Keeping Universal Agents Universal: Effective time management for the multi-channel environment

By TMC  |  September 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions


Like the call center itself, the role of the call center agent is evolving.

Often the “face” of the company, agents man the front lines, interacting with customers and providing them with an experience that they will ultimately use to judge your organization and brand as a whole.

To further up the ante, customers today expect a single agent to be equipped to answer and resolve all of their questions and issues. When customers call with billing and technical support questions, they prefer that the same agent be skilled enough to handle both – without having to transfer them to another department or put them on hold.

This level of service and expertise requires a special kind of agent. They must be talented, motivated, and knowledgeable about your products, services and brand. They must resolve customer issues in a single call, drive customer loyalty and have command of a wide range of technologies. 

More Responsibilities = More Training, Coaching and Communications


Universal agents contribute greatly to customer satisfaction when they are on the phones, solving customer issues and promoting your brand. But they aren’t always on the phones.

Agents spend around 25 percent of their day off the phones and involved in various shrinkage activities. Some of these activities – such as lunch, breaks and absenteeism – are out of your control and do not contribute to productivity. But many activities are designed to keep agents well informed and up-to-date on the critical information they need to better serve your customers.

Activities such as training, coaching, knowledge base reviews, team meetings, research, project work and one-on-one coaching make agents better. The more they know about your company, products, policies and brand, the better equipped they are to answer customer inquiries through a number of different communication channels. The best agents not only have product knowledge, they are also skilled in various technologies and able to interact with customers both on the phones as well as online. This is the very essence of what makes, and keeps, these universal agents “universal.”

Three Ways to Make Idle Time Work for Universal Agents


With technology that dynamically responds to call volume and identifies natural idle times, center management can deploy the activities that make agents more productive without the need for more agents to cover calls.

Turn Idle Time into Active Wait Time

In order to handle multiple call types, universal agents must be experts in many different areas. This requires more efficiency for keeping agents informed, as well as training and coaching to ensure that they are knowledgeable and up-to-date on your company’s products, services and processes.

Aggregated idle time can be used during periods of low call volume for agents to read important internal communications or complete training and coaching between calls.

Bundle Off-line Activities

Typically, agents have a few sporadic minutes between calls, but it’s not enough time to complete off-phone work, resulting in the need to schedule these activities.

When small increments of idle time from all agents is aggregated and delivered to a smaller group as a 5-20 minute block, these agents can focus on assigned activities from training sessions to knowledge base reviews or even time to read and respond to e-mails.  

Complete the Most Important Work First

When agents do find enough downtime to work on non-scheduled work, it’s unlikely they would prioritize activities in the same manner as management would.

Supervisors or managers can prioritize activities for individual agents so when these productive work sessions are delivered dynamically, idle time is optimized.

Making idle time productive helps you to find the time to keep these universal agents up to date. The information the universal agent needs to be effective already exists within your organization. Dynamically delivering sessions to agents’ desktops allows them to access the information they need and ensures that they focus on the most important activities first.

Universal agents are able to complete the activities that make them “universal” while sitting at their desks, waiting for the next call.

Knowlagent is the leading agent productivity solution for the world’s 10 million call center agents. For more information, visit

Edited by Stefania Viscusi