Call Center Agent Utilization – Why Visual Tools Ensure Optimum Efficiency

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Every customer service professional knows that running a successful call center is a constant balancing act. Managers will often focus on improving employee productivity to keep customers happy and costs down. However, if they are too successful at increasing productivity, their efforts can easily backfire. Overworking employees can actually drive up call center costs by causing burnout and leading to high agent turnover. A report by HDI shows that when call center agent utilization rates approach 60–70%, the contact center will experience high attrition because they are pushing the agents too hard. Managers therefore need to seek creative solutions to increase productivity without overworking their people.

Let’s first take a look at how productivity is measured. Call center Agent Utilization and Occupancy are two important, yet often conflated KPIs used to measure the overall productivity of a contact center.

Agent Utilization indicates the percentage of an agent’s total shift spent on call-related activities. Agent Occupancy, on the other hand, indicates how much time an agent spends both handling calls and doing other non-call related activities. Aside from necessary breaks, employees spend a significant amount of time on activities such as team meetings, training, and assisting other agents or departments. Agents must also spend time on After Call Work (ACW), which includes tasks such as logging the call’s purpose and outcome, writing notes on actions taken, scheduling follow-up activities and updating the company’s internal knowledge base. Often referred to as shrinkage, these activities are vital to the overall operation, but take agents away from their primary task of handling calls. Reducing shrinkage is an obvious way to free up more time for agents to handle calls but should be managed prudently as most of these activities are vital to a company’s long-term success.

The Visual Solution

Live Visual Assistance is a technology that allows the service agent to visually connect with a customer through their smartphone camera or computer screen. This enables the agent to quickly understand and diagnose the problem and use Augmented Reality to visually guide the customer to a resolution. This technology is positively impacting efficiency KPIs as well as customer and employee satisfaction rates. Call centers using Visual Assistance have seen double-digit improvements in First Contact Resolution (FCR) rates, Average Handle Time (AHT), agent engagement and satisfaction (ESAT), as well as customer satisfaction metrics such as NPS, CES and CSAT.

Sharing the Knowledge

A knowledge base is one of a call center’s most valuable assets, yet most are plagued with poor usability. In fact, over 70% of employees say they have difficulty finding and accessing the information they need to do their jobs effectively.

Visual Assistance provides a much needed boost to the knowledge base, providing a fully visual resource for customer service reps, enabling them to quickly find an effective resolution using an image provided by the customer. The Visual Assistance provider begins by converting the company’s existing data into a visual format and uses Deep Learning AI to constantly expand and optimize the knowledge base.

Agents play a vital role in contributing to the visual knowledge base during their ACW. If an agent determines that a device replacement is required, instead of writing up a lengthy report explaining the decision, they can simply save an image of the broken or defective device to the system. Often, agents may deprioritize ACW in order to meet their time-based metrics, but with Visual Assistance, ACW becomes quick, easy and rewarding, bringing down AHT.

The Visual Impact on Training

Employee training is one of the most time-consuming “shrinkage” activities that takes agents away from customers. Reducing training time, on the other hand, will lead to poorly trained agents who could wreak havoc on customer satisfaction and overall productivity.

Visual Assistance provides an excellent solution to the training dilemma. During the initial training process, agents can see live issues in real environments, enabling them to grasp concepts more quickly. Since training is always an ongoing process with new technologies constantly being released, the visual database allows agents to effectively learn on the job, reducing shrinkage and improving productivity at the same time.

Collaboration is key

A collaborative work environment allows agents to draw on shared knowledge and resolve customer issues more efficiently. But constant team meetings can be a serious time drain, significantly reducing call center agent utilization.

Collaboration through Visual Assistance reduces the need for traditional time-consuming meetings. Agents are constantly contributing to the visual knowledge base and even communicating with each other in real time, once again performing a shrinkage activity at the same time as the productive work of handling calls.

Co-operation is king

In cases where the issue cannot be resolved over the phone, agents must usually dispatch a technician to make an on-site visit. Oftentimes, miscommunication leaves technicians inadequately prepared for the visit. With Visual Assistance, the agent provides an image of the issue, ensuring that the technician brings all the right equipment and parts, and alerting them to any access problems or potential dangers. This visual solution allows departments to communicate with each other in a language that everyone can understand.

Engagement is everything

Customer service centers are known for notoriously high rates of employee turnover. Aside from the obvious costs involved, attrition has a very negative effect on the overall work environment. Customers are turned off by the novice agent’s lack of knowledge, while demotivated agents become unproductive and easily frustrated.

Visual Assistance engages and empowers reps, boosting their productivity and reducing labor intensity. By having eyes on the customer’s environment – and their issue – the agent can instantly see the nature of the problem, enabling them to understand the root cause faster, without trudging through a mind-numbing list of diagnostic questions.

Agents who are more engaged with their customers are more invested in going the extra mile to help them find solutions. That means lower agent effort and higher overall satisfaction for both the agent and the customer. An engaged agent also doesn’t mind when other activities (training, meetings and inter-departmental collaboration) have been rolled into their call-related work. In fact, they experience greater job satisfaction knowing that they are making vital contributions to the entire organization.

Summary

Contact center managers, like customers, demand value for money and therefore aim for high levels of agent productivity. However, pushing agents too hard leads to burnout and attrition – that’s why there’s a need for new tools like Visual Assistance that can combine call center agent utilization with occupancy activities. Visual Assistance is a proven solution that improves productivity while avoiding employee burnout by incorporating many shrinkage activities into employees’ everyday tasks. This technology is restoring balance to the complex call center environment in a way that satisfies managers, agents and customers alike.

This article was first published on the TechSee blog.

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