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Rise above the average: The importance of measuring variability - injixo Ltd - Blog

Rise above the average: The importance of measuring variability

Whenever the concept of standard deviation is mentioned, I see a lot of eyes rolling. But the good news is that this useful calculation is really easy, especially when done in a spreadsheet program.

What is it and why would you want to use it? By definition it is a measure that is used to quantify the amount of variation or dispersion in a set of data values. Really? What does that mean? If you have a bunch of numbers that you want to analyze, it is one of the tools that will help you to understand how widely the data points spread from the top to the bottom and how tightly they cluster around the average. The distribution can be visualized on a graph that has the appearance of a bell. It looks a lot like the distribution that teachers use in school to give most of the students a C, a smaller number a B or D and very few an A or F.

The calculation provides a single number that identifies the distribution pattern in the following manner:

  • Approximately 68% of all of the data points will be within 1 standard deviation either above or below the mean (or average). These would be the students who would earn a C grade – including C+ and C-.
  • Approximately 95% of all the data points will be within 2 standard deviations from the mean. The 13.6% shown in the sections above would be the students receiving a B or D.
  • Nearly all the data points will be within 3 standard deviations from the mean. This is represented in the graph by the 2.1% on either end that would be the students who earn an A or F.

In a contact center, you would want to use this type of analysis to study a single population at a time such as one call type, one line of business, just new hire agents versus all combined, for example. Let’s say you have the AHT statistics for every agent in your center that takes a specific type of call. You can calculate the average handling time (AHT) and that tells you part of what you want to know, especially for workforce planning calculations. But it is also useful to know how wide the spread is. You could just look for the lowest number and the highest. But that won’t help you to determine whether the distribution of the AHTs is strongly clustered around the average or more evenly spread out from lowest to highest. That is where standard deviation comes into play. It is single number that provides a clear picture of that distribution.

Assume your AHT data provides an average of 359 seconds per call for all of the agents. The lowest number in the group is 213 seconds while the highest is 590 seconds. You see already that the spread is pretty wide. But what we don’t know yet is whether these high/low numbers are real outliers or whether a lot of your agents have AHTs that are very high or low. Calculating the standard deviation for this data set results in a number of 38. That means that 68% of our agents have AHTs that are only 38 seconds higher or lower than the average. In this case, that is 321 to 397. If we add another 38 seconds to these results to pick up 95% of the data points, we find that very few of our agents have AHTs shorter than 283 or higher than 435. So the 213 low and 590 high are real outliers and very few agents have results like this.

Further investigation for just these agents in the 5% on either end of the scale is needed. They may have a technical problem; more likely what is needed is 1:1 coaching to help them handle calls in the proper way.

But let’s look at another set of AHTs with an average of 359 seconds, with a low of 213 and a high of 590. This time when we calculate the standard deviation, it comes out to 70. Now we add 70 and subtract 70 from the average to find the bulk of our agents range from 289 to 429 (rather than 321-397). By expanding with another 70 seconds, we are now at a range of 219 to 499. This second band includes 27% of our staff, and that wide range suggests a more widespread problem.

Some overall training program in the center might be needed to encourage adoption of the standard approach to this type of call. This will likely have the effect of lowering the AHT overall - result!

Of course there are many reasons why these AHTs vary so much and further analysis may help to narrow down the potential causes. Perhaps looking only at the AHTs on individual days of the week or certain times of day will reveal some patterns to explore. It is common to see higher AHTs on evenings and weekends, for example. This could be caused by a higher percentage of new hires in unattractive shifts, fewer supervisors during these periods, fewer resources to handle complex referral calls. Or it could just be that the callers save their most time-consuming calls for when they are off work. It has even been reported in some centers that calls are shorter during the day because agents don’t want the boss to hear them on personal calls.

Now that we see how this kind of calculation might be useful, how is it done? The easiest way is with a spreadsheet tool. These are the steps:

  • Enter all of the numbers to be analyzed in a column or row in the spreadsheet.
  • Using the AVERAGE function, you can calculate the average or mean of this data. (This is not required to do standard deviation by will be helpful when understanding the results.)
  • Choose any open cell and select the ‘standard deviation’ STDEV function. When you select this function, the system will ask you to highlight the group of numbers to be used in the calculation. You want to highlight all of the numbers in your analysis and click ENTER or OK. The standard deviation will appear in the open cell. (note: There is also a calculation STDEVP and this is rarely used in call center calculations as it requires that rather than a sample of data, you have the entire population of data. The results are slightly different from STDEV.)

If you really want to know how to do this manually with a calculator, you can search Excel help, Wikipedia or other sources for the details – I won’t bore you with them in this article.

Standard Deviation is a useful tool to apply to the plethora of data that we have in call centers. Averages alone never tell the whole story. It is quite helpful in analyzing forecasting accuracy, schedule efficiency and intraday effectiveness, which are the standard measures of workforce management team performance. For these metrics you will want to do your standard deviation calculation on the percentage of variance in your statistics rather than the specific count of differences (due to the changing workload). When used like this, it really doesn’t matter if it is a busy or slow time, the deviation pattern will emerge regardless. Using this single number, it is easier to track progress in managing these performance statistics.

Give it a try and you will likely find it is easy to do and a great help in managing your operation. And you will sound fabulous in meetings!


Publish Date: April 18, 2016 5:00 AM

2020 Buyers Guide Dialer Solutions

Acqueon Technologies Inc.

Acqueon's AI-driven conversational engagement software enables sales, marketing and service organizations to engage in emotionally connected dialogs with customers via their channel of choice for significantly improved results. The Acqueon suite adds multichannel campaign management, contact center analytics, desktop, and CRM connectors for your contact center software of choice, including Amazon Connect, Cisco, Nice inContact, and Twilio. Acqueon conversational engagement software leverages the Acqueon IQ platform to aggregate data from the various applications, assemble rich customer contexts, and drive next-best-action using powerful statistical and predictive models.
PH: +1 888-946-6878

Call Center Studio

Call Center Studio
Call Center Studio is the world’s first call center built on Google and is one of the most secure and stable systems with some of the industry’s best reporting. It is one of the most full-featured enterprise grade systems (with the most calling features, one of the best call distribution, outbound dialing features and integrations—including IVR, AI Speech Recognition, blended inbound/outbound calling and includes Google’s new Dialogflow and Speech API. Call Center Studio is the absolute easiest to use (with a 10 minute setup), and is the price performance leader with lower equipment cost and less setup time.
PH: +1 512-872-7565

Cloud IT Services GmbH

Dialfire offers you a complete call center solution that is simple and intuitive to use and adapts to your needs. It's completely cloud-based, saving you the hassle of setting up a phone system and installing software. In addition to predictive dialing and call blending of inbound calls, you can create personalized campaigns through an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. Features include automated workflows and full control over the agent screen.

You can see the full list of features here:

ComSys S.A.

CList for Outbound Campaigns Management
CList by Comsys is an application that helps contact centers enhance the performance of their outbound campaigns. It accomplishes that by enabling the planning and execution of sophisticated communication strategies. Additionally, the AI-powered module of CList extends the possibilities of outbound campaigns delivering unprecedented results.
Comsys is a provider of οmnichannel customer engagement solutions that assist companies around the world in delivering unique customer experiences. For the last 15 years, Comsys designs and implements complex projects for clients from the outsourcing, financial services, telecommunications, and retail sectors. Comsys enjoys strategic partnerships with t...
(read more)
PH: +302109241486


Dialer software that makes customer contact pain free, so your team aren’t worried about complex technology and can focus on what they do best. Dramatically increase agent productivity using a variety of dialers, combined with AI, leveraging data-driven contact strategies to ensure the right agent is contacting your customers at the right time.

Take control, and ensure your team are on-message by designing the perfect agent interface with a drag-n-drop visual WYSWYG editor.

Rotate CLIDs, and auto-wrap certain calls to ensure maximum agent productivity and performance.
PH: +6188803111


Genesys PureConnect
Genesys PureEngage

Cloud IT Services GmbH

Companies of all sizes rely on the cloud-based call center platform Dialfire and its powerful predictive dialer. Dialfire is ready to use within minutes and easily personalizable. From small ad-hoc to large multi-step campaigns, Dialfire offers high scalability. Adapt customer masks and automate workflows per mouse click. Integrated scripting and APIs ensure a smooth connection with external systems.
PH: +49 351 44529800


With Megadialer you will get a customized call center software. With the creation of personalized questions, surveys and sales script you will have the information you need from your customers quickly and efficiently. Improve the performance of your agents with a 100% online contact center, real-time analytics and predictive dialer to optimize the time between one call and another.

All rates include:
Instant Call Reports
On-Demand Recording
Call Supervisor
Call Layout after Completion
Your Own Caller ID
Call Monitor
Automatic Re-Calls
Automatic sending of Mails
Incoming Call Management
Real-time Activity Panels
Call Lists for Agents
Different Levels of Administration
PH: +34 952 667 511


Reach more contacts, in less time with PhoneBurner. Powering thousands of client and millions of calls, our cloud-based software eliminate repetitive tasks so agents have up to 4x more live conversations. Unlike other dialers, PhoneBurner delivers 100% delay-free connections with no awkward pause. Conversations start off with promise, not hangups.

- Call 60-80 contacts per hour, per agent
- Instantly leave voicemails
- Send 1-touch emails
- Automate workflows and call logging
- Record and transfer calls
- Access reporting and analytics
- Intelligently distribute leads
- Dial from local Caller IDs
- Get free white-glove onboarding

Scales to any size team with no contracts, no setup fees, and no per minute charges. Start a free trial without a credit card.
PH: 877-588-2292


Predictive Dialler
A predictive dialler is an outbound call system that automatically dials from a list of telephone numbers. Also known as Power or Auto dialers it will automatically help agents make more calls, generate higher rates of connections, increase conversions, manage voicemail, no-answers and disconnected numbers.

We’ve made it easy to get started, we offer packages to best suit your needs and don't tie you into long term contracts. Don't take our word for it take out a no-commitment free trial!
PH: +441617102740

View more from injixo Ltd

Recent Blog Posts:
How to improve employee engagement with creative scheduling strategiesSeptember 9, 2016 5:00 AM
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[Podcast] Top tips to maximise your call centre web chat strategy - Part 1/2July 20, 2016 5:00 AM
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Is Customer Obsession a double edged sword?May 31, 2016 5:00 AM
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Rise above the average: The importance of measuring variabilityApril 18, 2016 5:00 AM
How do I control absenteeism in my contact center?February 1, 2016 5:00 AM
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