Call Center Agent Benchmarking

By Carin Shulusky

Advances in call center equipment have opened new opportunities to “benchmark” agent efficiencies and effectiveness. Answerphone, a telephone answering service located in Albany, NY is one example. Answerphone is owned and operated by Doug and Sherry Lindsey. The company was founded by Sherry’s grandmother 40 years ago. Since then, it has grown from two telephones on a desk to its current 26 agent workstations. Today, they use advanced computer technology to maximize agent efficiency, manage staffing levels, and assist with agent training.

“We expect a typical agent to handle about 40 inbound calls per hour, with an average call lasting between 48 and 50 seconds,” Doug Lindsey said. “Experience tells us this is the most cost-efficient level for our company. Our Telescan equipment gives us hourly and even quarter-hourly reports that help us determine when this level has fallen. We can then provide coaching for an agent who is not meeting our standards.” Doug said.

Answerphone also uses benchmarking to make sure team staffing levels are appropriate for the anticipated call demand. “When the phone rings,” Doug said, “you have to have a body there to answer it. Finding the right balance between operators waiting for the next call and callers waiting on hold is the secret to our success. We constantly monitor call levels, including call activity, operator talk time, and total hold and ring times, to make sure we always have the appropriate staffing level. We prefer to have extra staff to make sure there is always an operator ready to answer every call. We don’t want our operators to sound rushed,” he added.

“We also use benchmarking to assist with operator training,” Doug added, “Since our Telescan system is so easy to learn, we normally have an operator answering calls after only two hours of training, with a trainer supervising. They can usually answer calls on their own in 10 hours, but we continue to carefully benchmark their progress. If we don’t see substantial progress in a week, we will send the trainer back to continue coaching to improve call time.”

The new technology that has become available in recent years has changed the way Answerphone and many call centers monitor their business. It provides many new tools to manage their business more professionally and improve profitability.

[From the Fall 2004 issue of AnswerStat magazine]