Call center utilization (occupancy) -- tips on using and calculating

Expert Lori Bocklund gives tips on how to calculate call center utilization, or occupancy, and how to best use and interpret this metric.

If I want to calculate our call center's utilization target for the first time, what is the formula I should use...

and what are the parameters to be considered?

Utilization rate, which is also referred to as call center Occupancy, is handle time (talk time + after call work time) divided by time signed into a queue. This metric, expressed as a percentage, will tell you the amount of time that work is being performed in support of the call center's queue. It is also a measure of how hard the call center agents are being driven. The higher the occupancy rate, the shorter the amount of time between calls. An 80% occupancy rate means that 20% of the time the representative was available (and in the ready state) for a call and the remaining 80% the representative was either on a call or in after call work status.

Keep the following factors in mind when considering call center utilization or occupancy:

  • Occupancy is a group, queue or center measure and is not controlled at the individual agent level. It is a function of forecasting and staffing, the workload offered by the calls (which arrive randomly) and handle times. Smaller groups have lower occupancy than large groups. You can set a range as a target to manage to (e.g., if the occupancy gets too low, consider sending some call center agents home or putting them on alternate tasks; if it gets too high, bring in reserve staff or ask for overtime). That range should be based on modeling your center and monitoring typical occupancy and its impact.

  • Higher occupancy rates do not always correlate to increased productivity. Self pacing often increases proportionately in the form of increased after call work. Call center agents can generally handle short bursts of increased activity, but sustained high occupancy can lead to burnout and turnover.

  • Consider call center occupancy along with other factors such as overall productivity, error rates, quality scores and employee satisfaction.

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