Tap Into Your Largest Overlooked Resource: Agent Idle Time
2 May, 2012By: Matt McConnell
Ever have that feeling that time just slips through your fingers? Maybe you’re racing against the clock to deploy urgent communications about a policy change or implement new product training. Whatever the fire drill of the day is — time is scarce.
Additionally, there are larger corporate goals your call center can positively impact, such as improved customer satisfaction, turning your center into a profit center by increasing sales or improving the overall efficiency of operations. Finding the time to accomplish everything your center needs to accomplish can be challenging, because there is more to an agent’s day than handling inquiries.
Where Agent Time Goes
Almost one fourth of an agent’s workday is spent off the phones, not interacting with your customers. Though many of these off-phone activities (i.e., training, coaching, team meetings, after-call work and projects) are critical to agent performance and ultimately the overall success of the company, they take time away from an agent’s primary job — handling customer inquiries.
Another factor is the time between calls when agents are sitting at their desks idle, waiting for the next call to come in. This time is rarely productive because it comes in such small increments (typically around two minutes) and doesn’t give agents enough time to complete any meaningful task. But there are ways to better use this idle time to make agents more productive.
An Intervention Through Contact Center Technology
To combat the unavoidable downtime in contact centers, there is real-time technology that integrates with the call center’s ACD to manage collective idle time across the entire agent population. This technology then aggregates that time and delivers larger blocks of time to a select group of agents so that off-phone activities can be completed without disrupting service levels. This enables centers to use the natural downtimes for their agents to complete necessary activities that typically took them away from the phones. Tasks are defined in each agent’s queue and assignments can be handled automatically based on your business rules.
Many different types of tasks or activities can be delivered to the agent desktop to improve operations and overall contact center profitability. Each call center has its own unique opportunity for implementing technology that makes idle time useful. Here are some examples:
Ensure agents read urgent communications.
Create an activity type specific for urgent communications and assign it highest priority so that it is pushed to agents quickly and can be set to be uninterrupted by your ACD. This helps centers deploy information without pulling agents away from the phone for a quick meeting and also provides a layer of transparency.
Send materials for agents to review prior to their weekly huddle.
Enable agents to review materials during idle times before the huddle, giving them more time to digest the material and be more prepared to discuss and ask questions during the huddle. This often reduces the time required for the weekly huddle itself or provides more time for agents to learn, better preparing them for challenges they face on the floor.
Prioritize billable training over non-billable assignments.
Ensure agents complete more billable training by prioritizing billable training over other assignments in the agent’s activity queue.
Prompt new hires to speak with their managers.
Remind new agents to ask their training managers for additional courses, then “find” the time for them to complete these courses so that agents can finish their training while beginning the call-taking process.
Find time to deliver daily breaks for agents to complete off-phone activities of their choice.
Better use of idle time results in the increased productivity of your entire agent workforce and, ultimately, fewer agents needed on the floor — an advantage smart contact centers need to capitalize on today. By using real-time solutions to identify pockets of unproductive idle time and transform it into productive time, contact center leaders are able to dynamically deliver off-phone activities that dramatically improve agent productivity, operations and overall profitability.