Call centre occupancy and how it applies to your chat channel

Occupancy is an essential metric for any call centre. Representing how busy agents are, occupancy is crucial for creating the optimal balance between employee efficiency and customer satisfaction.

When it was just phone calls, calculating and using this occupancy metric was simple enough. But agents now have to be active across multiple contact channels. As well as handling calls, they’re responding to emails, taking live chat sessions, replying to social media queries, handling tickets, and more.

This omnichannel nature of an agent’s job makes tracking call centre occupancy a complex endeavour. And optimal occupancy can mean different things across different channels. So, how does call centre occupancy apply to live chat?


What is call centre occupancy?

First, let’s dive into what we mean by ‘occupancy’.

Call centre occupancy is the percentage of time that your logged-in agents spend on call-related/service-related activity. This includes everything from the time spent in conversation, the time spent solving issues, and the time spent completing post-conversation tasks.

Essentially, it’s a measure of the percentage of time your agents are active on the contact centre floor.

The ideal rate for call centre occupancy is around 80-90%. Lower than this, and it suggests that you’re overstaffed. You have more agents than you need to meet customer demand.

Higher, and your agents aren’t getting a chance to breathe between customer interactions. Which, in turn, can lead to poor service and low employee satisfaction.


Why measure it?

Measuring call centre occupancy is a key part of call centre forecasting. That is, it helps you to estimate future contact volume, and make sure you have enough agents to meet that need.

Occupancy gives you an overview of whether you’re staffing the call centre correctly.

Low occupancy means you’re overstaffed, and so are using up resources such as agent time and company money when you don’t need to. It’s a signal of inefficiency.

Overly high occupancy, meanwhile, indicates that more customers are wanting to talk than the agents online can comfortably handle. This risks burnout and poor service.

In short, agents need a break between interactions, but also need work to do. Occupancy helps you decide how many agents you need to strike the right balance.


Call centre occupancy and live chat

So, how does having a live chat channel impact call centre occupancy?

  • Concurrency

One of the biggest impacts that a chat channel has on occupancy revolves around the introduction of concurrency. That is, concurrent chats add a layer of complexity to your calculations.

With phones alone, agents would be handling one call – and so one customer – at a time. With a chat channel, this limitation is not in place. Agents can support more customers over the same amount of contact handling time.

In a way, you can view this as creating more value for occupancy. That is, you (in theory) need fewer agents to meet contact needs, and hit that occupancy sweet spot.

  • Queue management

With chat, queues must be kept to a minimum — you must live up to the ‘live’ promise. Call centre occupancy, then, becomes an important part of knowing that you have enough agents to promptly meet demand. If your occupancy is too high, there’s a good chance that customers are being forced to wait in chat queues. (Not good.)

  • Alternative options

Call centre occupancy is a marker of efficiency. It shows that your agents are using their time to help customers, rather than sit with nothing to do. When you have live chat alongside your phone lines, you give another (popular) channel to focus on when calls are low. This means agents always have something to do — and thus improves call centre occupancy.


Chat channel occupancy

As call centres continue to evolve to embrace the omnichannel needs of today’s customers, call centre managers will need to adapt their metrics to include new channels.

Live chat software may make calculating call centre occupancy slightly more complex — but it’ll also help your team become even more efficient and productive.


ESAT: employee satisfaction and why it matters

A best practice guide to managing concurrent chat sessions

Embracing the omnichannel contact centre