The quality of service provided by your contact centre will be highly dependent on being adequately staffed. Too few agents will lead to longer waiting times, but too many will affect your profit, so how do you find the right balance?

Step 1: How many calls or contacts do you get every day?

If your contact centre is established, you will have no difficulty getting hold of that information as your telephone system will keep a record of it. If it isn’t, make sure that calls are logged in manually by agents.

Step 2: How many contacts do you get every half-hour

Using the data in Step 1, work out the number of contacts for each half-hour of the day. These should not be averages, but real figures for each 30 minutes to identify call patterns and plan manpower accordingly. Use part-time staff for temporary peak periods, or stagger lunch breaks so that you always have adequate coverage. You could also make sure that you hold staff meetings when the centre receives fewer calls.

Step 3: Calculate your Average Handling Time

The Average Handling Time (AHT) is the time a contact agent spends on a call. To work it out, add all the times recorded in a day and divide it by the number of calls during that time. The number will vary greatly from industry to industry, and a high handling time is not necessarily negative, it may mean that your advisers deal with complex situations or that they offer a high-quality service so don’t assess them against it.

Step 4: Decide on your service level

General service levels used to be around 80% of calls being answered within 20 seconds but the trend is now close to 90% of calls being answered in 10 or 15 seconds.

Step 5: Factor in Occupancy

Factor occupancy is the real amount of time an agent takes calls for. There will be bathroom breaks for example, and this needs to be factored in. Realistically, the maximum occupancy won’t be more than 85 or 90%.

Step 7: Plug the numbers into a calculator

There is a number of software available that will crunch numbers for you. You will just have to enter the data above and it will calculate automatically the most optimum number you need.