Improving Occupancy Rates at Your Multilingual Contact Center

Contact centers and customer support teams track a number of critical metrics to monitor performance and overall health of the business. While measuring customer satisfaction, typically via CSAT or NPS surveys, is almost always the most important data point for these teams to track, there are many additional metrics that can’t go overlooked.

One such metric is occupancy rate. Understanding the occupancy of each agent at a glance, as well as overall occupancy of the team as a whole, helps inform hiring decisions as well as uncover opportunities for improvements to process or performance. 

Getting occupancy right is a challenge for many customer service departments, especially those at organizations tasked with providing multilingual customer support. If you’re looking to optimize occupancy rates for your CS team or contact center and experiencing the challenges of providing multilingual support, keep reading.

What Is Contact Center Occupancy?

Put simply, contact center occupancy measures how much of an agent’s available work time is spent helping customers. This includes the total time spent actively communicating with customers via phone, email, chat, etc., as well as the time spent on follow-up activities from those conversations with customers. 

How is Contact Center Occupancy Measured?

The formula for calculating the occupancy of a contact center is straightforward. For a specific period of time, take the total time that your agents spent helping customers and divide it by their total available work time. Take that number and multiply it by 100 to get their occupancy rate percentage.

You can do this for your entire team of agents or for each individual agent. In fact, we recommend you do both.

Here’s an example: if an agent has 40 available work hours in a week and spends 35 of those hours actively helping customers or completing tasks associated with customer requests, the occupancy rate for that agent is 87.5%. 

What is an Ideal Contact Center Occupancy Rate?

The optimal occupancy rate for a contact center ultimately depends on a number of factors that may vary widely depending on the industry, the team composition, and your company culture.

Industry leaders generally recommend aiming for an average occupancy rate of between 80-90%, though some emerging thought leaders are advocating for the expectations for occupancy rate to lower slightly in order to produce a better working environment for agents and avoid high turnover rates.

The occupancy rate that you strive for can change over time, but what is most important is seeing where your actual rates stack up against the goals you’ve set. If your occupancy rate goal is 80% and your agents regularly come in at 70% or below, that’s an indicator that agents’ time is not being allocated properly and idle time is too high. Meanwhile, an occupancy rate of 90% or above means that your agents are over-capacity, so it’s probably time to expand the team or find a strategy to reduce incoming support requests.

While we can’t issue a blanket statement telling you exactly what your occupancy rate goals should be, we have plenty of tips for how to achieve those goals, whatever they may be.

Achieving Occupancy Goals at your Multilingual Contact Center

Every customer-centric organization is bound to run into challenges related to occupancy, particularly when a multilingual customer base is involved.

Why is optimizing occupancy rate especially difficult for multilingual customer support teams? Here’s an example. A company with only English-speaking agents begins receiving support requests in Spanish and Chinese as well as English, so they decide to invest in hiring agents with fluency in both Spanish and/or Chinese. This solves the problem of being able to communicate with Spanish and Chinese-speaking customers—up until one day, when the organization receives a massive influx of Chinese support requests beyond what the Chinese-speaking agents can address. The Chinese-speaking agents on the team are now overwhelmed and unable to properly address all of the support tickets in the queue. Meanwhile, the Spanish-speaking agents are experiencing an unusual downturn in support requests. But even though they have all this extra time, they can’t jump in and help their Chinese-speaking counterparts due to language barriers.

This CS team now has one subset of agents that’s over-occupied, and another that’s under-occupied. While some spikes in support requests can be predicted and accounted for in the hiring or scheduling plan, there will likely be many occasions when such increases are seemingly random and impossible to plan for.

So, how can brands with a multilingual customer base properly address all customer queries while achieving ideal occupancy rates?

Expand article support to every language your customers speak

When customer support requests pop up in a variety of languages, many brands respond by hiring agents who can speak those languages. While this helps address conversational requests for in-language customer support, it often means that knowledge base and FAQ articles are overlooked. Considering that 4 out of 5 customers try to solve their own problems first before contacting a brand’s customer service team, you can’t exclude your non-English speaking customers from getting answers via self-service support resources.

If your self-service portal and/or knowledge base is English-only, it’s time to expand into all of the languages your customers speak. Providing FAQ articles and related content in your customers’ native languages will help reduce the need on their end to contact customer support, thereby reducing the volume of requests that your team has to address.

Stand up a multilingual chatbot

Your AI-based chatbot doesn’t need to take a language class or spend every day on Duolingo to become a polyglot. With the right technology in place, you can equip your 24/7 chatbot to respond to inquiries in virtually any language. 

Similarly to support articles, having a multilingual chatbot in place empowers customers to answer their own questions, lessening the need for them to contact your support team. With over a third (37%) of consumers reporting that they use a customer service bot to quickly obtain answers in an emergency situation, brands should make sure their chatbots are developed to handle pressing questions in any language.

Translate chat and email messages in real time

Providing self-service support in your customers’ preferred languages helps to partially alleviate the workload your team manages, but for most organizations it’s unlikely to be the sole answer to solving problems related to occupancy. Customers largely still expect to be able to communicate directly with an agent via online methods such as live chat or email, which requires brands to continue to invest in multilingual agents… or does it?

With the right technology in place, organizations have the ability to use their existing team of agents to handle support requests in any language, regardless of fluency or language skills among that team. Real-time translation technology gives brands flexibility, as it lessens the need to rely on hiring new agents during global expansion efforts or when requests in a specific language increase significantly.

In the previously mentioned example, our Spanish-speaking agents couldn’t jump in to help their Chinese colleagues during periods where Chinese-language requests were spiking. By adding technology such as live chat translation software into the mix, however, Spanish customer service representatives can communicate with and support Chinese-speaking customers, helping to keep both the Spanish- and Chinese-speaking support agents at the right level of occupancy.

Occupancy is just one reason that brands may feel overwhelmed trying to get multilingual customer support right. To learn more about how to provide multilingual support in real time without having to hire fluent agents, read our guide on delivering live chat support to your global customer base.

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