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Article : Balancing Call Centre Productivity and Business Objectives

The call centre is central to many business operations. Resulting from this increased importance, the challenges facing the Call Centre Manager are changing. Traditional call centre metrics still apply and most operations are targeted to meet one or more of the following indicators:

  • Service level (x% of calls in y seconds).
  • Number of calls answered per agent per period.
  • Average speed to answer.
  • Average talk time.
  • Number of calls made per agent per hour.
  • Call abandonment rate.

But increasingly operational metrics are becoming only one element of the performance mix; business outcomes – the quantity, quality and value of contacts - have become a key indicator of how successfully a call centre is operating. Balancing the drive for improved business outcomes with the needs to maximise efficiency and minimise expenditure represents the classic Workforce Optimisation problem.

All parts of the call centre – inbound & outbound telephone call handling, fax & email responses and back office administration – need to be effectively managed and staffed. This means having sufficient people to maintain a high quality of service whilst taking measures to ensure tasks are productively focussed upon meeting business objectives.

Call Centres Aren't Fair!
In the perfect call centre all callers would be answered quickly and staff would be productive all the time. Unfortunately the fundamental characteristics of 'real world' call centres do not permit perfection to happen!

If calls are to be answered quickly then there must be call centre agents available, apparently unproductively, waiting to take the call. Conversely if all agents are busy on calls then it is inevitable that any calls that arrive will queue waiting for an agent to be available.

A number of techniques and technologies are available to increase productivity. One of the most effective techniques to optimise your workforce is task blending.

What Is Task Blending?
Many organisations use their call centres for multiple functions, simultaneously running a range of different inbound, outbound and administrative activities. One method of reducing unproductive time is to introduce task blending; if there are no calls for an agent's primary task, then assign some other work to that agent. For example it is possible to provide sales agents with outbound marketing campaign work to undertake during quiet periods for inbound calls.

Some call centres take steps to move key multi-skilled agents between tasks at certain times of the day in order to try and smooth out some of the peaks and troughs that occur. Many operations apply skills based routing technologies to the problem. The majority blend tasks manually; team leaders react to call traffic conditions as they happen, asking agents to log in and out of campaigns as operational conditions change.

However procedures for managing valuable call centre resources based upon forecasts and/or intervention by people are labour intensive and – in the case of complex skills based routing – do not give team leaders a clear, instinctive view of what is happening; who is dealing with which contact type and why.

Software control of task blending, reduces costs and optimises productivity. At the same time this application gives team leaders a very clear view of what is happening and why.

Here's An Example
For the purposes of this article let's consider the hypothetical case of a call centre handling inbound sales calls and outbound telemarketing campaigns.

  • There are 2 types of inbound call High Value sales calls and Low Value Calls.
  • The centre also undertakes outbound telemarketing campaigns to generate new business.
  • Call lengths are relatively random in length ranging from 30 seconds to 20 minutes.

The centre's primary aim is to achieve maximum revenue and must answer the High Value sales calls quickly. Secondarily the centre is aiming to increase agent productivity by undertaking more telemarketing calls.

The business outcomes of different task blending techniques illustrate the differing implications of balancing potentially conflicting targets.

Reactive Blending
Reactive call blending is the simplest technique for blending calls for different campaigns together, and is used to direct calls to call centre agents on a call-by-call basis. Extending the case study, we will consider the advantages and disadvantages of using call-by-call reactive blending to provide outbound calls to agents when there are no higher-priority, inbound calls waiting to be handled.


  • Easy to implement and works well for a number of simple scenarios, allowing multi-skilled agents to handle a range of different types of contact.
  • Provides a significant increase in efficiency, potentially yielding agent utilisation over 95%.
  • Outbound call volumes will increase.


  • Inbound call queue lengths and queuing times will increase dramatically.
  • Call abandonment rates will increase.
  • High Value business will be lost.

Business Rules blending

Business Rules blending is a more sophisticated method of deciding which tasks each person in the call centre should be focused upon at any given time.

Business Rules blending does not simply consider call activity; business rules blending considers operational conditions and business outcomes. Using our case study again we could extend the reactive blending described above by applying a business rule: outbound calls will not be made unless there is at least 1 agent available to accept any high value call.


  • High quality Inbound call handling service is maintained.
  • Sales revenues are maintained.
  • Provides a significant increase in efficiency, potentially yielding agent utilisation over 90%.
  • Outbound call volumes will increase.


  • Productivity and outbound volume gains are not as high as those delivered by simple reactive blending but customer service quality is achieved.

It is clear that Business Rules blending delivers increased productivity with support for business outcomes.

A resource broker allows a range of different performance criteria to be monitored for each of the activities in the call centre. These criteria are calculated in real-time allowing resource broker to respond to changing call centre and business conditions as soon as they occur. Criteria that can be used in building blending rules include:

  • The number of calls on a given ACD queue.
  • The length of time that the longest waiting call on a given ACD queue has been queued.
  • The number of calls which have a specified call outcome over a period of time.
  • The total value of calls over a period of time.
  • The percentage of agents in a given agent group who are busy handling calls.
  • The number of calls which have a given call outcome over a period of time.
  • The total number of calls handled in a campaign over a given period of time.
  • The start and end times for each campaign.
  • The minimum and maximum number of agents to be associated with each campaign.

About Ken Reid:
Ken Reid is Rostrvm Solutions’ Marketing Director. Before joining Rostrvm he was a founder and director of Optium, the UK call centre consultancy.

About Rostrvm:
Company Logorostrvm software systems support inbound, outbound and blended management of live and automated telephone calls and multimedia contacts. rostrvm’s innovative desktop presence drives efficient process and best practice by making awkward IT systems easy to use – in the back-office as well as in your contact centre. Our unified administration and management information environment gives you control and makes business performance visible. With customers spanning businesses and industries in both public and private sectors we work hard to understand your requirements and aspirations – technical, functional and commercial – and rostrvm enhances your existing technology. So, no big infrastructure changes – just add rostrvm.
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Today's Tip of the Day - 5 MORE Ways To Demotivate Staff

Read today's tip or listen to it on podcast.

Published: Wednesday, December 10, 2003

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2020 Buyers Guide Training


Call Centers
Contact Centers
Admin Training
Supervisor Training

Davis-Mayo Associates

"Service Excellence" Customer Service Training
Live onsite training for your teams. Experienced by more than 450,000 people in 48 US states and 18 countries. No-nonsense approach by our experts with field-test content customized to your situation and using your scenarios.

Lieber & Associates

Training Executives, Managers, Supervisors, and Reps
Lieber & Associates provides training for all levels of the contact center team. The firm customizes its off-the-shelf trainings to meet your specific company needs,

Executive and manager sessions address topics such as customer experience, metrics, technology, AI, and video calls. Supervisor sessions train your leaders to better coach and motivate reps. Phone staff modules include sessions on customer service, order-taking, cross-selling, handling difficult calls, phone "soft skills," and more.
PH: +1-773-325-0608

Manitoba Customer Contact Association

Making Training and Development Part of Your Corporate Landscape

Organizations are always on the look out to save money and make more profit. Usually when it comes to crunch time some leaders will scrap training in order to tighten the belt. The downside of this is the cycle it creates.

Because some employers see training as a flexible benefit, employee development is often taken off the table. When employees don’t feel valued it becomes easy to see a revolving door. The constant need to hire goes up which ultimately means costs go up; we know that hiring costs more than retaining the right people.

Start the conversation: Explore our Training Page
(read more)
PH: 204-975-6468

Orion Learning Services Inc.

Learning & Development
Learning & Development for Agents, Supervisors, Managers and Administration/Support Staff

Orion Learning is a global leader in providing accredited learning and development solutions for organizations globally. We offer call/contact center certification programs for Agents, Supervisors and Managers, business certifications and examinations for wide range of topics including project management, change management and service management, leadership soft skills and a full suite of assessment tools which can be used for recruitment, talent management, succession planning and coaching/mentoring. We deliver our solutions to global community and all of our solutions are delivered digitally.
PH: 1-416-992-5158

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