The Magic Number, Getting Call Center Staffing Right

    An effective staffing strategy can serve as the foundation for a successful contact center, keeping customers happy and agents engaged. However, it can be a difficult balancing act. If you have too many agents, costs will skyrocket.

    Too few, and the call center will be overwhelmed. Nonetheless, with careful decision-making and a data-driven approach to staffing, you can find the right balance between cost and service, keeping on top of demand and boosting customer satisfaction. In this article, we will examine some key factors you should consider when developing your call center strategy.


    Here are Some Things to Consider for Getting Your Call Center Staffing Right

    Call center staffing can be tricky, but it’s certainly not an impossible task. Keep the following points in mind as you develop a staffing strategy, and it will become a much more manageable feat.

    Align call center staffing with your customer service goals

    Every organization is different, so a generic staffing strategy won’t cut it. You need to align your approach with the specific goals of your contact center, prioritizing the metrics that matter the most to your business. Common items used to calculate the ideal number of contact center staff include service level (i.e., the percentage of calls answered) and target answer time. Other metrics like average handling time and first call resolution also influence staffing strategies for many call center leaders. The goals and standards around these metrics vary based on the business environment, customer expectations, competitor standards, and the unique constraints (and capabilities) of your organization. 

    There is no one-size-fits-all answer here; it’s all about striking a balance between goals and costs that works for you. Remember, even slight variations in staff numbers can tip the scale in either direction—one extra agent could significantly improve service, while one less agent could have a notable negative impact.

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    In-house staffing or an outsourced approach?

    In-house or outsourced? It’s a big question for contact center leaders. There are, as usual, advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, and, as usual, the correct decision depends on the specific requirements of your context center. Things like financial constraints, target audience, and the type of product you provide will play a significant role in determining the most suitable approach. Generally speaking, the in-house vs. outsourced argument boils down to cost vs. service. Outsourcing usually saves on operations costs but can lead to a lower level of customer service. Additionally, outsourcing offers a certain level of flexibility when it comes to scaling up and down during peak times and off-times, but in-house provides a level of control, integration, and personalization that wouldn’t be possible with an outsourced approach. Ultimately, you need to evaluate the pros and cons in the context of your business and make a call based on the specific requirements of your call center.

    Use data to understand your needs

    Data-driven decisions should inform your approach to building your contact center team. Staffing can be tricky, and by ignoring the wealth of information at your fingertips, you will only make the process more difficult. Contact centers typically have a huge amount of data available, and regular examination of this data will allow you to keep on top of things and discern actionable insights for your staffing strategy. 

    By keeping an eye on things like the volume of calls coming in, average handling time, and preferred communication channels, you can identify trends and get ahead of any impending changes before they develop into real issues and begin to impact the performance of your contact center. Using the data, you can monitor patterns—seasonally, monthly, daily, and even hourly. This will allow you to identify trends and plan your staffing approach to ensure that demand is met at peak times, and the contact center is not wasting resources during lulls.

    When you find the right balance, keep your call center staff happy

    Scaling call center operations while losing agents is a Sisyphean task. Once you’ve got the right team in place and you’ve found the magic number of staff for your call center, keeping everyone happy and focused should become a key priority. While some level of attrition is inevitable in the contact center world, a well-planned staffing strategy will take this into account and factor agent engagement into the overall plan. High turnover, a persistent issue in the contact center world, is detrimental to quality and impedes growth. It also depletes your resources, as new hires require onboarding expenditure and time to settle in, as well as bringing about the possibility of missed sales opportunities as they get to grips with the organization. 

    While hiring people is an important part of the staffing process, as we will discuss in a moment, once you have the right people in place, your attention should shift to keeping them engaged, enthusiastic, and invested in their own development. Try to get feedback from outgoing employees on what you could do better and implement their suggestions if appropriate.

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    Hire the right agents with the necessary skills and experience

    Let’s take a step back for a moment. Before you think about agent engagement and keeping your employees happy, you need to assemble your team. As evidenced by the high attrition rates in contact centers, finding the right person for the job can be tricky. Misaligned expectations, a lack of soft skills, or even an incompatible personality can contribute to high turnover. Make sure candidate expectations are aligned with the role’s specifications, carefully assess soft skills in the hiring process, and try to identify candidates with career-minded personalities who are likely to embrace your organization’s identity and stick around. 

    One approach to hiring is to identify common traits among your top performers and build an “ideal candidate” persona around these traits. This will give you a reference point during the hiring process and increase the likelihood of making the correct hire. However, don’t become overly fixated on specific skills. The right personality and attitude are often more important—you can always train new hires to improve their skill set, but character is harder to coach.

    Empower and motivate your agents

    Call centers run on agents, so keeping them on top of their game is key to your organization’s success. Showing genuine recognition for a job well done is an invaluable tool for call center leaders. Be sure to reward strong performers in a manner that suits their personality. For example, some staff members may prefer a quiet congratulations from a senior figure, while others prefer a big display in front of the whole team. Knowing your agents and recognizing their work appropriately will reap rewards. Similarly, if an agent shows signs of struggling and their performance begins to dip, make sure the right supports are available to rectify any issues and get them back on track. 

    Great CX begins with a great employee experience, and contact center leaders should keep this in mind. Better agent engagement means higher retention rate and, combined with higher CSAT scores delivered by a motivated team, this is a formula for increased revenue.

    Final Thoughts

    Staffing is a difficult balancing act, but it’s by no means an impossible one. With careful decision-making, driven by concrete data, you can develop an effective staffing approach for your organization, assemble a high-performing team, and keep that team happy and fulfilled in the workplace. If you can keep the points outlined in this article at the front of your mind while you develop a staffing strategy, you will considerably reduce the stress levels typically associated with staffing. With Scorebuddy, you can gather and analyze data, monitor key metrics, and empower your agents to succeed, simplifying the staffing process and finding an approach that works for you. To learn more about the Scorebuddy platform, request a free demo today.

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