The industry term for the percentage of time your support agents spend in the queue serving customers is called “utilization”. If you were to work with a Business Process Outsourcer (BPO) to provide support services for your business, one of the things you would ask about is utilization rate. The reason that’s important is because you need to know for each hour of time that you pay for, how much of that time is actually spent serving customers vs working on other things.
Is there an ideal utilization rate?
It’s certainly not greater than 100%, like we might have seen in our fictional example above or in this real example from Away Luggage
. Working overtime just to churn through a support queue is not sustainable in the long term and will eventually lead to negative experiences for customers.
It’s also not going to be exactly 100%, which is what Arise advertised to its partner businesses, leading to exploitive practices
towards its agents. Arise was able to advertise 100% utilization because agents—who were individual business owners—didn’t get paid for breaks and had to pay for their own training, which is not a great model for building up the humans doing support.
When I spoke to Suneet Bhat from Boldr
a few months back (video of our conversation
), he mentioned that the utilization rate that they communicate to their clients is around 80% (11:44 in the video):
“We’ve got management meetings, we’ve got reporting, we’ve got all of these learning and development [opportunities]. We’ve got all these things that are built into people’s schedule.”
Simply for the reason that people are going to burn themselves out if they’re sitting in front of a queue all day, you need to have time out of the queue to be your best self at work. But what’s more, extra-queue-rricular work gives your team recovery and produces additional performance.