How’s Your call center agent productivity?

By admin | Call Center Metrics

Is Call Center Agent Productivity Important?

This is an update to a post in Call Center Best Practices, from an article called, Call Center Metrics: Bill To Pay or Productive To Pay.

Essentially this article is designed to help you identify and understand your call center agent productivity.

I originally learned this call center metric while working in the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) side of the business.  

However, this is an excellent process to measure your call center agent productivity even if you manage an internal call center.

Moreover, this formula was used to identify the percentage of time that the call center agent was billable to the client (productive) against their payroll time.

The higher the percentage the better.

If you run an internal center you might think that this formula really doesn't apply to your situation.  I would disagree.

How can measuring your call center agent's productivity against the time you pay them, not be a good measure of productivity?

Some may refer to this as call center utilization, or even occupancy.  

But the fact remains true that how much time your call center agent's spend assisting customers against how much time they are on payroll is a good read in how effective they are.

Of course, this is not the only metric to look at but it is a good starting point.

Here's The Call Center Agent Productivity Formula

Below the formula is a breakdown of the components.

Call Center Agent Productivity

Sidenote:  1 Available time may not be productive or “billed” time depending on the billing model used. Per hour billing methods typically include available time; per minute models do not. You should customize your B2P (Bill to Pay) model to reflect your billing model

How Do We Define a Call Center Agent Productive State?

Most contact center companies define a productive state as any state in which the agent’s time is billed (regardless of bill type).

Internal contact centers usually measure it as any state in which the agent is productive, within their control.

Phone states that are typically included are:​

  • Is time talking to a customer (ATT)
  • Customer on hold time (AOHT)
  • Time performing post call work (ACW)
  • Outbound phone call Time
  • Time waiting for a call1 (AVAIL)

TIP: Some ACD’s have other states that may need to be included in calculating B2P or your productivity measure may be off.

Things to be aware of:

  • RING time may not be included in other states
  • Outbound calls while the customer is on the phone may or may not be included in AOHT or included in some other state
  • Agents in blended roles, such as email and chat, inbound outbound, may have productive time in more than one system – or– their time may be double counted.
  • The best course of action is to check with your IT staff or ACD provider to determine what work states are included in which measures.
  • You can still calculate B2P without this information, but recognize that you may need to confirm by observing an agent’s activities for a period of time, then comparing your observations with ACD reporting.

This is the best #callcentermetric formula to help determine productivity. #callcenter

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What Is The Right Call Center Agent Productivity Number?

The first step in developing the B2P target is understanding what the maximum average the target can be.

To develop the target, you will need to understand:​

  • Your company’s time off policies
  • Your average agent’s tenure (if attendance policies vary by agent tenure)
  • Known “time off of the phone” time, such as company meetings, team meetings, training, pre-shift meetings, etc.  Also referred to as shrinkage
  • You will also need access to actual paid hours from your company payroll system, or an audit-able way of tracking paid time
  • Historical information is extremely helpful in benchmarking where you have performed in the past and is can guide you to setting your future goals

Determining Your Call Center Agent Productivity Goal

Use your best estimate or an average based on agent tenure. You don’t have to be exact when setting these numbers; however, the closer you are the better your goal will be.

Remember—just by measuring, you will increase productivity. That is the beauty of this call center metrics formula.

Call Center Agent Productivity

1 Even if training time is billed to the client, chances are it is at a different rate/gross margin. Consider leaving it out of B2P and adding it back in or calculating it separately only if it is substantial.

Calculating Call Center Agent Productivity

Using 2,080 annual hours and 430 unproductive hours:

  • Normal (non-overtime) paid hours – estimated unproductive hours = maximum productive hours. 2,080 – 430 = 1,650 maximum productive hours
  • Productive hours / paid hours = B2P. 1,650 / 2,080 = 79.3% B2B goal.
  • In this example, the goal should be set at 79%

Step-By-Step Call Center Agent Productivity Calculation Applied

  • Determine agent actual paid time 1
  • Pull agent statistics from the ACD/Phone switch
  • Gather agent scheduled off-phone time
  • Calculate Agent productive time
  • Roll-up to Supervisor level
  • Continue to roll up to highest possible level
  • “Sanity Check” your numbers.
  • Coach, COACH your associates!

Example Calculation / Case Study

Example: Tela-Ring

Tela-Ring is an outsourced contact center provider, providing Technical Support to a global client.

Tela-Ring pays agents based on their log-in time, plus any paid time off; therefore, all associate time is captured by their ACD.

When an associate is off of the phone, they must use an “aux” state.John works full time at Tela-Ring as a Tech Support Associate.

During the last two-week pay period, John was paid for 80 hours. 8 hours of his paid time was for a vacation day.

John’s ACD statistics show the following:

  • Log-in time: 72:02:55
  • ACD Time: 36:04:03
  • Hold Time: 4:40:23
  • Avail Time: 8:03:04
  • Total “aux” states: 17:05
  • ACW time: 5:45:21
  • Ring Time: 0:25:58

Tela-Ring uses a scheduling software package that links to their switch. The following information was pulled from the system and correlated to John’s aux states (aggregated):

  • 1- 1hour company meeting 1 h
  • 1- day of vacation (not an aux state) 8 h
  • 2- 30 minute coaching sessions 1 h
  • 10-pre shift meetings @ 15 minutes 2.5 h
  • 18-15 minute breaks 4.5 h
  • 2- Training sessions 4.5 h

Total “known” off-phone/aux time 21.5h

Remember the formula...​

Call Center Agent Productivity

If the goal was set at 70%, John would not have met goal. Why?

Continue with the Steps...​

Step 5: Roll-up to Supervisor

Step 6: Roll-up to Center

Would you really want to pay an associate for 100% of their paid time consistently and only bill the client 69% of that time?

Was John as productive as he could have been? He was on vacation, should we cut him some slack? NO!

Look at the data and ask several questions:

- Was John on the phone in a productive state the time that he should have been? NO!

- John was paid for 80 hours and logged into the phone for 72 and had 8 hours of vacation: 72+8=80However, John was in AUX for over 17 hours, and you expected him to be in aux for 13 hours.

Remember the breakdown?​

  • 1- 1hour company meeting 1 h
  • 1- day of vacation (not an aux state) 8 h
  • 2- 30 minute coaching sessions 1 h
  • 10-pre shift meetings @ 15 minutes 2.5 h
  • 18-15 minute breaks 4.5 h
  • 2- Training sessions 4.5 h

Total “known” off-phone/aux time 21.5h

21.5 hours – 8 hours vacation time = 13.5 hours.

John was in aux for 17.08 hours (17:05). That’s over 3.5 hrs “missing!”

Had John been in AVAIL, Talk, or even ACW, his B2P would have been:54.96 hours + 3.58 “missing time in aux” = 58.54 hours = 80

4 percentage points in B2P can make a huge difference to your bottom line!

Additional Considerations to Call Center Agent Productivity 

  • B2P is a powerful tool to manage the day-to-day operations of your contact center when coupled with Occupancy to make decisions.
  • When occupancy is high, maximize B2P. Your B2P should be exceeding goal as most off-phone activities are delayed or cancelled.
  • When occupancy is low, maximize occupancy. Take a hit to your B2P to drive the remaining agents’ occupancy higher (and increasing their individual B2P!)
  • Most call center managers intuitively do this—take agents off the phone when it’s slow, and everyone gets on the phones when it is busy.
  • What’s missing is a critical step in the process – using numbers and analysis to tell your story and quantify the impact.

How To Communicate To Your Leadership:

From this....

VP: “Why’s your B2P so low, Fred?”

Fred: “We were slow, so I took agents off the phone to up-train them on the new product.”

To this....

Fred: “Our occupancy was in the 50’s. I knew our B2P was at 87% last week, and since the volume was low, I took a hit on B2P to train on the new product. This drove our occupancy up to 75%. The extra training drove our B2P from 82% projected for the week to 78%. I decided that trade-off was worth the short-term hit.”

This has been a long post, but I believe it is excellent information.

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About the Author

Greg is a seasoned Customer Experience and Call Center Efficiency Senior Consultant that has had an impact in the industry for the past 20+ years.  He has developed products to help Call Center Leaders improve performance.  If you want to motivate your teams to consistently achieve goals then Call Center Games is for you.  If you want to increase employee engagement and hit amazing milestones in your call center then PRIDE Teams is for you.  You can always visit our Call Center Resources to learn more about tools that will help you become a rockstar!

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