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Call center dilemma: How to reduce hold times without adding staff

In this tip from Lori Bocklund, learn to reduce average hold times in the call center without adding call center agents.

I currently have 50 people supporting 13 different products. This was increased from 35 people because our average hold times increased from three minutes to 15 minutes, over a six-month period.

After increasing our numbers, the hold time has only decreased to 10 minutes. My staff is fully trained (six weeks mandatory training) but I don't want to continue to add people to my staff.

Is there another way that I can reduce my hold times, without adding additional staff?

Time to get out the Erlang models! You have a math problem on your hands.

More workload than available resources to handle it. That's the bad news. The good news is, you can look at some options, but you have to do some analysis. For example, is this a single pool of 50 handling the 13 products, or is the pool of 50 broken down into 13 little groups? If the latter, see if you can combine groups. Small groups are very inefficient, and thus will cause long queue times. This is addressing one variable, which is group size or segmentation strategy. Your other options are to reduce volume (can you get the customers to contact you less? Point them to self service? Are you staffed for big peaks that are short-lived, so you need to find ways to encourage callers to call at less busy times?), and to reduce handle or wrap-up time. The latter would require you to do some time and motion studies, review processes, review training, and do some work to see if technology can help improve contact handling.

Incoming Calls Management Institute's (ICMI) core course on call center management would help you understand these principles and your options. Or Brad Cleveland's book, Call Center Management on Fast Forward. Both are available at ICMI's website.

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