The Power of One

By Penny Reynolds

Whether manually created or developed through workforce management systems, once a set of workforce schedules has been carefully devised, it’s critical that your staff sticks to the plan. Unfortunately, one of the hardest things to manage in many call centers is getting agents to adhere to their daily work schedules.

Most people think, “Hey, there are dozens of other people on the phones now. What possible difference could it make if I just log off a few minutes early for my break? Just one person can’t possibly make that much difference.” Does this sound familiar?

Schedule adherence can be improved in many cases with a little education. Helping your staff understand what impact one individual agent has on service can go a long way in getting them to stick to their planned schedule.

So just what is the impact of a person or two on service? Well, it depends. The impact on service depends largely on two factors: the size of the call center, and the current level of service delivery. Obviously, the smaller the call center, the greater the percentage share of workload handled by each person and therefore the bigger the impact of his/her participation. For example, if we look at call centers with 10, 25, and 50 agents, with all a 30-second average speed of answer (ASA), and then take one agent away, there is obviously a bigger impact on the smaller operations.

57 calls/half hour         163 calls/half hour       346 calls/half hour

10 agents                         25 agents                       50 agents

30 sec ASA                    30 sec ASA                   30 sec ASA

Minus one agent:

9 agents                           24 agents                         49 agents

83 sec ASA                     58 sec ASA                    50 sec ASA

As you can see, because of the economies of scale of the larger centers, there is greater efficiency in the call handling process and therefore the impact of one person is not as large. However, it is significant.

The other factor that determines the impact on service of any one single person is the level of service currently being provided. The better the existing level of service, the less the impact of one person, as illustrated below (using the example above of 346 calls per half hour, 240 second average handle time or 46 erlangs).

Number of Staff                 Average Speed of Answer

54                                             6 sec

53                                             8 sec

52                                             12 sec

51                                             19 sec

50                                             30 sec

49                                             50 sec

48                                             91 sec

47                                             236 sec

Obviously, as staff numbers increase, service improves. As staff numbers decrease, service declines. Depending on where the call center currently falls in the staffing/service curve, the impact of one person could be minimal (for example, going from 54 to 53 staff worsens ASA by only 2 seconds). On the other end of the spectrum, decreasing staff from 48 to 47 staff handling the same calls would deteriorate service from a 91-second average wait to nearly 4 minutes!

The good news about the impact of one person on service is that if your center is in a service slump, adding just one more person on the phones can make a tremendous improvement. On the other hand, losing one person in what is already a mediocre or poor service situation can really ruin service for that period of the day.

Knowledge is Power: Hopefully, the charts illustrating the above staffing/service relationship in your next staff meeting will help enlighten those agents that think their impact on service is insignificant. We’ve found this to be the case in many call centers. Simply educating agents about the effect on service that one or two employees can have will help them understand the importance of schedule adherence. These steps will increase cooperation with the schedule process.

Penny Reynolds is a Founding Partner of The Call Center School, a Nashville, Tennessee based consulting and education company. The company provides educational offerings for call center professionals, including traditional classroom courses, Web-based seminars, and self-paced e-learning programs. For more information call 615-812-8400.

[From Connection MagazineMarch 2004]

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