3 Things Your Agents Could Be Doing with Their Idle Time

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Obviously, when we talk about efficiency in the workforce, we’re not striving for the kind of over-scheduling that will leave even the best and brightest agents burned out. We all need a little breathing room in our day. But excessive agent idle time should be an indication to take a closer look at scheduling and utilization rates. It also raises the question of how that time could be spent in a more productive manner – not that the occasional break isn’t conducive to morale.

Research from Aberdeen shows that in contact centers headquartered mainly in North America and Europe, agents spent approximately 25% of their salaried/paid-time idle, that is, time not engaging customers or receiving training or coaching. (Source: Automated Intraday Contact Center Workforce Management: Bridging the Disconnect Between Downtime and Effective Time, July 2012.) Our own research conducted shows similar findings – that the average agent spends about 11% – or 53 minutes – idle each day. That’s nearly five hours lost per agent each week, and over 229 hours every year.

For a 100-seat contact center paying an average agent salary of $17/hr, that’s a potential loss of over $389,000 annually.



agent idle time

Even with the high level of accuracy that most sophisticated workforce management systems have at predicting staffing needs, there are still normal fluctuations in call volume that can result in agent idle time. We touched on this subject a few months ago on the blog as well, Managing Your Workforce in Real Time. Real-time intraday management software has been able to find an average of four extra hours of agent time per month by consolidating idle time without affecting service levels, whether this time is accessible in increments of several minutes or blocks of several hours.

As a result, it only makes sense to put as much of this time as possible to optimal use. If agents spend time idle and unmotivated, it’s far more likely that they’ll see down time as an opportunity to:

  • Browse the Internet
  • Spend time on social media sites
  • Chat with friends or coworkers
  • Look for other employment opportunities

Intraday management technology can help you keep agents focused on meaningful tasks even when there are fluctuations in call volume, which not only elevates productivity but it provides a more satisfying work environment. Here are a few ways can help you make this happen:

  1. Deliver targeted training – Dynamically monitor agents’ call volume to deliver training by dynamically removing agents from the queue for training tasks if call volumes fall below a pre-defined level
  2. Maximize cross-channel customer experience – Transition staff from voice to other customer channels such as chat, e-mail, or social response based on real-time demand in each channel call/interaction volume
  3. Distribute back office work – Prompt the right agents to begin assigned back office tasks when call volumes decline to a pre-determined level


Opportunities for engagement don’t stop when the customer interaction ends. Aberdeen found that Best-in-Class businesses who optimize a larger percentage of agent idle time saw a corresponding improvements in customer satisfaction, number of SLAs met, and the amount of time required by supervisors to assist contact center agents. Read the full details of this report by registering and downloading the report, Automated Intraday Contact Center Workforce Management: Bridging the Disconnect Between Downtime and Effective Time” (2012).

You can also find out more on Aspect’s SaaS-based Active Assignment solution to learn more ways your workforce could benefit from this powerful intraday management software.

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