Blog Post

Two Minutes is Not a Break

When you’re meeting with someone for coffee and your friend is two minutes late – what do you do?

  • Become antsy and irritated, tap foot and check watch often
  • Pull out smart phone to see what’s piling-up in inbox
  • Check smart phone for latest sports/entertainment news
  • Meditate
  • Think, “Great! Finally some time to get to one of those important things I’ve been meaning to do. . .now where was I with that. . .here it is. And here’s my friend. Never mind.”

Thanks to technology, we’re accustomed to accessing information and entertainment with the touch of our fingertips. But what can you really accomplish in two minutes?

Now, let’s talk about the two minute “breaks” your call center agents experience each day. I’m talking about idle time in between calls that happens randomly throughout every agent’s shift.

Idle time is a natural occurrence for inbound centers. Even Nostradamus himself couldn’t predict every single second that a call center agent will experience as gaps in between calls. Many folks think idle time is an undeniable fact of life in the call center. If you’re going to meet service levels, idle time is a necessary evil.

And the truth about idle time? It’s boring for call center agents. When these two-minute snippets of time happen several times throughout the day, it makes the day drag out longer.

Let’s say agents spend their downtime on something they enjoy – chatting with a coworker, reading a magazine or working on a Sudoku puzzle.

  1. A two minute conversation can’t be that great.
  2. Reading a paragraph at a time doesn’t do much for me – what about you?
  3. Constantly starting and stopping any kind of puzzle has to be more maddening than entertaining.

Also, these diversions distract from the job at hand – answering calls and providing great customer service!

Statistics show that every agent spends nearly an hour of each shift idle. That’s a lot of time wasted. For a moment, imagine that idle time is usable and you could get that hour back for every agent on the floor. What could you do with that reclaimed time? Things to make them better at their jobs, maybe? Perhaps activities like training, coaching must-reads, etc…

Again, thanks to technology, idle time can now be put to good use. Technology that integrates with your ACD can take two minutes of idle time from several agents and aggregate it for deploying off-phone work like training directly to a targeted group of agents. This allows them 10-20 minutes away from the phone and working on tasks that will help them become better at their jobs.

A break that’s meaningful. That’s called active wait.

Agents who are already using Active Wait Time to improve their performance have expressed enthusiasm about having more time between calls to do something productive. One agent said, “I love it! I’m not just sitting around bored with nothing to do between calls…I like the training breaks.”

 

About the author

Matt McConnell

Matt is chairman, president and CEO of Intradiem. Matt co-founded Intradiem in 1995 with a vision of helping companies increase the level of customer service they deliver by improving the performance of their agents. Today, Intradiem is a leader in its market with more than 300,000 call center agents around the world using Intradiem every day. Matt is the author of the book Customer Service at a Crossroads and holds 11 software patents. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in industrial and systems engineering.

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