Any centre no matter what industry or type will have a set of business objectives, which may be known as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which define the targets and measures against which the Centre, the Teams and the Agents must perform.
If it is a sales centre, then typically the main target will be to generate sales revenue. For a service centre, organisations are becoming increasingly aware that good customer service is important for the retention of customers, so they will measure customer service. It is around at least 8 times more costly to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one.
From the Centre Manager down to the Agent everyone usually has objectives and targets to meet. This is a critical point for the centre and those who work there as they need to achieve a satisfactory performance for them individually, for their Teams and the Centre as a whole. The Centre Manager will have overall responsibility for the financial budget of the centre and meeting the business objectives.
The main cost in a call centre is typically the people as they account for usually around 70% of the budget. Employing more staff is not always the answer as this therefore increases the budget, so the Manager has to juggle between budget and performance.
Within a call centre, there is a great deal of management information statistics to help with the forecasting and planning for the centre. There will be historical data, which will help the Managers to forecast and plan for the day to day performance and for the future. Using this management information the management team will have to estimate the resources that they believe will be needed to meet the call volumes that are coming in. In larger centres this can be planned out to a level of every 15 minutes i.e. how many calls are expected during a 15 minute period and therefore how many agents will they need to work during each time period. There are obvious constraints that they have to bear in mind especially around employment contracts and shift patterns that the Agents are allowed to work. This is all incredibly complex and many centres have technology to enable them to do this planning. This is probably the biggest challenge in any centre, as if more calls come in or fewer Agents are available or calls take longer than planned for whatever reason, then the centre will not be able to handle all the calls and will fail to meet its service levels. This means that some customers will hang up, and others will be unhappy with the service and if this continues for any period of time it can result in lost revenue and business. We have all been held in a queue when we have called a call centre, typically this is why! Each centre will have a set of service levels that they must plan to meet. These often include what percentage of calls they must answer within 15 or 20 seconds, what percentage of calls can be abandoned before being answered by an Agent etc.
Typically most centres have busy periods throughout the day or different days of the week or if the business is seasonal (travel industry or Xmas) then the management team need to ensure more agents are available during these busy times than the quiet times. Predicting when customers will call and ensuring there are Agents available to take the calls is very complex. No matter what industry one of the busiest days is always a Monday, and most days are very busy between 10 – 12, that is why many centres want agents to work during these times.
The number of Agents required in a centre is based on the volume of calls multiplied by the average call duration multiplied by the time the Agent has available to take calls. This provides a basic number of agents required, additional parameters are added to this including an estimate for holidays, sickness and training. This gives an overall figure, which is usually what the headcount budget is based on. If any of the parameters change, then this impacts the overall performance and the budget. Each agent will be expected to handle a defined number of calls per hour in order for the overall business objective to be met.
Many thanks to Paul Weald for providing this information.