. 

Time Doctor is an agent performance and productivity management tool used by small firms like Thrive Market and major companies like Ericsson.

With Time Doctor, you can:

Wrapping up

Keeping track of your agent utilization rates and productivity is important to boost your business. These metrics can help your agents improve their performance when set as targets.

However, you should be careful not to pressurize them by setting an unattainable agent utilization rate.

Don’t worry. Use the tips mentioned in this article to improve agent utilization in a stress-free and convenient way. And don’t forget to use visual assistance solutions and tools like CRMs, ACDs, and productivity management software like Time Doctor to streamline the process.

To get started, why not sign up for Time Doctor today?

View a free demo of Time Doctor

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