A Primer On Two Call Center Staffing Methods for Call Center Workforce Management - Portage Communications, Inc. - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
by Stuart Harris
Telephone traffic along with other forms of traffic, such as automobile traffic, share similar characteristics. Traffic may be very busy and have to slow down and wait, or it may be very light with little slowing or blockage. Facilities such as roads, telephone lines, toll booths, service agents, and bank tellers may be either under or over utilized causing costly idle time or poor service to customers. Call center workforce managers face a daily, continual challenge in finding the right number agents to use at the right time to handle calls that arrive in a random manner. This paper explores why this challenge occurs and two methods used to meet it.
The fundamental challenge for the inbound call center manager is to correctly balance the number of agents and trunks to the varying volumes of calls throughout the day in order to:
1. Keep all the agents busy, and
2. Keep the time callers have to wait to an acceptable minimum.
The inbound call center is a customer/server/queuing system: customers (calls), arrive in the system to be served by servers (agents or operators), but may have to wait (in queue) for them. Almost a century of mathematical study has gone into the problem of “arrivals” that need service by a “server”.
How Calls Arrive in a Call Center
A simple minded approach to determining the number of agents needed in a particular hour might be to take the number of calls expected to arrive in the hour, multiply that by the average minute length of all the calls and then divide by 60. As an easy example, if 60 calls arrive in 1 hour, each with an average length of 1 minute, you might say that you only need one agent with a single telephone line to answer all the calls.
The obvious flaw to this sort of logic is that call arrivals in the real world are not distributed one right after the other. The average arrival rate in the above example is 1 minute, but their actual arrival is distributed randomly: some will come in at the same time, some will come in when another is being served, and during some periods of the hour no calls may arrive at all. Also, the length of the calls follows a random distribution. These random distributions are determined by the laws of probability.
How then can the actual arrival rate of calls in your call center be predicted? While we cannot predict the exact time that each call will arrive, we can predict the probability of when the next call will arrive. This probability follows a well known distribution called the Poisson distribution. It looks something like the following bar graph:
Probability of Arrival
Publish Date: August 8, 2015 5:00 AM
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