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How to calculate call center utilization rates

Call center utilization rates provide managers with information about agent productivity, and businesses can use these rates to calculate efficiency of agents.

Customers who reach out to customer service departments expect agents to solve their problems quickly and efficiently,...

but that depends on call center utilization rates.

Call center utilization rates measure agent productivity, which ultimately affects the overall customer experience. Call center leadership must observe utilization rates and ensure that agents are not overworking -- or underworking -- and have the proper amount of time for trainings.

Before learning how to calculate agent utilization rates, it's important to get more familiar with agent utilization and how it can impact businesses.

Call center agent utilization and how it affects businesses

Call center agent utilization is a KPI that businesses must define, measure, manage and report. Utilization performance directly affects call center scheduling efficiency, forecasting accuracy and overall customer experience and cost. If utilization is high, it can cause agent burnout, which leads to turnover. If the utilization rate is too low, a call center may have too many idle resources.

How to calculate a call center utilization rate

Call center agent utilization is the percentage of time an agent spends on handling contacts and customer interactions or handling contact-related work. It measures how much time agents who are logged into the queue spend handling customers and how much time they are being paid to work in the call center.

Here is the formula to calculate agent utilization:

(Total login time / Total paid time) x 100 = Utilization rate

Here is an example of how to calculate the utilization rate using real-world numbers:

(300 minutes total login time / 480 minutes total paid time) x 100 = 62.5% utilization rate

Contact center leadership needs to understand how this utilization performance affects the agent, the customer and the overall call center operations. Contact center leadership must balance utilization with agent productivity measurements, such as conformance, adherence, net promoter scores, average handle time and quality scores. It is vital for leadership to look at how an agent is performing when they are logged in and working, balanced with contact volume, utilization and occupancy.

A common target is to set utilization between 75% and 85%; however, this target varies, depending on the goals of each call center.

A common target is to set utilization between 75% and 85%; however, this target varies, depending on the goals of each call center. If a call center wants to focus on providing agents time for training, knowledge sharing and team-building activities, then call center leadership must lower the utilization target to provide agents with this time. If a call center's utilization is over 85%, this indicates that agents are staying logged in for longer periods of time, which can lead to frustration and delivery of poor customer experience and service.

When utilization climbs over 85%, this indicates an issue with business and workforce management planning. Contact center agents cannot sustain long-term levels of utilization over 85%. In order to forecast accurately and schedule efficiently, contact center management must understand utilization and occupancy levels, along with contact volumes in service-level targets.

Difference between occupancy and utilization

Often, contact center leaders use utilization and occupancy interchangeably or focus on one versus the other. There is value in defining, measuring, managing and reporting both metrics, but it's important to understand their differences.

Utilization focuses on total login time and paid time. Occupancy focuses on total handle time and total login time so contact center management can understand how much time an agent is idle.

Here is the formula to calculate occupancy:

(Total contact handling time / Total login time) x 100 = Occupancy

Occupancy is valuable to understand how to maximize schedules so contact center agents are not idle -- sitting and waiting for contacts to arrive. Like utilization, contact center leaders need to understand need to understand where to set occupancy for various targets and measurements. Here are a few considerations that affect occupancy:

  • Size of center. Smaller contact center levels typically see a lower level of occupancy, while larger contact centers see a higher level of occupancy.
  • Type of center. Different types of call centers may have different handling times. For example, some types of contact that may take longer include claims within an insurance company and reservations in the hospitality industry. A shorter contact might include paying a bill with a utility company.
  • Types of shifts. If a contact center runs multiple shifts or provides 24/7 customer service, each shift will have varying levels of occupancy.

How visual tools help improve efficiency

Contact centers look for ways to improve and increase utilization, while focusing on providing valuable training for agents. This is an important part of the success of any call center. Visual assistance tools can assist agents via remote assistance, and even virtual reality, to help improve the utilization rate and customer experience. Visual assistance tools provide pictures, videos and quick knowledge links to agents to assist with customer interactions and questions efficiently and effectively.

For example, an agent can use a knowledge base article with visuals that they can share with a customer. In a service desk environment, this is vital for agents to help customers understand exactly where to locate information on their device. Agents can receive this knowledge and improve call center skills through formal and informal training, which decreases training time -- a key factor that affects utilization -- and increases knowledge retention.

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