Give agents varied challenges during contact center downtimes

Contact center managers can give agents a change of pace with varied tasks to take on during idle time.


Question: Do you have any suggestions on what we should do with an agent’s idle time? How do we make sure we’re being efficient but not overloading the agents?

Even in the best-managed and busiest contact centers, where workforce management solutions are used to optimize agent schedules, there will always be unexpected downtime without calls. Using this idle time productively will improve agent satisfaction while reducing operating costs.

The time can be used for quality assurance review sessions, to deliver targeted training and coaching or to involve agents in handling back-office work. Specific examples of ways to use idle time are to have agents handle emails, faxes, paper correspondence (that still exists) and social media interactions; conduct outbound surveys, welcome calls or account retention calls; or process applications or purchase orders, open new accounts, handle returned material authorizations or work with accounts receivable.

If the process is managed well and expectations are clearly communicated and understood by agents -- which includes making sure the phone staff realizes that at times they will have to drop what they are doing and return to handling calls -- it is a good idea to involve contact center employees in non-call-related activities, as it gives them a break from what is often a very intense and challenging job.

To make this process work, the fill-in tasks should meet several guidelines.

  1. Agents need to be able to start and stop the non-phone tasks at will.
  2. Each job should take no more than five to 10 minutes to complete.
  3. Agents need to remain in their seats at all times. This enables them to receive calls when the volume picks up.
  4. Agents should be able to accomplish the task without assistance.
  5. Agents should not require a significant amount of training to do the non-phone tasks.

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