Despite our best forecasting efforts, there will be inevitable down time or low occupancy in any contact center.
Resource management and planning is a perpetual challenge but is often focused on just a few metrics, creating missed opportunities. Most managers do their best to minimize agent down time and yet there a number of productive activities that can be accomplished outside of just answering calls, emails or chat.
90% or Higher Occupancy is a Bad Thing
In the struggle to adequately plan, allocate resources and reduce costs, the human and customer cost of high occupancy is often overlooked. 100% would mean that all of your agents are handling inquiries 100% of the time with no break between cases. This directly causes lower employee satisfaction, higher burnout and higher turnover which means lower service quality and declining customer experience. Typically, your goal should be between 85% and 90% occupancy. What about the other 10 to 15%?
What Can Agents do During Down Time?
As a manager, you cringe at the thought of paying people to literally just sit around. On the other hand, any employee needs a certain amount of variety in their tasks to remain motivated and productive. So, what can they do in addition to smoke breaks, coffee or chatting with neighbors?
1. E-Learning - Get Better at their Job
No one can remember 100% of the things 100% of the time. While having a strong search capability in your knowledge base is critical, there’s always room to brush up on things. This includes not just direct support information such as product data, return policies or pricing plans, but soft skills required to better deliver service such as:
- Balancing professionalism with personality
- Empathy training
- Constructive and active listening
- How to handle difficult customers
- Call control & time management
- Email writing
- How to deliver bad news
2. Contribute Knowledge and Write or Improve Articles
Agents, like many employees in other positions, are often too busy doing their work to document what they’re doing or solutions they find. There’s always another task and never enough time to share that knowledge with others. This contributes to two major knowledge management issues in organizations: silos and outdated information.
One of the simplest, yet most effective ways to keep your data updated and make use of downtime is to dedicate some to contributing to your knowledge base. This could be editing or updating existing articles or creating new ones. Too often, agents’ knowledge gets ahead of your knowledge base as they deal with new trends or seasonal issues whose solutions have yet to be written down. Therefore:
- Encourage agents to keep notes of new problems and solutions
- Encourage agents to contribute changes or updates to existing articles
- Make knowledge contribution a regular task for every agent.
3. Testing - Stay Compliant or Test their Knowledge
Downtime can also be used for testing, whether it be about support information, policies or even compliance issues. Every workplace has required yearly training on safety, discrimination, harassment and so forth. These can easily be knocked out during slow periods.
Moreover, as a manger, you may additionally want to create regular tests for key support information such as:
- Return policies
- Pricing / Plans
- Frequently asked questions
- Common problems
- Issues that impact many customers (e.g. website doesn’t work with IE7)
- Time consuming issues
While we could name many more, these are three great starting points that benefit agents, managers and customers at the same time. Agents can be productive and add value to the organization in more ways than just picking up a phone. This is particularly true if your knowledge management platform includes features like e-learning, testing and easy editing for everyone.
Instead of focusing on how to avoid low occupancy, we challenge you to turn things around and focus on how you can get the most value from it.