Occupancy: Great Metric, Bad Agent Goal

Occupancy is one of those tried and true measures of how efficient a contact center is.  It essentially measures how “occupied” agents are with customer work and includes the time they spend on customer interactions and any after-contact work (ACW.)  Occupancy is the opposite of available time so the longer an agent sits in available, the less occupied they are and the lower their overall occupancy will be.    

Many contact centers use occupancy to measure the effectiveness of their workforce management teams as it gives a good picture of how efficient your schedules are (depending on forecast accuracy) and how well you are managing over/understaffing in real-time.  It can also be used to measure employee burn-out given that consistently high occupancies (90% and higher) can burn-out employees and cause attrition.  Yep, occupancy is a great metric for a lot of things but the one thing it should never be used for is an agent goal.

Over the years, I’ve had multiple requests from contact center leaders for reporting on occupancy at the agent level.  They each understood the impact occupancy had on their overall productivity and cost so they wanted to measure it at the agent level to ensure that everyone was focused on improvement.  Some things are just not a designed to be measured at all levels. 

Given the ACD nature of a contact center and how occupancy is calculated, agents have very little control over how occupied they are.  Since occupancy is the opposite of available time, it can only increase when the agent is either occupied with a contact or in associated ACW after the contact is over.  Since agents cannot control the number or frequency of the contacts they receive, they can only do two things to increase their occupancy: 

·         Increase the length of the contact (i.e. keep the customer on the phone longer)

·         Increase the ACW (i.e. sit in ACW longer to avoid sitting in available.) 

By establishing an agent occupancy goal, you will actually drive lower customer satisfaction and higher staffing requirements/expense.  While occupancy may be a great way to measure at the team or center level, it can do damage as an agent metric.  When it comes to agent productivity, stick with the usual suspects like AHT and First Contact Resolution.  They each have elements the agent can control without doing damage.   

Do any of you use occupancy as a metric in your contact centers?  If so, what level do you measure it at? 

Troy Plott