How Agent Utilization Is Affecting the Efficiency and Cost of your Service Desk

The Agent Utilization metric gives you insight into several aspects of your service desk’s operation. First, it shows you how much of your agents’ time is spent in handling customer calls. As such it’s a measure of productivity.

Second, the Agent Utilization metric relates directly to the Cost Per Call metric. Because personnel costs (salary, benefits, etc.) are the largest component of overall service desk expense, having agents sitting idle raises the Cost Per Call metric. On the other hand, high Agent Utilization rates indicate those personnel dollars are being used efficiently.

Third, as discussed below, very high Agent Utilization rates can signal unrest among the agent population.

What Is the Agent Utilization metric?

The Agent Utilization is the ratio of time spent on calls divided by the total time agents are logged in and assisting customers, or are available to assist customers.

What Is the Agent Utilization Formula?

Because this metric intends to measure the overall productivity of all agents, there are a few different options for making the calculation.
In the simplest case:

However, to make even this simple case practical, you’ll need to define a few parameters.

  • What “given period” do you want to use? Weekly scores will give you more data for trend plotting, although many service desks default to monthly periods.
  • Be sure the “total time worked” includes only that time agents are actively logged in and helping (or are available to help) customers.
  • You may want to consider the time spent doing after-call research needed to resolve the case. After all, a ten-minute call that requires an agent to spend an hour doing research should be reflected in the metric.
  • If you have several teams working at different levels of competency, do you want to develop metrics for each group?
  • To be entirely accurate in calculating your metric you may want to look at the denominator carefully. Do you want to factor in break times for each agent, then average them for the entire team? How about vacation or sick days taken from the “pool” of available work hours? What about training time? Do you really need to delve into that level of detail? It can be hard to come by, depending on the amount of data your ACD or ticketing system provides. If you want to avoid that fine-detail level, there’s an alternate way to make the computation.

Your service desk handles 250 calls per period and spends an average of 10 minutes per call.
The period you want to measure is a calendar week. With your desk operating 7 days for 10 hours per day, you have 600 minutes per day.

The same considerations as noted for the simpler formula above apply here, too.
And, if you want to sharpen up the metric without trying to capture every non-productive moment, you could use your existing software systems to determine the time lost to breaks, vacations, etc.—then add a few points to the metric. For instance, you might look at service-desk-wide figures for non-productive time. You may find, say, 580 is a more accurate figure for minutes worked each day. That would move your metric to 61.6%.

Impact of Poor Agent Utilization Scores

  • Poor scores that can hurt your service desk performance can occur both at the low and high end of the range.
  • A low score suggests low productivity, perhaps due to over staffing, with agents sitting idly waiting for calls.
  • A high score, much above 60 or 70 percent is likely to lead to agent turnover. While it might seem that an even higher percentage utilization would be desirable from the standpoint of service desk operating expense, such high values can have psychological impact on people who feel “maxed out” with no time to breathe between calls. Such agents are not likely to be as helpful to customers, which may begin to depress your customer sat metrics as well.

How to Monitor Agent Utilization

Every service desk manager needs to identify issues related to the desk’s performance—both from the standpoint of expense, and of effectiveness in serving customers. Traditionally, managers have turned to the reports produced by their ACD and ticketing systems. However, studying reports looks backwards. It tells you nothing about what is happening right now. Service desk operation is a living event, changing each moment. A service desk monitoring tool that shows you real-time metrics and that consolidates information from many different technologies, even siloed systems, gives you the ability to manage proactively, all on one dashboard—one that requires a single login to present data from numerous disparate software tools you already have. Using the right tool gives you an in-the-moment early warning system to better manage your expenses and to enhance customer satisfaction.

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