How to Improve Quality in Call Centers? Start by Optimizing Idle Time

Ben Franklin said, “Do not squander time, for it is the stuff life is made of.” Unfortunately, call centers are often guilty of squandering time—and quite a bit of it—with idle time. This downtime, when agents are not interacting with customers, hinders call center quality and productivity.

The Aberdeen Group found that call center agents spend an average of 25% of their paid time in an idle state. This wasted time equates to an approximate loss of $11,252 per agent a year in unnecessary operational expenses. Can your organization afford this lack of efficiency? Here are three call center improvement strategies to harness idle time, train agents, and improve call center quality.

Step 1: Use Task Management Tools

Call center agents spend about 49 minutes of their day idle, and the majority of this time occurs in less than three-minute intervals. These frequent, small occurrences of idle time make it difficult to complete worthwhile tasks. However, call centers should look to technology to figure out how to improve call center performance and leverage idle time.

Real-time task management tools do a great job of estimating the number of contact center agents required for smooth day-to-day operations. These tools collect and measure real-time call data and call center efficiency metrics to create effective call center schedules. Task management technology also groups one to three-minute idle periods to “free up” dedicated agents for more useful periods of time—typically ranging from 15 to 30 minutes. This seamless staffing change allows call centers to manage idle time and prioritize tasks for agents who are not interacting with customers. Because these tools look at operations in real-time, call centers can adjust the number of agents available to interact with customers if the call volume unexpectedly increases—resulting in greater call center efficiency and productivity.

Step 2: Use Idle Time for Training and Coaching

How should call center leaders use these newly established periods of extended idle time? First and foremost, seize the opportunity to train and coach agents. Businesses need to consider how to improve call center customer service to address shifting customer needs and trends. Thoughtful training and coaching provide agents with the knowledge and skillsets needed to deliver increasingly excellent customer support.

Continuous call center agent training proves to be beneficial. Call centers that provide ongoing agent training
achieve a 4.6% year-over-year improvement in agent performance compared to call centers that don’t. Modern learning software helps managers create and assign simple, yet effective lessons on new products, skills, and procedures agents need to know. Meanwhile, agents quickly access, engage with, and review interactive courses and programs—further maximizing the limited idle time. While training isn’t a break from work, it offers agents the chance to do a different kind of work and learn something new. As a result, agents will perfect their roles with great excellence—an important quality for teams exploring how to improve a call center’s environment and quality.

As call centers leaders work to identify how to improve call agent performance, idle time is also a prime development opportunity for one-on-one coaching. If agents demonstrate low-quality scores, or higher-than-average handling times, consider pairing agents with productive leaders for in-depth coaching.

Like training, coaching is an effective way to teach new or improved techniques and provide agent support—all with the goal of improving call center quality.  

3. Use Idle Time to Gather Feedback

Call centers should constantly evaluate how to improve call center performance by seeking helpful feedback and valuable insight from their employees. Since agents interact directly with customers, other employees, and software, ask them about specific processes through confidential surveys or one-on-one meetings—during idle time. After collecting the data, act on it. Responding to feedback boosts agent productivity, as it motivates and encourages team members to do great work.

But don’t stop with employees. In order to improve call center quality, go straight to customers to see what works and what doesn’t. Agents could use idle time to send out customer surveys with targeted questions regarding recent interactions. Similarly, agents could review feedback and satisfaction scores during idle time to pinpoint areas of improvement.

Acting on customer feedback drastically increases the overall efficiency and quality of a call center.

Idle time is an abundant but underused resource in the call center. These three call center efficiency tips enable teams to optimize idle time and improve customer support. And the best part? There’s not a moment squandered. Ben Franklin would be proud.

How to Improve Call Center Performance with Lessonly

Lessonly’s modern learning software is the ideal solution for call center idle time. Customer support teams use Lessonly to deliver targeted training to agents so they can learn essential work knowledge, improve skillsets, and deliver exceptional customer service. Empower your agents to do better work, and take a tour today.

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