Do you get confused when calculating how many staff you need in a call centre that is open 24 7 (24/7)?
Below, we answer a question on staffing a callcentre open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with helpful advice from our readers.
What is the minimum number of staff required for a 24-hour call centre with 2 staff per shift and what should the ideal hours be like (based on a 40-hour work week)? E.g. 7am-4pm, 3pm-12midnight, 11pm-8am, etc.
Staffing the call centre
The answer to how to staff a 24 7 call centre operation is complex, and therefore the question of the minimum number of staff needed for a call centre is not straightforward. Here pose a couple of solutions.
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.
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.
Using the online staffing calculator
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. Click here to go to the Online Erlang Calculator for Call Centre Staffing.
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.
What FTE should be used to cover 24 hours?
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.
We have received some recommendations of FTE from our readers.
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.
Thanks to Chris.
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.
Thanks to Jonty .
Follow the link for further information for a step by step approach to figuring out how to staff your call centre: How to Work Out How Many Staff You Need in a Contact Centre
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 turn to them for their helpful advice.
Many companies run eight-hour shifts running from 8 am till 4pm, 4pm till midnight and midnight till 8 am.
Thanks to Kirsty.
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.
Thanks to Rob.
The first question is how busy your call centre is going to be. If it is going to busy, for example, if every agent receives a call after two minutes, then you will need 40 Agents to the following shifts: 7am till 4pm, 8am to 7pm or 9 am to 6pm. For the nightshift, you can have 15 – 20 Agents and schedule them accordingly. All in all, you will need 60 Agents.
Thanks to Filita Macdonald.
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.
Thanks to Louise.
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.
Thanks to Nel.
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.
Thanks to Bob Hannon.
For further information about different shift patterns, look at our article on the best shift patterns for call centres: The Best Shift Patterns for the Contact Centre
Have you any experience of staffing a call centre 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.