Idle Time in Contact Centers

Market research 04 12

What is Idle Time?

Idle time in the context of a call center can be defined as the interval that occurs between the moment an agent wraps up one interaction and the moment he gets on another call. In other words, it is the time spent by agents waiting to take the next calls. Idle time plays a crucial role in both the inbound and outbound call centers and needs to be calculated for every agent in the contact center. If an agent is neither engaged over a call nor involved in after-call wrap despite logging into ACD, it means the agent is idle. 

In today’s time, most contact center systems generate logs for automatically calculating the agents’ idle time and exhibiting it by the end of the day. However, it can be manually calculated by the following formula: 

The time at which an agent gets in a call – the time at which an agent turns off the not available status for the call. This can be measured in either seconds or minutes. 

By measuring the total idle time at any specific moment, you can acknowledge how many agents are sitting idle and since when they’ve been idle. Here’s how you can calculate agent idle time in real-time:

Total seats (100%) – Occupancy% = Idle time

Idle Time1

Why is Idle Time important?

The agents’ idle time is a resource that aids in protecting KPIs against the unexpected rise in call volume in a contact center. There are some workforce planners that consider idle time as wastage because they believe agents not taking calls are inefficient for the contact center. 

However, idle time is actually useful due to the following reasons:

  • In case there is 0% idle time, there will be no agent available to attend the next call that comes in the call center. This can lead to queueing as customers will have to wait for more. The situation will become worse if call volume gets steady as the queue will keep on increasing. The call center KPIs will be under threat.
  • Idle time also plays a pivotal role in protecting the well-being of call center agents. If there is 84% occupancy in a call center, that doesn’t mean the remaining 16% of the workforce never works; it shows that 16% of the time they are available encompasses spaces between calls.
  • If the occupancy of your call center approaches 100%, that means agents are taking calls back to back without stopping. This can negatively impact their motivation levels, thereby leading to agent burnout.

What is the ideal amount of idle time?

There is no ‘right’ value for the idle time that is universally accepted. It is absolutely dependent upon the requirements of a specific contact center and the predictability of its concerned call volumes.

It is difficult to manage idle time in call centers with fewer seats. As every agent is responsible for a larger proportion of total seats, the absence of any agent can deeply impact the contact center’s performance. Whereas in the case of large contact centers with 700 seats, the absence of 3 or 4 agents hardly makes any difference to the overall performance.   

To get an ideal amount of idle time, it’s recommended to consider a realistic range that doesn’t put too much pressure on the agents while avoiding tinkering. As per industry standards, call centers should aim to maintain an occupancy rate of around 85% which translates to 15% idle time.

Idle Time2

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Idle Time: FAQs

The available time is the period when normal users can use a computing system. It’s important that the system should function properly, i.e. with the right power supply, and shouldn’t require any maintenance. This time includes both productive as well as idle time.

Agent availability represents the time when an agent is available and waiting to take calls. Expressed in terms of a percentage, agent availability plays a key role in the functioning of both inbound and outbound call centers.

AHT (also known as average handle time) is a crucial call center metric that can be calculated by adding your total talk time, total hold time, and total after-call tasks, and then dividing the total sum by the total number of calls.

Idle in a call center means idle time i.e. the time spent by agents waiting to take calls. If an agent is ready to take calls and waiting in a contact center, then it’s referred to as “waiting for calls time”.

Usually, call center agents can take up to 50 calls on a daily basis but every case isn’t resolved on the very first call. There are follow-up calls for some specific cases that may continue to last for weeks post the first interaction!