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Estimating the Number of Customer Service Agents For Your Business

Operating any business successfully involves striking a balance between customer demand and available resources. In the realm of customer service, this balance signifies that there should be just enough customer service agents to handle customer requests sufficiently, without resulting in an excessive workforce. Overestimating can be costly, and underestimating can create customer dissatisfaction and churn. But how many customer service agents do you genuinely need? This article offers a guide on how to make an accurate estimation.

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Published onOctober 18, 2023
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Estimating the Number of Customer Service Agents For Your Business

Operating any business successfully involves striking a balance between customer demand and available resources. In the realm of customer service, this balance signifies that there should be just enough customer service agents to handle customer requests sufficiently, without resulting in an excessive workforce. Overestimating can be costly, and underestimating can create customer dissatisfaction and churn. But how many customer service agents do you genuinely need? This article offers a guide on how to make an accurate estimation.

Let's delve into some fundamental factors to consider:

Understanding Your Customer Traffic

One primary consideration for estimating the number of customer service agents needed is understanding your customer traffic. This is determined by considering the volume and pattern of customer contact – are there peak times during the day or specific periods in the year with a higher volume of customer requests? Factors like holidays, promotions, or peak business hours can cause spikes in your typical customer service traffic.

To gain accurate customer traffic insights, utilize robust technologies for tracking and analyzing data. This will provide you with vivid operational patterns that you can base your staffing decision on.

Consider the Workload

Not all customer requests are created equal – some require quick resolves, while others, like technical issues, may require a substantial amount of time. Factor in the average time your agents spend on each customer interaction, follow-up actions, and administrative duties. This Average Handle Time (AHT) can be a crucial metric in estimating the number of agents needed. The workload can be calculated by dividing the total handling time per period (including talk time, hold time, follow-ups) by the length of the period.

Take Into Account Shrinkage

In addition to workload, it's essential to consider shrinkage - the time that agents are not available to handle customer requests. Shrinkage includes vacation, breaks, training, meetings, sick days, and even the time between calls.

Implement Service Level Targets

Your target Service Level Agreement (SLA) plays a key role in determining your staffing needs. The SLA dictates the percentage of calls that should be answered in a certain amount of seconds. A higher SLA will require more agents.

Now, let's look at how to apply these aspects practically:

The Erlang C Formula

The Erlang C Formula is a tried and true mathematical model used within call centers to estimate the number of agents required based on the factors mentioned above. It employs information about your desired service level, the number of calls you receive (customer traffic), and the average duration of these calls (AHT) to provide an estimation of how many customer service agents you will need.

Keep in mind that while the Erlang C Formula gives the number of agents who should be on call, it doesn't account for shrinkage. You should adjust the number derived from the formula to accommodate for this.

Simulation Modeling

Simulation modeling gives the most accurate predictions. This is a software that simulates your contact center environment and inputs like call volume, AHT, SLA, and Shrinkage. These programs produce workload forecasts by repeating the process thousands of times for different possible inputs, enabling you to anticipate potential demand scenarios and plan your staffing requirements accordingly.

Estimating the correct number of customer service agents is no easy task. It involves understanding various factors, from customer traffic and workload to shrinkage, and utilizing that data effectively. Leveraging tools and methodologies such as Erlang C Formula or Simulation Modeling can take the guesswork out of the equation and ensure you strike a balance between customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

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