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Call Center Zen- Everything is Connected

We have all heard that when a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon rain forest it can cause an avalanche in the Swiss Alps. This story reflects a belief and understanding that everything is connected to everything else. This is certainly true in a contact center environment. In continuing to assess call and contact centers it constantly amazes me the level of inter-connectedness that exists. Each and every process, procedure, technology or methodology impacts not only on the area of its focus, but on numerous other processes and procedures operating in the contact center.
In this article we examine some off this inter-connectedness. When establishing a contact center hiring and recruiting are among the first activities you plan and map. Now as illustrated by the ‘Poll of the Month’ question most organizations still employ a direct approach to sourcing staff as apposed to employing an agency.
How are you to know how many staff to recruit? Most center managers tell you that they base this number on the volume of calls/interactions expected, the average handle time (AHT) and the grade of service (GOS) desired. All of these key elements are input into an Erlang calculation and voila, how many staff is needed.
While this is correct, it fails to examine a number of interconnected aspects of the center operation such as: what is your desired staff compliment or mix between Full Time, Part Time and temporary/casual, what are the hours of operation of the center, what level of staff turnover and Churnover do you expect, what is your forecast for year and have you included time for vacations, sick days, on-going training, what is your budget based on…is it headcount or FTE etc.
Each of these points and processes are interconnected and interrelated. You cannot identify the number of staff until you know what the hours of operation will be. You cannot determine the number of staff required to meet your hours of operation until you determine the mix of staff. Similarly creating a staff base that doesn’t provide for vacation and sick days (which agents will take) leaves you short staffed or over budget. A staff plan that doesn’t allow for on-going training (this is a very common problem in most centers today) ensures the staff do not develop skills. This then manifests itself as poor morale and higher turnover.
It is essential that all of these issues are addressed in concert as you plan and assess your staffing needs. Now lets say that having done all of this; you know your operating hours, you have determined your staff compliment, you have estimated turnover and Churnover, set GOS and ASA targets and have made allowances for all of this plus sick days and vacations in your rolling 18 month forecast. From this you can extrapolate the Full Time Equivalents (FTE’s) required to meet the GOS and ASA through your Erlang calculator. The resulting FTE or total hours required number can then be broken down across you staff compliment to determine how many staff you need to meet service standards and when or how this staff count changes throughout the year.
Recognize the interconnectedness, interrelationships and inter-dependencies of a contact center environment. If you act with these in mind you create a foundation for an effective contact center that is significantly ahead of where the majority of contact centers are today.

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