From Brian's Desk

Contact Center Excellence – Stand Out From The Crowd

A Look At Utilization

Utilization, quite literally, means “put to use”.  When agents are idle, they are not “put to use” and the idle time is therefore just cost.  The task of a contact center manager is to increase utilization thereby reducing idle time and cost.  Let’s face it, operating a contact center is a numbers game.  The higher the contact volume and the more uniform its distribution throughout the day, week, and month, the greater the chance of having little idle time.  The opposite is also true.  The lower the contact volume, and the more variation in the arrival of the contacts, the more idle time you will have.  Therefore, a single ‘pool’ of agents will always have less idle time, and a higher utilization, than if the single pool is broken up into smaller pools.

For a variety of reasons, sometimes valid, contact center managers break up the single pool by segmenting agents according to skills or channel and hence create multiple smaller pools of agents.  This segmenting is valid when the skills needed to handle the various types of contacts are very different.  This difference in skills may be of the more vs. less form, i.e. account balance vs. researching an erroneous entry on a bank statement.  In this case, presumably the account balance inquiry can be handled by an agent with lower skills, and at a lower cost.  The difference in skills costs may well outweigh the cost of a lower utilization.

The skills difference may be reflective of the diversity of the business, for example the skills to handle a mortgage refinance question are very different than the skills to handle a question relating to life insurance options.

Or the skills difference may be related to communication, some agents are just better at speaking and others are better at typing (to handle chats and eMail).

Whatever the skills differences, be sure they are significant enough to warrant the decrease in utilization.  Run your staffing models using a combined pool and separate pools of agents so that you are well aware of the cost of operating with the separate pools.  If the cost due to the utilization decrease is more than you want to see, try cross-training and/or improving your knowledge base to get closer to a single pool model.  The larger the pool, the more utilization you will have, so first exhaust other options before coming to the conclusion to segment your agents.


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