Contact centre occupancy – sometimes less is more
By Scott Fulton, Training Manager at Content Guru
According to a recent PwC report, ‘Experience is Everything’, 1 in 3 customers will stop doing business with a brand they love after one bad experience. Expectations for exceptional service are higher than ever and when customers contact organisations they expect instant access, short wait times and the option to always be able to speak to a live agent. To meet the rising demand in service levels, contact centres usually consider one of two things: employ more contact centre agents or increase occupancy rates.
Occupancy is defined as the amount of time advisors are busy engaging with customers, either on calls, waiting for calls, engaged in wrap time, or on hold. It is generally considered by high performing organisations that between 85% and 90% is the ideal occupancy. This is because more customer engagement leads to greater customer satisfaction, as it reduces wait times, delivers rapid solutions, and provides the bandwidth to upsell and review services.
However, it might be time to reconsider the agreed wisdom that 85% occupancy rate is the perfect fit. A lower occupancy of 75% – if done correctly – might actually help you deliver a better service and experience for customers. Here’s why:
Save time intelligently and automatically
Agents have less time to focus on the most important queries when contact centres are flooded with a high volume of calls. As such, opportunities to upsell or nurture are missed in the rush. If agents are simply being reactive, there’s no time to follow up with vulnerable customers, offer personalised experiences to high-value contacts, or proactively reach out to those in need. More time spent dealing with important queries builds customer loyalty, creates ripple-effects of goodwill, and encourages people to spread the word of excellent service to family and friends. For emergency services, business process outsourcing (BPO) organisations and utility providers, it’s even more vital – reaching out to customers could have life-changing consequences.
Agents can become more available by implementing automation and AI that can handle the simple and repetitive tasks. This allows more time to be spent on high-priority and high-value conversations. Automating low-complexity tasks decreases the occupancy rate as quick queries are filtered from the queue. The result is increased efficiency, significant cost savings and the time to get the most out of every call.
Agents and supervisors can update their availability in real time by using intelligent automation that joins seamlessly with the agent’s interface. Instead of wasting time manually searching for available agents, schedules are automatically managed for optimal efficiency. Instant reporting improves the agent experience by allowing teamwork and friendly competition. Occupancy rates fall below 85%, whilst customer experience remains consistently high.
The benefits continue by bringing in agents that are working from home, by using Workforce Optimisation (WFO) tools. Their flexibility means that even when demand increases, occupancy does not have to. This avoids advisor burnout – research has shown that occupancy rates over 85% could be responsible for half of agent turnover.
Lower occupancy, higher quality
When agents are spending less of their time with customers, they are free to carry out other tasks. Upskilling is a great use of the extra time contact centres gain from shifting occupancy rates from 85% to 75%. Training and online courses can increase employee satisfaction, ensure agents are delivering the best experience for customers and fight costly agent attrition. Training can also identify different skills, meaning that contacts can be routed to the most appropriate available agents.
Above all, giving agents a little more time in the day can be great for agent satisfaction – freeing them up for fifteen-minute morning yoga breaks, free fruit, or regular team meetings, for example, are all proven ways of boosting agent motivation, concentration, and positivity. This can have a profound knock-on effect on the efficiency of the contact centre.
Although there is a lot of evidence backing the 85% occupancy rate as a key objective to aim for, it could be time to look at the metric in a new way. Sometimes lowering the rate can lead to a better customer service overall, even if the amount of time spent engaging with customers is slightly reduced.
Europe’s leader in cloud CX and CCaaS and one of the world’s major providers of large-scale, mission-critical services, Content Guru supplies services to over 1,000 large enterprises and government organisations.
Content Guru’s cloud-native omnichannel communications solution, storm®, offers virtually limitless scalability, unmatched integration capabilities and industry-leading AI. Content Guru ensures customer experience and contact centers meet the needs of every customer, seamlessly. storm is used by public and private sector organisations across the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pac, in markets ranging from finance and healthcare through to government and utilities. Public sector customers relying on storm for mission-critical services include the NHS, Serco and US Federal Government.
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