How many agents does your contact center need?

How many agents do you need for your call center? A handy checklist to help you figure it out.

How many agents does your contact center need?

Lack of agents is a problem that occurs in every first contact center. It is traditionally believed that there are three global reasons for the shortage: low wages (and generally not the best working conditions), seasonality in the activity of candidates and a certain “do not reach” (which no one has seen, but it devours people in front of the office and turns off their phones). Other factors that affect having enough people on the line remain out of focus. Let's see what needs to be considered so that there are enough operators.

Below is a checklist that will help you solve the problem. For simplicity, it is assumed that the CC has one site, only one direction of work is deployed on it (or it is an outsourcer with one project), there are no remote employees, HR reports to the site manager. To shorten the text, I will not drag constructions like “in the city where the contact center is located”, but will focus on the main thing.

General knowledge for planning

  1. Are the managers aware of the seasonal outflow curves of operators: the first one is due to layoffs, the second one is for other reasons, incl. temporary absences due to illness? For example, if the outflow of the second week of March due to dismissal is taken as a reference unit, then what number corresponds to the third week of November?
  2. Is the RSF coefficient used when planning shift schedules and daily staffing needs (shows how many times you need to have more staff in the state than to perform work, for example, to replace those who are on vacation or sick, the reverse analogue is called Shrinkage).
  3. Are the seasonal activity curves of candidates known (the dynamics of responses to vacancies and jumps in conversion to attendance for interviews and training). Are they used in staffing requirements planning?
  4. Are the seasonal demand curves for the product/service supported by the CC being studied? For outsourcing, by the way, it is especially important, because even if you have a load forecast from the customer, you can pre-plan the growth of volumes in excess of the forecast dynamics in the work plan.
  5. Is there any information about seasonal structural changes in the target audience (conditional grandmothers are activated, conversations are lengthening, the need for operators, all other things being equal, is growing)?
  6. Similarly, is there any statistics on the drift of the average contact processing time (Average Handling Time, AHT)? The AHT changes over time. By the way, even during the day it usually grows by 20-30%, so in the evening there may not be enough operators to perform the same amount of work as in the morning.
  7. There is a hypothesis confirmed by practice that a sharp positive dynamics of AHT and its components (Ring, Talk, Hold, Wrap-Up time) for one operator of the group and for no apparent reason in about 80% -85% of cases is a predictor of dismissal (that is, an employee’s decision already accepted, but the manager has not yet been told). In any case, the supervisor should talk to him, maybe the person is not going to quit, but he is in trouble or feels bad.
  8. Are there plans to launch new projects or significant changes to the current one? This will also change the AHT and the need for operators. At the same time, significant changes usually entail a sharp jump in processing time – up to 6 times relative to the nominal, until the operators get used to the new conditions.

Required external forecasts for planning

  1. Weather forecast for a month ahead. In some cities, for example, in Saratov, it can be really difficult to get to work by any type of transport in the snow, and in Sevastopol, people are too lazy to go to interviews in the rain. This means that the weather factor should be included in both daily HR plans and work shift schedules (and be taken into account in the same RSF coefficient). By the way, it is a good practice when the supervisor or the employee responsible for the schedule knows in which area which operator of his group lives. Including for such situations when the weather needs to be taken into account in advance.
  2. Forecast of mass events (on Monday morning after the concert, some of the operators say that they were poisoned by barbecue) and a forecast of events that load the transport infrastructure, for example, visits by top officials of the state.
  3. epidemic forecast. Seasonal infections, not counting Covid-19, could well send up to 40% of CC operators on sick leave, and when this was superimposed on students' winter test and examination sessions, it turned out to be generally fun.
  4. If the CC is large and done very beautifully, then future pregnancies must also be taken into account, maternity leave also has a pronounced seasonality.
  5. Forecast of the appearance of large competitors in the labor market. The author of this article somehow opened Auchan and Metro almost simultaneously, we joked about the fact that at least Leroy spared us, otherwise it would have been full alles gut. Hypermarkets sucked in half of our personnel in a week, the difference in the income of operators by 30% in their favor made itself felt. It is highly recommended to study those who [will] be near you and prepare in advance. Sometimes it makes more sense to move to another office.
  6. If possible, it is better to try to keep abreast of planned salary increases in neighboring contact centers, especially if the work there is more prestigious than yours.

Internal plans

  1. Holiday schedule – for obvious reasons.
  2. Schedule meetings for a month in advance, in extreme cases – for two weeks in advance. The usual story: the loss of calls on the line is higher than allowed – this is an internal or external customer who came to congratulate the best operator on his birthday, and at the same time give everyone some certificates. This must be done en masse, not in turn, but for everyone to see – to remove them from the line. In general, meetings outside the approved plan should be held only with the permission of the head of the CC.
  3. Similar to the curriculum, only the writing horizon is shorter. The curriculum up to individual coaching with operators should be scheduled a week in advance. A week – because the need for classes with some operators appears dynamically and the “spare” time of the supervisor may not be enough


For adequate scheduling, so that the contact center is provided with the required number of agents at any time, at least 16 listed knowledge, plans and forecasts must be taken into account. If this is not done, conditionally random events outside and inside the CC will lead to planning errors called “Sonya, go to processing”. Until Sonya starts turning off her phone on the weekend.

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