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Contact and call center productivity: What it is and how to measure and improve it with AI

Austin Guanzon

Customer Support Manager - Tier 1

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If you manage a contact center, you know that agent productivity is crucial to the success of your operation.

Our contact center at Dialpad handles customer questions 24/7 around the world, and lucky for us, we’re building the tools that our own team uses to handle both inbound and outbound customer communications!

In this blog post, I’ll walk you through what agent productivity is, how to measure it, and specific ways to improve agent productivity in your contact center or call center. Let’s go.

What is productivity in call center?

In a contact center or call center, agent productivity is typically measured as the number of contacts (e.g. messages and phone calls) each agent handles, divided by the total time they spend handling those contacts.

The goal is to have agents spending as much time as possible on productive activities, such as talking to customers, and as little time as possible on unproductive activities, such as administrative tasks. Today, contact center AI has really transformed how we improve agent productivity, including reducing after-call work and providing real-time assists on calls. But more on that later.

How to calculate agent productivity in your call center

To calculate agent productivity in your contact center or call center, you’ll need to consider a few factors. The first is the total number of conversations handled by each agent. This includes live chats, SMS, inbound calls, outbound calls, and so on (depending on which channels your contact center covers).

You’ll also need to take into account the average length of each call, as well as the average talk time.

Once you have all of this information, you can start to calculate productivity. The most common way to do this is by using a formula that takes the total number of calls handled, divided by the number of hours worked. This will give you a general idea of how many calls each agent is able to handle in an hour.

(Note that this method does not take into account the actual length of each call or the talk time.)

There’s also the Erlang C formula, which was invented, surprisingly, back in the 1900s and is widely used in the call center industry to calculate staffing needs. The thing is, the Erlang C formula doesn’t technically calculate agent productivity or call center efficiency—in fact, depending on your specific team and business, you might use different metrics to measure contact center agent performance.

9 Call center productivity metrics

Here are a few common call center productivity and performance metrics. My own team is measured on a mix of these, but every team and supervisor prioritizes different KPIs.

1. Average handle time (AHT)

Average handle time is one of the most popular agent productivity metrics when it comes to contact center optimization, and it measures the average amount of time it takes for an agent to complete a customer interaction, from start to finish.

This metric includes both talk time and after-call work time. To calculate it for call centers, just add up the total talk time and after-call work time for all agents, and then divide by the number of calls handled.

For contact centers, it’s the same thing, except you’d include all non-phone-call contacts too, like live chats and social media conversations.

2. Customer satisfaction

CSAT (customer satisfaction) is a measure of how happy or satisfied customers are with the interactions they have with your contact center agents. Even though it’s not technically a “productivity” metric, it does relate strongly to agent performance, and is one of the most-used contact center metrics no matter what industry you’re in.

Traditionally, the most common way to find your CSAT scores is by sending a survey to customers after they have interacted with an agent, but the challenge is that not a lot of people actually fill out those surveys.

In fact (depending on the industry and specific business of course), we've found that on average only about 5% of customers actually fill out CSAT surveys. On a related note, usually only the angriest—and happiest—customers actually bother to respond to these surveys, which means your CSAT answers are likely to be very skewed and not representative of how your customers feel overall.

Dialpad's industry-first Ai CSAT feature is designed to solve exactly that. Not only can our Ai transcribe calls and analyze sentiment in real time, it can also infer CSAT scores for 100% of your customer calls thanks to its hyper-accurate transcription feature. The result? A much more representative sample size for CSAT scores, and a more accurate understanding of how satisfied your customers really are:

Screenshot of Dialpad Ai inferring CSAT scores automatically from customer conversations

3. First call resolution (FCR)

First call resolution or first contact resolution is the percentage of calls that are resolved on the first contact with the customer service agent.

To calculate this metric, track the number of calls that are resolved on the first try and divide it by the total number of calls your contact center or agent received.

This is the percentage of contacts that are resolved on the first call. To calculate FCR, divide the number of contacts that were resolved on the first call by the total number of contacts received in a period of time.

4. Average speed of answer (ASA)

Average speed of answer is the average amount of time it takes for an agent to answer a call . This metric is important because it can give you insight into how well your contact center is staffed . If agents are taking too long to answer calls , it could be an indication that you need to hire more staff (or provide better training).

Our team uses Dialpad’s cloud contact center platform, which comes with a convenient analytics dashboard that shows us our average speed of answer—no calculations needed:

Screenshot of Dialpad's built-in heat map analytics feature showing average speed to answer

5. Average after-call work time

Average after-call work (ACW) time is the average amount of time it takes for an agent to complete all tasks related to a customer interaction after the call has ended. This includes things like dispositioning the call, sending follow-up messages, and/or making notes in the CRM system:

Screenshot of dispositioning a call in Dialpad

6. Occupancy

On a related note, occupancy in contact center terms refers to the amount of time that agents spend handling customer calls and related activities like after-call work tasks. It’s expressed as a percentage against an agent’s total availability / idle time.

The difference between occupancy and ACW time is this also includes work before the customer interaction starts.

📚 Further reading:

Learn more about call center occupancy.

7. Quality assurance score

Quality assurance or QA scores are a measure of how well agents are following your company's procedures when interacting with customers . This metric can be tracked in a few different ways, but one common method is by having the supervisor review call recordings and/or transcripts, and checking off whether agents did certain tasks in their customer conversations (it can be as granular as greeting the customer off the bat, apologizing for wait times, and even attempting an upsell or cross-sell at the end).

8. Average unavailable time

Average unavailable time is the average amount of time that agents are not available to take calls during their shift. This metric includes things like break times, meetings, and training sessions . To calculate it , simply add up all of the unavailable times for all agents and divide by the number of agents.

9. Net promoter score (NPS)

Net promoter score is a metric related to customer satisfaction that specifically tells you how likely customers are to recommend your product or service to others.

It's calculated by asking customers how likely they are to recommend your company on a scale from 0 to 10, and then grouping those responses into three categories:

  • Promoters (9-10),

  • Passives (7-8), and

  • Detractors (0-6)

How to improve call center productivity

There are a few ways to improve agent productivity in your contact center or call center.

Make sure that you’re properly staffed

It’s one of the keys to good contact center management—you absolutely need to have the right number of agents for the volume of calls and messages you’re receiving.

If you have too many agents, they’ll be sitting idle and not productive. If you have too few agents, they‘ll be overwhelmed and unable to handle all of the incoming inquiries.

👉 Dialpad tip:

Have self-service options like a detailed online Help Center and conversational AI or a chatbot set up on your website. This will deflect a large chunk of customer questions, reduce wait times, and help your agents not feel so overwhelmed.

Give your agents the tools and resources they need

This goes beyond just giving them a training session when they’re onboarded as a new hire. Ongoing training and coaching is a must, as is equipping them with the right tools and resources.

Agents need to have access to a good quality phone system or contact center software and a reliable computer, but training is a huge piece of the puzzle too. Your products and services are probably constantly evolving—do you have a system in place to make sure your agents are among the first to get trained on these changes, so they’re able to answer any questions that customers throw at them?

Dialpad Ai has been huge for our agents—the Ai Agent Assist feature automatically searches all our connected knowledge sources (including even unstructured sources like PDF documents and past customer conversations) to provide information to agents—in real time:

Screenshot of Dialpad’s Ai Agent Assist feature automatically searching for information to help an agent or rep in real time

Motivate and reward a job well done

Finally, an underrated way to improve agent productivity is by ensuring that they are motivated and engaged in their work!

This can be done by setting goals for them and providing recognition when they reach those goals. Give them feedback on their performance on a regular basis—again, AI can be helpful here because it can automate things like QA scoring. Supervisors should always be empathetic and objective when providing constructive feedback, but gathering data points for every agent, every quarter can be super time-consuming. Not many teams are doing this just yet, but we’ve already seen how AI can help reduce a lot of the burden for managers when providing feedback to agents.

How will you improve agent productivity?

With more and more contact center teams hiring distributed agents who work from home, keeping an eye on productivity is arguably harder today than it’s ever been.

And that’s not even considering all the additional customer service channels that businesses have to cover today, like live chat, WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat…

To maintain a high level of agent productivity, you need to not only empower agents to do their jobs well, but also have the real-time contact center analytics to report on these numbers and understand where improvements are needed. But your biggest secret weapon, in my opinion, is automation. Specifically, AI. I might be biased, but it’s because my own team is using it every day, and seeing how it’s improved our processes—and the customer experience—significantly. See how it could work for your organization too!

See how Dialpad Ai can supercharge agent productivity

Book a demo with our team, or take a self-guided interactive tour of the app on your own first!