ACDs Help Call Centers Reduce Agent Unavailability
June 29, 2012
Agent unavailability strikes at the heart of call center profitability since an unavailable agent is an unproductive agent. Although agents are hired to handle contacts for a complete shift, industry experts note that it is not uncommon for an agent working an 8-hour shift to only be available to take calls for about 5.5 of those hours.
“I have consulted with many call centers that have a working rate of less than 4 hours out of an 8 hour shift for various procedural reasons,” said Lane Windward, a contact center implementation specialist for virtual call center provider inContact, in a blog entry. “Most of the time it is quite possible to cut out a good portion of your agent unavailable time. By default, productivity (and of course profitability) is automatically increased as well.”
Properly understanding when agent unavailability is occurring and for what reasons is perhaps the most important task in reducing agent downtime. Automatic call distributor (ACD) systems play a key role counting and classifying agent unavailability, yet most call center managers don’t understand how to properly use ACDs to cut unavailability.
“All ACD systems I have ever used have the built-in ability to track unavailability,” Winward said in another blog post about agent unavailability. “But well over 85% of the contact center managers I have consulted with confessed to only a minimal understanding of proper methods to manage unavailability into the most profitable state possible in their environment.”
Unavailability tracking codes—sometimes called auxiliary codes or agent unavailable states—help measure why agents are unavailable, but Winward noted that the majority of the more than 150 call centers he’s worked with have too few unavailability codes to be useful.
“If you have too many,” he said, “agents will be frustrated at the list and will only chose one or two same codes to use regularly and then your numbers will be off and no optimization can occur.”
Winward continued, “There are various reasons for this. The codes themselves used to be hard to create, use of the codes was too hard for the agents to figure out, or enforcing was too hard for supervisors to accomplish. Most up-to-date ACD systems now make it very easy to create new codes and have agents choose the codes easily when needed.”
Too many codes can be a problem, too. If the list of unavailability codes is too long, some agents will get frustrated and choose only one or two codes on the list that they then will use for all unavailability situations.
Some of the codes that Winward recommended include Research, Agent to Agent Mentoring, Coaching, Supervisor to Agent Mentoring, Product Training, Up Training, Procedural Training, Lunch, Break, Personal Misc (for activity outside of normally scheduled breaks), Technical Difficulties, Beginning of Shift, End Of Shift (a state agents can go into while on their last call of the day in order to prevent themselves from getting any other queued calls), Additional Disposition Time, Supervisor Unavailable (for when supervisors are logged into the system to but not actually taking calls), Quality Monitoring, Outbound, Team Meeting, and Manager Assigned Projects.
“Setting proper unavailable procedures is about making the best efforts possible to accurately track wherever possible, all practices and procedures that keep agents from being available to take calls,” Winward noted. “Once you can accurately track any process, then and only then can you manage it.”
Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
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