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TASKE Technology's Call Center Blog

Today’s economic environment means keeping an eye on budgets to make sure that your business is running as cost-effectively as possible.  If you’re lucky, you’re being asked to encourage cost efficiencies. Unfortunately, many executives and managers are being mandated to cut costs. Given that the largest cost to most call centers is labor, cutting costs frequently means reducing staff.

In the blog The Lean & Mean Contact Center, Martin Prunty evaluates the impact of staff cuts on both customer and employee satisfaction given increasing cut percentages. His conclusion is that this type of cost cutting “circumvents the contact center cost hierarchy, where customer demand drives resource requirements….When resources are reduced in deference to customer demand, the expected cost savings are not often achieved.  In some cases…costs can actually increase.”

It makes sense that without reducing your call volume, cutting the number of available agents to answer calls is going to lower customer satisfaction. Customers will experience longer wait times and a higher percentage of customers will simply get tired of waiting and hang up.

What we sometimes don’t also consider is the increased burden on our agents when customers are dissatisfied. For example, of those customers that wait to be answered, at least some of them are going to vent their frustration at the longer than expected wait time. Now, your agents not only need to resolve the issue that caused the customer to call in the first place, but they also need to handle the customer complaint about the wait time. Similarly, if your contact center has a way to trace and contact callers who abandoned calls while waiting in a queue, your agents have an increasing number of callbacks to make.

Another difficulty faced by agents when staffing cuts occur is due to higher agent occupancy rates. This statistic is a measure of how busy your agents are when logged in to take calls. While we want available agents to be busy, there’s a limit to how much any agent can handle on an ongoing basis.  If agents feel more pressure to handle calls faster with less time to catch up between calls, they are going to quickly become dissatisfied employees. You’ll likely start to see an increase in resignations. Now, in addition to dealing with reduced staff due to the mandated cuts, your staff is smaller and less experienced because demanding working conditions increase turnover.

If you are being asked to reduce staff to unreasonable levels, we hope that we’ve given you some information to justify keeping the agents you already have. Both lower customer satisfaction and increased staff turnover have consequences that affect the profitability of the business. The resulting costs may be more than any gains through salary reductions.

If you do have to deal with reduced staff while meeting the same (or higher) customer demand, there are some things you can do to help mitigate the damaging consequences that may result. We’ll look at some approaches in the next blog.

See you next month.

Tags: abandon rates, agent activity, agent occupancy, agent productivity, budgets, customer satisfaction, customers, operating costs.

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