Providing an ever-improving customer experience while boosting contact center agent productivity is paramount for your business. During the best of economic times, it’s a smart business practice. But with economic uncertainty, it’s a must — along with controlling costs.
To ensure your contact center agents spend a vast majority of their time with customers resolving issues and as little time as possible on administrative tasks and after-call work, agents need the right kind of tools, processes, coaching, motivation, and goals in place. Here’s the blueprint for achieving greater agent productivity in your call center.
Contact Center Agent Productivity Defined
Call center agent productivity is based on the efficiency and effectiveness with which your agents handle customer interactions, such as incoming calls, emails, chats, and social interactions. The most common performance metrics used to measure call center productivity are:
- Average Handle Time – average time it takes to resolve a customer inquiry
- Average Wait Time – average time a customer is waiting to be connected to an agent
- First Contact Resolution – percentage of interactions where the inquiry was resolved during the first interaction
- Utilization Rate – percentage of time an agent is handling interactions or doing work to help a customer
Why It’s Important to Measure Contact Center Agent Productivity
Call center productivity is important to measure because low contact center agent productivity can cost a business in time, revenue, and profitability. In times where doing more with less is critical, the first place a business should look to save costs is with their people and their processes.
The quality of customer service and support can also have an impact on the productivity of a contact center. A more productive contact center will have shorter wait times and higher First Contact Resolution rates, usually leading to increased customer satisfaction.
It’s key to understand the complexities of these metrics to know if they are leading to improved satisfaction or if customers are left feeling rushed and problems are left unresolved.
Ways to Measure Contact Center Agent Productivity
Measuring productivity in the call center can be complex. If you have the right contact center solutions that provide real-time and historical data for the most important call center productivity metrics, it’s a lot easier.
Let’s first look at individual agents, since headcount is usually the largest cost for a typical call center. This is likely the area where you can make the most significant impact. Consider a day in the life of an agent and find opportunities where productivity can be improved.
1. Are agents working on what they are scheduled to do?
Look at schedule adherence and schedule compliance metrics. Assuming your forecasting is accurate, examine if your agents are focused and compliant with working on the channels assigned (e.g., phone or digital), and are they taking breaks at the most optimal times to maintain service levels.
2. How long does it take agents to handle an inbound call or inquiry?
Average handle time and response time vary by channel, so it’s critical to benchmark and track by channel. It takes time and fine tuning to understand the right handle times and response times needed to achieve a positive experience on customer calls.
3. Do your contact center agents often place customers on hold or need to engage other agents to help them service a customer?
Having contact center software in place to automatically detect holds and dead air is a great way to minimize abandonment rates, maximize efficiency, and highlight areas for improvement. Technology solutions can help identify slow processes or lack of agent knowledge on how to best help a customer.
4. Are your agents engaged?
Disengaged agents can be costly to a company and hinder productivity. Using the metrics above as well as contact center manager check-ins and coaching can help boost agent productivity.
Related Article: Improve Contact Center Agent Productivity with WFM Software
Contact center managers play a key role in helping to improve agent productivity. Here are some ways to fine tune your forecasting, processes, and coaching to optimize your call center metrics.
1. How accurate is your forecast to actuals?
Accurate forecasting is critical and will tie directly to your agents’ schedule adherence. If you are not forecasting the staff you need with accuracy — across phone and all other channels — your agents may be self-correcting by working in channels not assigned, which can lower productivity. To minimize the percentage of unproductive time periods, you need a workforce management (WFM) solution that will accurately forecast multichannel agents across all channels in your business.
2. What is the occupancy rate?
This measurement examines how busy your agents are. Typically this is measured by looking at the total handle time divided by the total time available. The benchmark for this metric is typically 85-90% occupancy across all multichannel agents. If your agents are not hitting this metric, this could also point to inaccuracies in your forecast, which hurts productivity.
3. How are managers delivering coaching?
Coaching can be a costly black hole for some businesses. To control costs, take a close look at how coaching is delivered and the time agents spend being coached. Is the coaching session scheduled at an optimal time? Is it tracked so that managers can understand the impact of the coaching session? Are there opportunities to strengthen when and how coaching is delivered? Look for ways to tighten, integrate, measure, and track coaching to optimize the process and time spent doing it.
Coaching and mentoring are the best ways to improve overall agent productivity and contact center performance. Schedule sessions during times when productivity and service levels are not impacted. This will help address adherence with schedules, knowledge gaps, and how to solve particular inquiries and improve average speed of answer. The most important part is to measure the impact of your coaching and make sure agent productivity is moving in the right direction.
4. How are employees recognized?
Building a culture that’s aligned with business objectives and also recognizes employees for good performance can be impactful to business performance. The right contact center solutions can help improve agent motivation and drive overall success. If agent performance is recognized in inconsistent or disjointed ways, it can create inefficiency in agents’ and managers’ work days. Finding ways to drive agent motivation and engagement that is integrated into quality and performance solutions ultimately creates a more efficient approach and saves time and money.
Finally, let’s look at measuring contact center agent productivity from the customer’s perspective.
1. How satisfied are your customers?
Things like customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) are good indicators of customer happiness. Another indicator of satisfaction is customer sentiment. Using contact center software that can automatically detect customer sentiment and surface those reports to leaders will help you address customer satisfaction issues quickly and understand how agents can more productively service customers.
2. What are your wait times by channel?
How many customers drop from the channel before they can be serviced? This is critical to measure because many people connect abandonment with voice. People will also abandon live chats if they are left for too long a time period. In addition, customers can get frustrated when there is a lack of response for days from email and social engagement. Understanding what your wait times are and the abandonment rate across channels will indicate where you have room to improve quality and productivity.
Once you have determined the most impactful call center productivity metrics to measure, you are ready to turn your focus to improving agent productivity.
Five Ways to Boost Contact Center Agent Productivity
Call center productivity is constantly evolving, so it’s not something that can be looked at once and then forgotten. Customers, processes, people, and solutions can all change and impact how productive your business will be.
The key is to have a pulse on both the agent and customer experiences. Understanding that balance and the metrics that most impact them will help drive a more productive business.
1. Give Contact Center Agents A Purpose
Everyone wants their work to have meaning. To help agents experience this, make sure they understand how their work connects to the bigger picture of company success. Map your agents’ performance goals to your business goals, and help agents understand how they align.
When agents are clear on their priorities, they become more engaged. Managers should make it clear how their team’s work impacts satisfied customers and ultimately the long-term health and growth of the company.
2. Offer Feedback
Regularly offering agents feedback is key for them to understand how they are performing. Feedback should always be a mix of positive comments and opportunities to improve.
Link any improvements that need to be made, such as increasing average speed to resolution, help agents understand why metrics are important. Managers should encourage dialogues with team members so that any difficulties can be resolved before they develop into larger issues.
3. Invest In Coaching
To keep contact center agents engaged, invest in training and coaching. Ongoing learning opportunities keep staff updated on industry trends, best practices, and customer service techniques. Your agents will be better equipped to meet customer needs while outperforming competitors.
Coaching is a critical aspect of agent engagement in contact centers. With the right coaching solution, managers can give individualized feedback to agents and identify areas they need to develop so they can thrive and grow within your organization.
Using a coaching solution lets you address opportunities to improve as they happen and keep feedback frequent, useful, and actionable. Then your one-on-one meetings can be focused on building relationships with your agents.
By investing in effective coaching strategies and technology, contact centers can lower the average cost of agents and maximize employee engagement levels at the same time. You’ll also improve customer satisfaction scores, lower agent attrition, and help drive profitability.
4. Listen To Your Team
To keep agents engaged and productive, it’s important they feel heard. When contact center leaders listen to agents’ ideas and suggestions, it goes a long way toward improving customer service.
Offering agents the opportunity to share their ideas and feedback can help foster an atmosphere of trust, respect, and collaboration in the contact center. When connecting with customer service representatives, offer a variety of group, individual, and anonymous opportunities to share ideas, suggestions, and feedback.
Your coaching solution can help your team feel more heard and understood if you choose one that offers closed-loop feedback. Giving agents a chance to respond to coaching helps ensure they understand the improvement they need to make and lets them provide feedback to you as well.
5. Recognize Employees
Everyone enjoys being recognized for a job well done. When you acknowledge your team’s efforts and celebrate their successes, you help boost morale, increase agent engagement, and reduce employee turnover.
Make sure the acknowledgment is substantial. For example, you could set up a reward system for meeting certain performance targets or completing specific tasks on time as a way to boost agent engagement and efficiency. Provide a tangible reward for reaching goals, and demonstrate the value of agents’ efforts. You should also recognize individual accomplishments, along with team efforts, so that everyone feels appreciated for their team and individual contributions.
Various forms of recognition — from verbal praise by contact center managers to a formal ceremony with certificates or trophies from upper management — are effective in making team members feel valued and respected within the organization.
Don’t overlook the value of non-monetary rewards such as extra days off or flexible working hours. Showing your team how much you appreciate their efforts doesn’t have to cost anything. In fact, sometimes just taking the time out of your day for an informal chat over coffee can make all the difference.
As you continue on your contact center’s journey to increased agent productivity, consider these tips to scale your efforts:
- Know what contact center productivity metrics are most important for your business. Every business is different, as are its goals.
- Once you’ve established your critical contact center productivity metrics, put in place real-time visibility to them so you know when conditions and outcomes change and be ready to immediately address them.
- Reassess your key agent productivity goals and metrics quarterly. If you find that issues and challenges are not happening as frequently as they did in the past, you can move to reassessing every six months.
- Keep an open mind. Additional call center agent productivity metrics could emerge as your customer and business needs shift.