In this article, we look at how to measure and calculate utilisation in the contact centre.
What Is Utilisation?
Utilisation (also spelt as “utilization”) is the percentage of time that an advisor is either assisting or available to assist with customer activity out of the time that they are paid to be in the contact centre.
Utilisation is the percentage of time that an advisor is either assisting or available to assist with customer activity out of the time that they are paid to be in the contact centre.
So, if your contact centre team has a utilisation rate of 80%, it means that your advisors are spending four-fifths of their scheduled time either productively helping customers or available to help them. The remaining time would be made up of internal shrinkage activities.
These internal shrinkage activities include things like coaching/team-building sessions, lunch and personal breaks.
While some people refer to this metric as “occupancy“, they actually measure two different things. However, the industry is not yet 100% aligned on these metrics.
With this in mind, Henriette Potgieter a call centre best practice management consultant at QBIC Solutions, who supplied us with the definition for utilisation, tells us: “It is very important to check what the specific name, definition and calculations are for these metrics within your specific environment.”
To calculate utilisation, the first thing that the contact centre needs to find out is the total amount of time its advisors are available to help, or are productively helping customers, over a certain time period. This is called this “Logged-in Time”.
Secondly, the contact centre would need to tally the total number of shift minutes that their advisors have been paid to be in the contact centre over the same period. Let’s call this “Total Paid Time”.
Once these two figures have been calculated, the contact centre can simply divide their “Logged-in Time” by their “Total Paid Time” and multiply the result by 100, which will then find a percentage utilisation. The formula for this is presented below.
Below is a practical example of using this formula, which includes the data from a team of five contact centre advisors, as displayed in the following table:
|Advisor||Scheduled Shift||Total Paid Time||Total Handling Time||Total Available Time||Total Logged-in Time|
|Advisor 1||9:00am – 5:30pm||510 mins||335 mins||67 mins||402 mins|
|Advisor 2||9:00am – 5:30pm||510 mins||346 mins||60 mins||406 mins|
|Advisor 3||9:00am – 5:30pm||510 mins||351 mins||62 mins||413 mins|
|Advisor 4||9:00am – 5:30pm||510 mins||329 mins||59 mins||388 mins|
|Advisor 5||1:30pm – 5:30pm||240 mins||162 mins||28 mins||190 mins|
|Cumulative||2,280 mins||1,799 mins|
(All the data included in this table can be sourced from either the contact centre’s schedules or its ACD system.)
From the data highlighted above, the contact centre would able to work out that:
- Total Logged-in Time = 1,799 mins
- Total Paid Time = 2,280 mins
With this information, the contact centre would be able to calculate that its utilisation is 79.0%.
Why Is It Important to Measure Utilisation?
According to Henriette: “It’s a business costs consideration. You employ a person to do a primary job and, within the contact centre environment, it is to handle customer transactions, whatever the channel.”
“So, you would expect an advisor to spend most of their time doing a primary job, and if you can set a target percentage of time for them to do that job and hit that target, you can better manage costs.”
You would expect an advisor to spend most of their time doing a primary job, and if you can set a target percentage of time for them to do that job and hit that target, you can better manage costs.
So, much like service level, you have a target for utilisation and track the metric to ensure you’re optimising both business costs and the efficiency of your schedules.
But that is not the only use for tracking utilisation, as it is also a useful input into shrinkage calculations.
As Henriette says: “Utilisation is important as input to shrinkage or overhead calculations, as it considers ‘non-customer-related activities’ that still get paid for but that take the advisor away from servicing a customer, such as ‘Training Time’, ‘Team Meetings’, ‘Personal Breaks’ etc.”
Your Utilisation Rate Should Not Exceed 86%
As Henriette tells us: “The recommended target for utilisation is often said to be 86%, but this will only be appropriate for certain companies, because your utilisation target is a reflection of other organisational goals.”
“For example, if you want to invest more in offline activities, like upskilling or team-building, you will need to have a lower target than 86%.”
86% is about as high as utilisation should be pushed, otherwise you will have no time for coaching after team meetings and personal breaks have been considered.
In this regard, 86% is about as high as utilisation should be pushed, otherwise you will have no time for coaching after team meetings and personal breaks have been considered.
Also, if your advisors spend an even higher percentage of their day on the contact centre floor logged-in, focused on the same tasks, your contact centre culture may suffer.
Remember that creating the time for team-building isn’t just about bringing fun into the workplace, which is important, but for forming strong relationships and helping to fight attrition.
So, if your utilisation rates are well over this 86% mark, alarm bells should be ringing!
Don’t Confuse Utilisation With Occupancy
Some industry professionals still use the terms utilisation and occupancy interchangeably, but they are wrong to do so as they are two separate metrics.
While utilisation considers an advisor’s total time in the contact centre, including internal shrinkage considerations, occupancy only considers the time when advisors are active on the contact centre floor.
To go into more detail, occupancy is instead the percentage of time advisors spend handling customer contacts compared to their log-in time. This is shown in the formula below:
So, while utilisation is useful for balancing costs and schedule efficiency, as well as calculating shrinkage, measuring occupancy has other benefits.
As Henriette says: “Occupancy is especially important in schedule design, as it assists with measuring schedule optimisation, so as not to have advisors sitting and waiting too long for calls.”
Keeping this in mind, both metrics are important for contact centres to measure, so please don’t confuse them.
Also, be sure not to get utilisation mixed up with any of the other metrics that are important for workforce management (WFM), such as schedule adherence and conformance.
For more on the distinctions between utilisation and other metrics, read our article: What Is the Difference Between Occupancy and Utilisation?
Utilisation Is NOT an Indicator of Advisor Productivity
Utilisation is not a metric that should be taken down to the advisor level, because it is not an indicator of an advisor’s performance, but it is instead an indicator of schedule efficiency.
So utilisation is a measure that reflects the job of the WFM team and is something that advisors have no control over.
Just remember, in the contact centre, efficiency measures do not reflect productivity. You instead calculate productivity mostly through schedule adherence, as that is something that is within an advisor’s control.
Henriette concludes: “Both utilisation and occupancy give us an idea of how resources are being used, so they are important management metrics.”
“However, productivity is more to do with advisor effectiveness, which is where adherence and customer-facing metrics, like quality scores, come in.”
Utilisation combines the time that advisors spend handling contacts with their available time, before considering that total time (logged-in time) as a percentage of the time that they were scheduled to work.
You target a certain utilisation rate based on your organisational goals and track the metric to ensure your schedules meet that target. The target shouldn’t be higher than 86%, otherwise your culture may suffer and attrition may increase.
The benefit of measuring utilisation is to balance business costs and scheduling efficiency, as you want to ensure that advisors spend most of their time doing their primary job – handling customer contacts. It’s also a good input for shrinkage calculations.
Finally, don’t confuse utilisation with other, separate, metrics like schedule adherence, conformance and especially occupancy!
Find out more about measuring other key contact centre metrics from our articles: