What is the Minimum Number of Staff Required for a 24/7 Call Centre?

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Do you need some help calculating the minimum number of agents required for a 24-hour call centre?

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What Shift Patterns Should I Use?

The length and number of shifts is unique to your call centre. There is no definitive answer.

However, we do have some pointers for you to consider. Usually shifts range between 8 hours and 12 hours. There are a number of shift patterns you could adopt, including fixed shift, flexi-time, annualised hours and rotating shifts. Ideally, your choice of shift pattern would minimise absence and maximise productivity.

As many of our readers have hands on experience with organisation of shifts, we turned to them for their helpful advice and here’s what they said:

Run Eight-Hour Shift

Many companies run eight-hour shifts running from 8 am till 4pm, 4pm till midnight and midnight till 8 am.

Contributed by: Kirsty  

Use 12 Hour Shifts

For a minimum number of staff, you could use 12 hour shifts. This would give you four shifts, with only four people needed to cover the 24 hour period. For an 8 hour shift you will need a minimum of six shifts, and six workers.

Contributed by: Rob

Productivity of Agents Drop off After Six Hours

I’ve seen that regardless of shift length, the productivity of the agent drops off after six hours.

With personal experience of both ten hour and eight hour shifts, I’ve seen that regardless of shift length, the productivity of the agent drops off after six hours.  So I would rather pay for two hours of non- productivity rather than four! Eight-hour shifts allows for more concentrated work to be done during the day.

Contributed by: Louise

Have Two Shifts a Day

For me, it is simplest to have two shifts a day, with 14 in total for the week. Each week, a staff member covers 3 shifts. This roughly equivalates to five members of staff needed to cover these 14 shifts.

Contributed by: Nel

Break the 24 Hours into 8 Hour Shifts

At our work place, our agents work an 8 hour shift with a paid half hour for lunch. This allows us to break the 24 hours into 8 hour shifts, 8 am to 4pm, 4pm to 12am and 12am to 8am.

Contributed by: Bob Hannon

What FTE Do I Need to Cover a 24/7 Call Centre?

You can use the Erlang calculator to work out the full time equivalent (FTE), which is the equivalent headcount to one person working full time.  From the FTE, the staff numbers can be calculated.

However, we have received some recommendations on FTE from our readers too:

Minimum Would be 4.2 FTE

The absolute bare minimum would be 4.2 FTE on paper, if you wanted to stick to no more than 40 hours per agent per week.

24×7 = 168 hours per week to be covered.

168/40 = 4.2 FTE

However, you need to bear in mind that with five members of staff, it only leaves 32 hours per week available for vacation or sick coverage. This may seem narrow, but it can be done.

Contributed by: Chris

Used to be 5.4 FTE

It always used to be 5.4 FTE, as a rule of thumb, to staff one position for 24/7.  Therefore, this equates to 11 agents for two 24/7 positions. Whilst this allows for holiday and sickness cover, it doesn’t easily cover break periods.

Contributed by: Jonty .

What Tools Should I Use?

.There are various tools in use across the contact centre industry – some embrace the extensive capabilities of a WFM system, whilst others rely on pen and paper.

Here’s a snapshot of what equipment contact centre teams are using to schedule their staff:

Graph describing the equipment people use to schedule WFM. 9.1% pen and paper, 59.1% spreadsheets, 28.8% on premise WFm, 16.8% Hosted WFM/

Most call centres are using spreadsheets to schedule the staff in their contact centre.

Workforce Management (WFM)

Workforce management (WFM) can be used to schedule the staff into the call centre. A WFM software can be used to determine the staffing of the call centre, with the ability to factor in shift schedules and patterns, as well as the channels in which the calls are being managed.

However, should you want a more hands on approach, as 68.2% of companies do, use of a formula or spreadsheet may be better suited.

The Erlang C Formula

A basic schedule can be created with the reliance upon formulas, such as the Erlang C formula, which will provide a minimum answer. The Erlang C formula takes into consideration the number of calls, call reporting, call duration, service level and target answer times to give the number of agents.

The Erlang C formula can be worked out manually, we have worked example which takes you through the steps, or with the use of an Erlang calculator.

There is both an online calculator and spreadsheet version of the Erlang calculator.

Top Tip – Change the Values of the Parameters for 24 Hour Staffing

We have a version of the Erlang Calculator, which figures the number of staff needed to reach an agreed service level. When you change the values of the parameters, it becomes a 24 hr staffing calculator.

A screenshot of the Erlang staffing calculator, with the drop down being changed to 24 hours.

The Call Centre Erlang Staffing Calculator showing a capacity for 24 hours.

This gives an output of the number of agents you will need for the 24 hours, as well a graph of the distribution of calls across the period.

Click here to go to the Online Erlang Calculator for Call Centre Staffing

The results output of the Erlang Calculator, with the maximum number of agents and the average number of agents for the number of calls per hour and day.

This is an example output of the Erlang Calculator, with a graphic of the maximum and average agents and a graph of the distribution of the calls across 24 hours.

To calculate the number of agents you will need across a 24 hour period, enter your own data into our staffing calculator.

For further information, take a look at these articles next:

Author: Jo Robinson
Reviewed by: Jonty Pearce

Published On: 20th Aug 2008 - Last modified: 4th Apr 2024
Read more about - Call Centre Questions, , ,

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