Call Centre Occupancy Metric Definition

Call Centre Occupancy Metric

The Call Centre Occupancy metric is typically used by call centre managers as a metric to determine how hard your frontline agents are working.

High occupancy means there are few gaps between calls for your employees, whereas low occupancy means agents have plenty of downtime between calls.

Given call centre labour is expensive, you typically aim to keep your workforce busy ratehr than sitting around waiting for calls all day .

With good WFM practices, a ‘normal’ call centre aims for around 80% occupancy ensuring there is a good balance of keeping your agents busy without overloading them with calls potentially leading to burnout.

How is Call Centre Occupancy Calculated?

The formula to calculate occupancy rate for a call centre is thankfully nice and simple:

(talk time and ACW) /(total sign-on time)

Using the above call centre occupancy formula in a real setting, if you assume a call centre agent spent 4 hours in talk-time and 2 hours in ACW for an 8-hour shift that would give them an occupancy of 75%

The 75% is calculated by adding the 4 hours of talk time + 2 hours in ACW for a total of 6 hours,  divided by 8 hours (total shift time) equals 75%.

Is the Call Centre Occupancy Metric a good one to use?

Like any call centre metric, you would never just look at one in isolation but it’s certainly one that is important.

As we mentioned earlier, the purpose of call centre occupancy metric is to determine how hard your workforce is generally working.

However, there is a big catch here.

Your occupancy figure is a direct outcome of your Workforce Management planning and your desired Service Levels.

Let me give you an example.

In an emergency services call centre, it’s obviously critical that calls are answered quickly.

Most emergency services call centres will have a Grade of Service target of 100% of calls to be answered within 5 seconds.

If all the call centre agents were busy and on calls the whole time, it would be impossible to answer calls within 5 seconds.

So to ensure there are sufficient agents available to answer calls literally as soon as they come in, it means you have to have lots of call centre agents available and ready to immediately answer the call.

As a result, it means an emergency services call centre will have a very low occupancy.

So for call centre agents, that means there will be plenty of time sitting around waiting for the phone to ring and it also means its a very expensive call centre to operate.

Don’t get fooled into thinking high call centre occupancy means your agents are productive!

Just because a call centre agent has high occupancy does not mean that they are productive!

Remember, the formula considers the talk time (the time on the phone talking to customers) and ACW (where the agent enters information about a call into a CRM system, etc.).

But consider this:

  • Instead of entering all the information about the call in ACW, the agent decides to play solitaire for 30 minutes after each call.
  • An agent may have extremely long and unproductive conversations with customers on each and every call.

In either case, occupancy will be high – but as you can appreciate, it does not necessarily translate to the call centre agent being productive.

The universal laws of the contact centre

One of the laws of contact centres is that it’s impossible to have high service levels AND high occupancy.

So, as a rule of thumb, remember: as Service Levels go up, Occupancy goes down.

Your occupancy result will be an outcome of the staffing, call demand, average handle time and service level goal.

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