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Date).
Management of Productivity in a Service Call Centre

A Minor Dissertation submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Degree of

Magister Philosophiae

in

Engineering Management

at the

Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment

of the

University of Johannesburg

by

Sizwe Phillip Ubisse: 200580103

Date: 29 July 2016

SUPERVISOR: Dr A Marnewick
Declaration of own work

I hereby declare that apart from the assistance recognised, this dissertation is my own work
submitted for the qualification in Magister Engineering Management at the University of
Johannesburg. The work here has never been submitted to any other institution/university before
for any other qualification.

Sizwe Phillip Ubisse


200580103

i
ABSTRACT

The aim of this research was to investigate the management of call centre productivity by identifying
the factors that contribute to lack of knowledge and low productivity levels in a service call centre.

This research investigated measures that are required to manage productivity, factors that affect call
centre productivity, as well as the knowledge required to manage productivity in a service call centre
effectively. In-depth case study research was conducted through document analysis and a
questionnaire process, in order to gain insight into how lack of knowledge can affect the
management of call centre productivity.

The document analysis was done on operations reports from January 2011 to October 2015. The
questionnaire results are a summary of 19 service call centre staff working for the same organisation
representing agents, team leaders and managers. The results from the document analysis suggest
that only 50% of the current call centre productivity management processes are similar to those
recommended in the literature. The questionnaire results suggest that there is a knowledge gap
across all staff in the call centre when it comes to knowledge required to manage productivity
efficiently. The results show that 55% of the agents and 54% of the team leaders require training on
call centre knowledge and processes that improve call centre productivity.

The combined results from both the document analysis and the questionnaire show that call centre
staff do not have enough knowledge to improve current call centre productivity. Training is
recommended as the solution to the knowledge gap identified. The two types of training that are
recommended for call centre staff is formal call centre qualification training, as well as on-the-job
training i.e. job mentorship and job rotation for all call centre staff.

The researcher hopes that the information provided in this research report will provide readers with
insight into how lack of knowledge among call centre staff can affect the management of
productivity levels in a service call centre.

ii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Many people have contributed both directly and indirectly to the development of this dissertation. I
would like to specifically thank the following for their encouragement, support and assistance in
making this research a success:

 Dr A Marnewick

 All the staff in the call centre for helping me to gather the primary data that made the
results and the conclusions possible

 Staff and colleagues from the MPhil Engineering Management at the University of
Johannesburg

 My family and friends

iii
CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1 – INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................... 1


1.1 CALL CENTRE BACKGROUND......................................................................................................................... 1
1.2 CALL CENTRE DEFINITION ............................................................................................................................ 2
1.2.1 THE GENERIC DEFINITION OF A CALL CENTRE ............................................................................................. 2
1.2.2 CALL CENTRE DEFINITION FROM CUSTOMER’S PERSPECTIVE ......................................................................... 3
1.2.3 CALL CENTRE DEFINITION FROM BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE .............................................................................. 3
1.3 CALL CENTRE GOALS................................................................................................................................... 3
1.4 CALL CENTRE KNOWLEDGE CHALLENGES......................................................................................................... 4
1.5 AIM OF THE STUDY ..................................................................................................................................... 4
1.6 PROBLEM STATEMENT ................................................................................................................................ 5
1.7 RESEARCH QUESTIONS ................................................................................................................................ 5
1.8 RESEARCH DESIGN...................................................................................................................................... 5
1.8.1 LITERATURE REVIEW ............................................................................................................................ 5
1.8.2 DATA COLLECTION .............................................................................................................................. 5
1.8.3 DATA ANALYSIS .................................................................................................................................. 6
1.8.4 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS................................................................................................ 6
1.9 ASSUMPTIONS ........................................................................................................................................... 6
1.10 LAYOUT OF THE CHAPTERS ........................................................................................................................... 6
1.10 CONCLUSION ............................................................................................................................................. 7

CHAPTER 2 – LITERATURE REVIEW.................................................................................................................... 8


2.1 INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................................................... 8
2.2 PRODUCTIVITY ........................................................................................................................................... 8
2.3 CALL CENTRE PRODUCTIVITY ........................................................................................................................ 9
2.4 CALL CENTRE PRODUCTIVITY MEASURES....................................................................................................... 10
2.4.1 CALL VOLUMES ................................................................................................................................ 11
2.4.2 AVERAGE TALK TIME ......................................................................................................................... 12
2.4.3 AFTER-CALL WORK TIME .................................................................................................................... 13
2.4.4 QUEUEING TIME............................................................................................................................... 13
2.4.5 ABANDON RATE ............................................................................................................................... 14
2.4.6 SCHEDULE ADHERENCE ...................................................................................................................... 16
2.4.7 AGENT AVAILABILITY ......................................................................................................................... 17
2.4.8 AGENT UTILISATION .......................................................................................................................... 18
2.4.9 EVALUATION AND SUMMARY OF PRODUCTIVITY MEASURES ....................................................................... 19
2.5 FACTORS AFFECTING PRODUCTIVITY IN A CALL CENTRE .................................................................................... 20
2.5.1 TECHNOLOGY .................................................................................................................................. 21
2.5.2 UNDERSTAFFED CALL CENTRE .............................................................................................................. 21
2.5.3 LACK OF CALL VISIBILITY OF CALL CENTRE TRAFFIC ................................................................................... 22
2.5.4 HIGH EXPECTATION OF CUSTOMISED SERVICES ....................................................................................... 24
2.6 KNOWLEDGE REQUIREMENTS FOR CALL CENTRE AGENTS ................................................................................. 25
2.6.1 NAVIGATION INTERFACES ................................................................................................................... 25
2.6.2 CORE KNOWLEDGE AREAS REQUIRED FOR A CALL CENTRE AGENT TO BE PRODUCTIVE ...................................... 26
2.6.2.1 TECHNOLOGY .................................................................................................................................. 26
2.6.2.2 PRODUCTS AND SERVICES ................................................................................................................... 27
2.6.2.3 CUSTOMER PROFILE .......................................................................................................................... 27
2.6.2.4 PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES ............................................................................................................. 27
2.7 POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS TO MANAGE PRODUCTIVITY EFFECTIVELY IN A CALL CENTRE................................................. 28
2.7.1 PLANNING AND INTEGRATION ............................................................................................................. 28
2.7.2 EFFECTIVE RESOURCE PLANNING .......................................................................................................... 28

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2.7.3 EFFECTIVE BUSINESS PROCESSES .......................................................................................................... 30
2.7.4 EFFECTIVE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ................................................................................................ 30
2.8 CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................................................... 31

CHAPTER 3 – RESEARCH METHODOLOGY ....................................................................................................... 32


3.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................................ 32
3.2 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY ........................................................................................................................ 32
3.3 CASE STUDY RESEARCH ............................................................................................................................. 32
3.4 CASE STUDY APPROACH ............................................................................................................................ 33
3.4.1 CASE STUDY PROCESS ........................................................................................................................ 33
3.4.1.1 DEFINE AND DESIGN THE CASE STUDY ................................................................................................... 33
3.4.1.2 PREPARE, COLLECT AND ANALYSE ......................................................................................................... 33
3.4.1.3 DATA COLLECTION ........................................................................................................................... 34
A) DOCUMENT ANALYSIS ....................................................................................................................... 34
B) QUESTIONNAIRE .............................................................................................................................. 34
C) QUESTIONNAIRE DESIGN .................................................................................................................... 35
D) TARGET POPULATION ........................................................................................................................ 36
E) PARTICIPANTS’ ROLES ........................................................................................................................ 37
3.4.2 GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION ................................................................................................................. 37
3.4.3 SAMPLING METHOD .......................................................................................................................... 37
3.4.4 EVALUATION AND ANALYSIS OF DATA COLLECTED .................................................................................... 37
3.4.5 QUESTIONNAIRE .............................................................................................................................. 38
3.4.6 DOCUMENT ANALYSIS ....................................................................................................................... 38
3.6 CASE STUDY CONCLUSION ......................................................................................................................... 38
3.7 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS ........................................................................................................................ 38
3.8 LIMITATION OF STUDY .............................................................................................................................. 39
3.9 ELIMINATION OF BIAS ............................................................................................................................... 39
3.10 RESEARCH SETTING .................................................................................................................................. 39
3.10.1 CASE STUDY DESCRIPTION .................................................................................................................. 39
3.10.2 HOW PRODUCTIVITY IS MANAGED IN A CALL CENTRE ................................................................................ 39
3.10.3 WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MANAGING PRODUCTIVITY IN THE CALL CENTRE ................................................... 39
3.10.4 USE OF CALL CENTRE PRODUCTIVITY REPORTS ......................................................................................... 40
3.10.5 RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT .................................................................................................................. 40
3.11 CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................................... 40

CHAPTER 4 – RESEARCH RESULTS AND ANALYSIS ........................................................................................... 41


4.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................................ 41
4.2 DOCUMENT ANALYSIS ............................................................................................................................... 41
4.2.1 PRODUCTIVITY MEASURES .................................................................................................................. 41
4.2.1.1 AFTER-CALL WORK TIME .................................................................................................................... 42
4.2.1.2 QUEUEING TIME............................................................................................................................... 42
4.2.1.3 SCHEDULE ADHERENCE ...................................................................................................................... 42
4.2.1.4 AGENT UTILISATION .......................................................................................................................... 42
4.2.2 OPERATIONS REPORTS BENCHMARK .................................................................................................... 42
4.2.3 CALL VOLUMES ................................................................................................................................ 44
4.2.4 AVERAGE TALK TIME ......................................................................................................................... 46
4.2.5 ABANDON RATE ............................................................................................................................... 46
4.2.6 AGENT AVAILABLE TIME ..................................................................................................................... 47
4.2.7 DOCUMENT ANALYSIS CONCLUSION ..................................................................................................... 48
4.3 QUESTIONNAIRE ANALYSIS ......................................................................................................................... 49
4.3.1 RESPONDENTS’ CALL CENTRE ROLES ..................................................................................................... 49

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4.3.2 RESPONDENTS’ BELIEFS ABOUT MEASURING PRODUCTIVITY ..................................................................... 50
4.3.3 CALL CENTRE PRODUCTIVITY MEASURES AND KNOWLEDGE REQUIRED .......................................................... 52
4.3.4 CONFIDENCE IN ACHIEVING THE LITERATURE-PRESCRIBED PRODUCTIVITY LEVELS............................................ 56
4.3.5 FACTORS PREVENTING CALL CENTRE STAFF FROM ACHIEVING DESIRED PRODUCTIVITY TARGETS ......................... 59
4.3.6 LEVEL OF STAFF KNOWLEDGE ON CALL CENTRE PRODUCTIVITY .................................................................... 64
4.3.7 CONCLUSION ON LEVEL OF STAFF KNOWLEDGE ....................................................................................... 66
4.4 CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................................................... 66

CHAPTER 5 – CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ................................................................................. 68


5.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................................ 68
5.2 SYNOPSIS OF RESULTS ............................................................................................................................... 68
5.3 RECOMMENDATIONS ................................................................................................................................ 70
5.3.1 TRAINING ....................................................................................................................................... 70
5.3.2 FORMAL CALL CENTRE QUALIFICATION .................................................................................................. 71
5.3.3 ON-THE-JOB TRAINING (JOB MENTORING AND JOB ROTATION) .................................................................. 71
5.3.4 REDUCTION OF ABSENTEEISM THROUGH PROPER CONTROLS AND STAFF MOTIVATION ............................................ 72
5.4 CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................................................... 72

REFERENCES..................................................................................................................................................... 1
ANNEXURE A: QUESTIONNAIRE .................................................................................................................................. A
ANNEXURE B: ETHICAL DECLARATION LETTER .................................................................................................. A
ANNEXURE C: CALL CENTRE OPERATIONS REPORT.............................................................................................. A

vi
LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1: Basic call centre operation (Dawson 2003) ............................................................................................. 1


Figure 2: Contact centre input channels (Sharp 2003) ........................................................................................... 2
Figure 3: The input-transform-output functions of call centre operations (Dawson 2003) ................................... 9
Figure 4: Universal routing and the universal queue (Dawson 2003) .................................................................. 14
Figure 5: Incoming calls queue (Garnett et al. 2002) ............................................................................................ 15
Figure 6: Increased call volumes vs. number of agents (Garnett et al. 2002) ...................................................... 23
Figure 7: Call centre agents’ information interfaces (Tanir, Booth 1999) ............................................................ 26
Figure 8: Major employee management processes (Anton & Gustin 2000) ........................................................ 29
Figure 9: Case study approach (Yin 2013) ............................................................................................................ 33
Figure 10: Call volume comparisons ..................................................................................................................... 44
Figure 11: Call volumes ......................................................................................................................................... 45
Figure 12: Average talk time ................................................................................................................................. 46
Figure 13: Abandon rate ....................................................................................................................................... 47
Figure 14: Average available time ........................................................................................................................ 48
Figure 15: Team leaders’ views on measures of productivity .............................................................................. 54
Figure 16: Call centre agents’ views on measures of productivity ....................................................................... 56
Figure 17: Team leaders’ views on possibility of achieving best practice targets ................................................ 57
Figure 18: Agents’ confidence in achieving best practice targets ........................................................................ 58
Figure 19: Team leaders’ views on factors preventing them from achieving desired productivity targets ......... 61
Figure 20: Factors preventing agents from achieving required productivity targets ........................................... 62
Figure 21: Overall factors preventing all call centre staff from achieving desired productivity ........................... 63
Figure 22: Summary of all responses provided by respondents on question of knowledge ................................ 66

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LIST OF TABLES
Table 1: Productivity measures in a call centre .................................................................................................... 11
Table 2: Call volumes per agent (Gilmore 2001) .................................................................................................. 12
Table 3: Average talk time (Brown et al. 2005; Gilmore 2001) ............................................................................ 12
Table 4: After-call work time (Anton & Gustin 2000; Gilmore 2001) ................................................................... 13
Table 5: Queueing time (Anton & Gustin 2000; Gilmore 2001) ........................................................................... 14
Table 6: Abandon rate (Koole & Mandelbaum 2002; Anton & Gustin 2000) ....................................................... 16
Table 7: Schedule adherence (Anton & Gustin 2000; Gilmore 2001; Aktekin & Soyer 2014) .............................. 17
Table 8: Agents’ availability (Gilmore 2001; Anton & Gustin 2000) ..................................................................... 17
Table 9: Agent utilisation (Aktekin & Soyer 2014; Anton & Gustin 2000) ............................................................ 18
Table 10: Summary of productivity performance measure benchmarks (Anton & Gustin 2000; Aktekin & Soyer
2014; Gilmore 2001; Brown et al. 2005) .............................................................................................................. 19
Table 11: Factors affecting productivity in a call centre ....................................................................................... 20
Table 12: Questionnaire participants’ roles ......................................................................................................... 37
Table 13: Breakdown of time available for production in the call centre ............................................................ 43
Table 14: Target comparisons vs. actual productivity .......................................................................................... 43
Table 15: Document analysis summary and comparisons .................................................................................... 48
Table 16: Respondents’ roles ............................................................................................................................... 50
Table 17: Ratio of management to employee (internal service call centre ratio 2016) ....................................... 50
Table 18: Personal views on the importance of measuring productivity ............................................................. 50
Table 19: Views on importance of measuring productivity per participant role .................................................. 51
Table 20: Managers’ views on measures of productivity in a call centre ............................................................. 52
Table 21: Call centre team leaders’ views on measures of productivity .............................................................. 53
Table 22: Agents’ views on important factors required to measure productivity ............................................... 55
Table 23: Agents’ views on measures of productivity .......................................................................................... 55
Table 24: Managers’ views on possibility of achieving best practice targets ....................................................... 56
Table 25: Team leaders’ views on possibility of achieving best practice targets ................................................. 57
Table 26: Agents’ views on possibility of achieving best practice targets ............................................................ 58
Table 27: Managers’ views on factors preventing them from achieving desired set productivity ...................... 60
Table 28: Other factors that prevent managers from achieving desired targets ................................................. 60
Table 29: Team leaders’ views on factors preventing them from achieving desired productivity targets .......... 60
Table 30: Agents’ view on factors preventing them from achieving desired productivity targets ...................... 61
Table 31: Other factors preventing agents from achieving desired targets ......................................................... 62
Table 32: Managers’ level of knowledge to reach full potential to achieve good productivity ........................... 64
Table 33: Team leaders’ level of knowledge to reach full potential to achieve good productivity ...................... 65
Table 34: Agents’ level of knowledge to reach full potential to achieve good productivity ................................ 65
Table 35: Recommended call centre productivity measures and required productivity targets ......................... 70

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ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS

Term/Acronym Description
ACD Automatic call distributor
ANI Automatic number identification
BI Business intelligence
DNO Dialled-out
I.e. For example
IVR Interactive voice response
IT Information technology
K+N System capacity plus number of agents
M/M/N Murphy’s laws on reliability and queueing
PABX Private automatic branch exchange
PSN Privately switched network
SME Subject matter expert
SMS Short message service
VRU Voice Response Unit
WAP Wireless Application Protocol
WFM Workforce management

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CHAPTER 1 – INTRODUCTION

1.1 Call Centre Background

Call centres play important role in organisations’ strategies since they are the main contact point for
customers, and they can provide service-based competitive edge using high volumes and low cost
delivery by means of the telephone (Thompson, Warhurst & Callaghan, 2001).

Operations in a call centre involve people, technology, infrastructure and processes. The goal of
every call centre is to provide the best possible service to its customers at the lowest possible cost
(Aktekin & Soyer, 2014). The basic task of a call centre is to communicate with both internal and
external partners. Communication in a call centre can be carried through different channels such as
SMS, telephone, email, fax, social media and web chat (Rowe, Marciniak & Cécile, 2011).

Generally call centre processes are automated with call handling software that helps allocate calls
according to the different agent skills as well as auto dialler software that helps redial calls to
customers (Rowe, et al, 2011). Technology has been the main driver of change in the call centre
industry.

A call centre offers unique services that place an organisation in a strategic position to differentiate
itself from its competitors (Aksin, Armony & Mehrotra, 2007). The unique service offered by call
centres has led senior managers all over the globe to pay special attention to their operations and
how they integrate with mainstream business activities (Aksin, et al, 2007). Robinson & Morley
(2006) suggest that a smoothly run contact centre has a positive effect on quality customer
satisfaction and customer retention, which in turn result in a positive contribution to the
organisation’s productivity and profit margins. Figure 1 below depicts the basic operations of a basic
call centre (Dawson, 2003):

Customers Call Center Agents

Information flow INPUTS REQUEST


Button
PROCESSING OUTPUT Interpretation

Business Partners Business SMEs

COMMUNICATION LOOP

Figure 1: Basic call centre operation (Dawson, 2003)

The activity flow in Figure 1 depicts basic operations in a call centre. All incoming information in a
call centre is classified as inputs. The most common input channels in modern call centres include
calls, emails, SMSs, web charts, faxed documents, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, hard copy submission,
and post – see Figure 2 below (Sharp, 2003). The information coming through these channels is
evaluated either by the system or manually by call centre workers. If the evaluation criteria are met
by the incoming documents (system output), they are sent to the right skilled agent to start
processing the customer’s request (Pant & Wagner 2006). The communications from clients are then
processed by the agents or business SMEs, depending on the type of work.

1
Telephone

Fax

Business enterprise
E-mail
Public
Customer Network Customer
contact centre
Website

WAP mobile
handsets

Text chat

Figure 2: Contact centre input channels (Sharp, 2003)

Figure 2 above demonstrates the different channels through which customers can contact the call
centre. Between the customer call and the call centre there is a public network that helps to connect
the two parties. Both the call centre and the customer are heavily reliant on the public network in
order to establish a connection with one another.

The terms “call centre” and “contact centre” are used interchangeably when referring to this area of
business operations. Customers and internal staff are able to associate with either term (Aksin, et al,
2007).

1.2 Call Centre Definition

One of the key characteristics of a call centre is to serve customers using inbound and outbound
communication systems (Aksin, et al, 2007). The definition of a call centre can be taken from the
internal perspective (business view) and external perspective (customer view). At core, call centres
are made up of resources such as people, computers and communications equipment. This research
focused on inbound call centres, and the definitions below of a call centre are given from this
perspective.

1.2.1 The generic definition of a call centre

Holman (2003, page 166) defines a call centre as “a work environment in which the main business is
mediated by computer and telephone-based technologies that enable the efficient distribution of
incoming calls (or allocation of outgoing calls) to available staff, and permit customer-employee
interaction simultaneously with the use of display screens equipment and the instant access to, and
inputting of, information”.

The following are examples of call centres:

2
a. Telemarketing centres
b. Debt collection centres
c. Customer help desks
d. Catalogue retailers
e. Reservation centres

1.2.2 Call centre definition from customer’s perspective

“A call centre is a central contact point or a contact source for all types of customer interactions
which help customers in receiving information on products or services and resolving problems”
(Sharp, 2003, page 13).

1.2.3 Call centre definition from business perspective

“A call centre is part of the organization’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management) strategy,
whereby the organization manages its customer interactions” (Sharp, 2003, page 14).

The following are customer interactions that can be managed in a call centre (Dawson, 2003):

a. Customer queries
b. Customer complaints
c. Outbound and inbound sales
d. Customer help desk
e. Online transactions

The business functions that a call centre performs can vary. Some of these ranges from help desk,
customer service, emergency response service, sales, marketing, telemarketing and technical
support to order taking (Dawson, 2003). Call centres may also vary in size, i.e. international, national
and small regional call centres.

Call centres can also vary in terms of the work and volumes they handle, with each requiring
different skill sets and experience (Sharp, 2003). Depending on the type of service offered, call
centre organisations may decide to structure themselves in a way that is in line with the type of
service that is required by the clients. In order to provide quality service to customers, the caller may
require to be transferred through a multiple of layers within the organisation (Dawson, 2003).

1.3 Call Centre Goals

The end goal of the contact is for service to be provided by the call centre to the customer. The
service offered by the call centre must be of high quality to customers at all times. Below are some
of the call centre goals as defined by other researchers:

a. A call centre’s primary goal is to obtain satisfaction and quality of service. In a call centre
environment, customer satisfaction is measured through the quality department where calls

3
are listened to by the quality assurance agents. Satisfaction can be in the form of consumer
satisfaction and telephone conversation (Grönroos & Ojasalo 2004).
b. The secondary goal is to ensure that each unit takes or makes as many calls as possible at
any given time. This means that the call centre must strive to increase the efficiency rate by
means of reducing the number of abandoned calls (Rowe, et al, 2011).
c. The third objective is about making sure that the call centre saves as much as possible in
terms of costs.

For a call centre to be able to achieve the above objectives, it requires knowledgeable staff that
understands its operations. Through call listening, the call centre management is able to analyse the
agents’ capability levels (customer service knowledge, product knowledge as well as process and
technology knowledge). Batt (2002)explain that the agents’ knowledge of customer service, the
products and processes has a direct correlation with the productivity output levels of the agent. The
more experienced the agent, the greater the likelihood that the agent will reach targets, and the less
experienced the agent, the greater the likelihood that the agents will not reach productivity targets.

There are different knowledge challenges that a call centre agent can experience.

1.4 Call Centre Knowledge Challenges

The call centre industry grew both in workforce and economically by 8% during 2011 – 2014
(Dimension data, 2015). This growth has been attributed to the use of new technologies (Dimension
data, 2015). Along with this growth, call centre volumes have also increased, resulting in complex
call centre operations processes (Batt, 2002).

The complexity introduced by technology in call centre operations has also made it difficult for call
centres to achieve the desired productivity targets (Gans, Koole & Mandelbaum, 2003). According to
(Legros, et al, 2015), because agents do not have the right knowledge to deal with the new
communication channels, only telephones and email requests are attended to by 80% of call centre
agents.

The simple analytical models which have always been used to manage productivity in a call centre
are becoming outdated owing to the introduction of multimedia input and output channels (Gans,
et al, 2003). Organisations have found it difficult to close the knowledge gap that multimedia is
creating in call centre operations, which has led to a decrease in the overall productivity of call
centres (Batt, 2002).

The lack of knowledge of how to deal with modern technological changes as well as the increased
volumes leave call centres with a huge problem in overcoming the productivity challenges. In this
research call centre productivity literature is reviewed and a case study was conducted in order to
identify possible ways to overcome the knowledge challenges as well as formulate productivity best
practice that call centre organisations can use.

1.5 Aim of the Study

4
Based on the knowledge challenges identified in the previous section, this research aimed at
investigating call centre productivity management inputs as well as the level of knowledge of call
centre staff. By identifying the factors that contribute to low productivity in a call centre,
recommendations will be made from various literature sources to manage productivity effectively.
This will enable the management of call centres to improve productivity.

1.6 Problem Statement

Call centre staff (agents and management) lack the correct knowledge to maintain call centre
productivity at acceptable levels. This lack of knowledge may be influenced by the growing need to
keep abreast with technological changes within the call centre industry (Batt, 2002).

The problem statement for this study is therefore: Productivity is low in call centres due to a lack of
knowledge.

1.7 Research Questions

In order to address the low productivity challenges in a call centre, the following questions were
used as a guideline to obtain the information required:

 How is productivity measured in a service call centre?


 What are the factors that affect productivity in the call centre industry?
 What knowledge is required for call centre staff to be productive?

1.8 Research Design

A case study was used to conduct this research. A case study is defined by Yin (2013, page 6) as “an
empirical enquiry that investigates contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the
boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple
sources of evidence are used”. The evidence to support this research was collected through a
literature review. The data obtained from the literature review is compared with the current
processes through an analysis of operations reports as well as questionnaire feedback from call
centre staff.

1.8.1 Literature review

The literature review focuses mainly on call centre productivity and how lack of knowledge plays a
role in this. The objective of the literature review was to establish the context of the problem,
understand the structure of the problem, related theories and ideas of the problem, synthesise and
gain a new perspective on the problem, as well as show what needs to be done in light of the
existing knowledge (Cooper & Schindler, 2003).

1.8.2 Data collection

5
The data collection was informed by the literature review. Data was collected through document
analysis and a questionnaire. The objective of data collection is to be able to gain insight into the
views and understanding of the research problem.

1.8.3 Data analysis

Data analysis tools such as Google Form and Excel were used to determine patterns, develop
summaries and reduce accumulated data to manageable amounts. The analysis of data was
validated against the research questions as well as the literature review. Conclusions and
recommendations are summarised and put together as the best practice solution for the problem at
hand (Cooper, Schindler 2003).

1.8.4 Conclusions and recommendations

Conclusions are drawn from both the document analysis and the questionnaire findings. These
conclusions are summarised and validated against the research question. An indication is also given
of whether the problem statement was true or not.

1.9 Assumptions

It is assumed that:

1.9.1 All respondents to the surveys have knowledge and experience in call centre operations
1.9.2 Participants shall be as honest as possible
1.9.3 All the material collected were published in good faith not to spike certain agendas
1.9.4 Other participants might chose not to respond to the survey
1.9.5 Productivity is the “correct” problem that needs to be address in this regard

1.10 Layout of the Chapters

The chapters in this document are divided as follows:

Chapter 1 – Introduction: This chapter serves as an introduction. It provides high-level background


as well as the scope of the research. Specific attention is also given to the significance of the study,
objectives, aim, problem statement, research methodology and assumptions.

Chapter 2 – Literature Review: This chapter provides a literature review/theoretical overview of the
concept of operations management and call centre productivity.

Chapter 3 – Research Methodology: This chapter provides the theoretical background on how the
research was conducted, as well as giving special attention to the following topics:
a. Methodology
b. Case study approach, definition, data collection, evaluation and analysis
c. Overall research process
d. Case study conclusion

6
e. Ethics
f. Limitations of the study
g. Research setting

Chapter 4 – Research Results and Analysis: This chapter focuses on the results obtained from the
literature review, document analysis as well as the questionnaire. The analysis here includes data
interpretation on the key results of the research.

Chapter 5 –Conclusions and recommendations: This final chapter provides a summary of the results
of the research compared with the study objectives and the theoretical conclusions as well as the
final recommendations.

1.10 Conclusion

This chapter provided the background of the study, which aimed to give a high-level background of
the research as well as the particular industry in which the questionnaire was administered. The
objectives and aim of the study indicated what was to be achieved at the end of the research. The
problem statement was stated and the research methodology outlining the approach and methods
used to gather data was explained.

The next chapter will cover the literature review of the study.

7
CHAPTER 2 – LITERATURE REVIEW

2.1 Introduction

Research as defined by (Peters, Howard & Sharp, 2012, page 7) “is a way of searching through
systematic methods to add one’s own body of knowledge to that of others, by the discovery of non-
trivial facts and insights”. The purpose of research is to review existing knowledge in order to
describe a situation or a problem and to construct a different view (Peters, et al, 2012).

The literature discussed below was sourced from academic journals, books and previous research
conducted on the same topic.

The research confirms existing knowledge on the following topics:

 Productivity measured in a service call centre


 Factors that affect productivity in a call centre
 The knowledge required for call centre agents

2.2 Productivity

Productivity is defined as “the efficient utilization of resources (input) in producing goods and
services (output)” (Mohanty & Deshmukh, 1999 page 61). This definition can be expressed in an
equation as:

Productivity = Output/Input

Productivity in a service industry is defined as the quantity and quality of outputs divided by the
quantity and quality of inputs (Rutkauskas & Paulavičienė, 2015).

Service productivity = Quantity and quality of outputs/Quantity and quality of inputs

The reason for the addition of the quality aspect to the service productivity definition is that
customers in the service industry do not evaluate the service offered only by numbers produced, but
also by the quality offered while being served (Rutkauskas & Paulavičienė, 2015). Compared to the
manufacturing industry, the service industry is concerned about the quality and number of inputs
coming through at the beginning, but the focus is on the quality of output at the end, which is
controlled mainly by the customer (Rutkauskas & Paulavičienė, 2015).

According to (Misterek, Dooley & Anderson, 1992), an increase in productivity may be influenced by
five different relationships between the inputs and outputs:

a. Increase in both output and input, but the increase in input is proportionally less than the
increase in output
b. Output increases while input remains constant
c. Output increases while input decreases

8
d. Output stays the same while input decreases
e. Output decreases while input decreases even more

2.3 Call Centre Productivity

A productive call centre is one that is able to meet various demands at various times as and when a
customer requires (Sharp, 2003). A productive call centre needs to be able to predict the different
services that a customer may want by putting in place the right mechanism to channel,
communicate and provide a service that meets the customers’ expected quality standard at any
given point in time (Robinson & Morley, 2006). Productivity in a call centre is measured in two ways:
staff productivity and call centre productivity (Robinson & Morley, 2006).

For the sake of clarity, in this research document the focus is on agent productivity.

Figure 3 below depicts the basic call centre operations:

Landline

E-mail
IVR/VRU

CTI Customer data Voice recording

Call Printer
Network

Customer Router
PABX/PBX Call Center
Smart computer
screen Agent

Call, SMS, Twitter, Facebook, Skype Fax

Hardcopy documents
Smart device

ACD

Fax
Customer Communication Integrated IT Infrastructure Integrated Shared Working Area

Two Way Communication Process

Figure 3: The input-transform-output functions of call centre operations (Dawson, 2003)

The above figure shows that customers can contact the call centre using different communication
channels (Dawson, 2003). The channel which a user calls from is called a privately switched network
(PSN). The PSN can be any of the following: fax, social media, telephone, email, or hard copy. The
private communication channel can either reveal or hide the source of the communication
(automatic number identification or ANI). Organisations have their own privately switched private
automatic branch exchange (PABX) which is used to connect to the PSN through a number of
telephone lines. If the PABX is contacted through the caller’s PSN and the PABX is not fully occupied,
the customer is connected; otherwise, the caller receives a busy signal.

It is important that the call centre staff understand how to operate the technology that is used in a
call centre since it has a direct impact on productivity and plays a key role in forecasting, controlling
and measuring productivity (Curry, Hilliard & Shanmuganathan, 2008).

9
2.4 Call Centre Productivity Measures

Productivity in a call centre is measured by the centre’s ability to be contacted by as many


customers as possible and to verify that their endeavour to make contact is successful (Rowe, et al,
2011). Productivity measuring plays an important role in helping organisations understand the
bigger picture of successes and failures (Rowe, et al, 2011). It involves the integration of leading-
edge technology, customer-friendly business processes and human resources (Rowe, et al, 2011).

The introduction of technology in a call centre has helped the call centre industry to improve its
productivity measures to be more accurate compared to the old simple analytical models (Gans, et
al, 2003). It is of great importance that call centre organisation have productivity measures in place
since these enable future forecasting and predictive analytics (Rowe, et al, 2011).

A great deal of data is required to measure the productivity of both the call centre and the agents
(Rowe, et al, 2011). Productivity in a call centre is measured for both qualitative aspects (customer
loyalty, quality of service) and quantitative aspects (lower service production costs, higher
profitability) (Rowe, et al, 2011).

An effective productivity measure allows a call centre to do the following (Anton & Gustin, 2000):

a. Review its productivity as a whole


b. Review each call centre agent’s productivity
c. Analyse productivity trends
d. Investigate root cause of problems
e. Optimise use of call centre resources
f. Plan and support the organisation’s strategy

Research by the World Bank (2014) and Marr & Parry (2004) indicates that the factors below are
important in measuring call centre agents’ productivity:

a. Call volumes
b. Average talk time
c. After-call work time
d. Queuing time
e. Abandon rate
f. Schedule adherence
g. Agent availability
h. Agent utilisation

These call centre productivity measures must be measured collectively (Marr & Parry, 2004).

Some of the factors that are used to measure productivity overlap for the call centre and the staff.
(Anton & Gustin 2000, Aktekin & Soyer 2014, Brown, Gans, Mandelbaum, Sakov, Shen, Zeltyn

10
& Zhao, 2005) all agree that the call centre and agent productivity measures are as depicted in table
1.

Table 1: Productivity measures in a call centre

Productivity measures Call centre Team Individual


Call volumes X X X
Average talk time X X X
After-call work time X X X
Queuing time X X X
Abandon rate X X X
Schedule adherence X X X
Agent availability X X X
Agent utilisation X X X

The different factors listed on the matrix above are critical in ensuring accurate measurement of
productivity in a call centre. Each of these productivity measures is discussed in detail below.

2.4.1 Call volumes

The call volumes that are processed in the call centre play an important role in measuring the total
productivity of the call centre (Gilmore, 2001). This measure is critical because the rest of the
productivity measures in the call centre are based on it (Gilmore, 2001). It is usually expressed per
contact type and aggregated in time intervals.

The Erlange-C model (M/M/N) is widely used across the call centre industry to measure the number
of calls in and out of the call centre (Garnett, Mandelbaum & Reiman, 2002). When measuring the
number of calls made in the call centre, it is important to also measure the number of abandoned
calls in order to enable the call centre to manage them effectively (Koole & Mandelbaum, 2002). If
the number of abandoned calls is not properly measured, this can lead to overstaffing or
understaffing the call centre (Garnett, et al, 2002).

The total number of calls in a centre at any given time can be expressed by adding the total number
of calls handled by the available agents to the total number of calls in a queue (Garnett, et al, 2002).
This can be expressed by the simple equation of K + N.

Where:
K = agent capacity to handle call volumes coming through to the call centre
N = number of calls in the call centre queue

The average speed to answer is an important factor in increasing the number of calls that can be
taken in a call centre. The acceptable industry standard is 80/20, where 80% of the customers must
only wait for 20 seconds (Koole & Mandelbaum, 2002). According to Gilmore (2001), an efficient
inbound call centre needs to be able to put through at least 28 calls to an agent per shift. This then
means that an agent needs to be able to achieve an average call handling time of 15 minutes per call
per agent. The table below summarises the call volume process per agent per hour:

11
Table 2: Call volumes per agent (Gilmore, 2001)

Measure of productivity Calculating formula Productivity benchmark


Call volumes K + N (Total number of calls in a queue) 28 calls per agent per shift

The volumes that an agent can take are directly linked to the time he/she takes to talk to the client.
For the volumes to increase, the call centre agent needs to keep the talk time under a certain
threshold.

2.4.2 Average talk time

Average talk time measures the actual time spent with the client on the task. This metric is also
called call duration (Brown, et al, 2005). This metric is measured by averaging the total time an agent
spends on the phone with the client. It is timed from the moment a call reaches the call centre agent
to the time the call is concluded (Gilmore, 2001).

In order to manage the differences in call patterns, the average talk time should be measured and
identified by time of day as well as by day of week (Gilmore, 2001). The agent handle time should be
consistent within a certain range. The objective of gathering and analysing average talk time
numbers is to determine whether the agent is within the acceptable productivity range and to
measure the productivity variance among the different agents. There are no universal standards that
govern the average talk time, so call centres usually manage this based on the performance history
of the agents (Gilmore, 2001).

In general internet consulting has the longest service time compared to telephone calls and
manual/face-to-face consulting (Brown, et al, 2005). New customers usually have the shortest
average talk time (Brown, et al, 2005). According to Gilmore (2001), call handling time must be kept
at an average of 15 minutes per call per agent.

Average talk time = (Skillset + No. incoming calls + Pre-post time)/(Skillset + Dial-in answered)

The table below summarises the above discussion on average talk time:

Table 3: Average talk time (Brown, et al, 2005; Gilmore, 2001)

Measure of performance Calculating formula Productivity benchmark


(Skill set + No of incoming calls + Pre-post
Average talk time 15 minutes per call per agent
time)/(Skill set + No. of incoming answered)

For agents to achieve their daily productivity targets, they need to ensure that the average talk time
is achieved and the after-call work time is as low as possible. When the after-call talk time is left
uncontrolled, call centre agents in most cases do not achieve their set daily targets (Brown, et al,
2005). According to Aktekin & Soyer (2014), for agents to achieve good productivity, they must strive
to achieve shorter turnaround times on talk time, and this can be translated as a positive

12
relationship between productivity and talk time. A negative relationship can be interpreted as long
turnaround times.

2.4.3 After-call work time

This metric can also be referred to as the wrap-up time. This is the time an agent takes to capture
and document some of the administration work from the last concluded call (Anton & Gustin 2000).
This measure is provided by the automatic call distributor (ACD). It is considered to be the most
variable measure and the most controllable (Brown, et al, 2005).

This metric should be measured and evaluated over a long period in order to determine the
appropriate amount of time needed to complete the tasks (Gilmore, 2001). This measure over a long
time serves as the benchmark against which individual agents are measured (Anton & Gustin, 2000).
Comparisons for average after-call time between agents must be done using similar types of calls,
otherwise the measurements might not give a true indication of the agents’ output.

When measuring this metric, call centre managers must ensure that the right number of agents are
allocated to handle the incoming and outgoing communications, otherwise agents might decide to
spend more time in a non-call state trying to catch their breath, and this can result in high average
after-call work time (Gilmore, 2001).

Anton & Gustin (2000) maintain that a higher after-call work time value can have a direct impact on
the number of customers being served. Gilmore (2001) suggests that the best value for an after-call
work time is 1.2 minutes per call per agent. The table below summarises the after-call measure:

Table 4: After-call work time (Anton & Gustin, 2000; Gilmore, 2001)

Measure of productivity Calculation formula Productivity benchmark


N/A: Time taken to wrap up and
After-call work time 1.2 minutes per call
perform administration task

The longer the waiting time, the longer the queueing time. Anton & Gustin (2000) assert that the
relationship between the after-call work time and productivity should always be negative. The
negative relationship between these two factors means that the time taken to perform all after-call
activities must be as minimal as possible. A longer after-call work time can have a direct impact on
the queueing time for customers. The queuing time can have a direct impact on the total volume
achieved at the end of the day.

2.4.4 Queueing time

This metric is expressed as the longest time a call took in the queue. This can also be expressed as
the worst case experienced by the caller over a period. Schedule adherence is very important for this
measure to be managed effectively. If the schedule is not well planned, the call centre is bound to
receive customer complaints about the queueing time as well as abandoned calls (Gilmore, 2001).
Telephone queues are self-managing with callers dropping off if the calls are not answered quickly
enough. Other channels such as e-mail can accumulate and result in losing customers due to poor

13
turnaround times and poor service (Dawson, 2003). The figure below depicts how communications
and the different channels are routed and queued for service (Dawson, 2003):

E-mail Fax Phone Mail Web Wireless

Business Analysis and


Intelligence Universal Routing planning

Agents Expert Automated systems Enterprise resources

Figure 4: Universal routing and the universal queue (Dawson, 2003)

The queues in a call centre from the different communication channels (e-mail, fax, phone, mail,
web and wireless) are automatically routed to the correct skilled agent (Curry, et al, 2008). The
allocation of communications for service is governed by the business intelligence that analyses the
available handling method (Curry, et al, 2008). The handling method can assume many forms, e.g.
agent, automated product service system and specialised experts. The problem is the non-
telephonic communication which requires agent attendance because most of this is allocated as files
and stored for the agent to attend to (Curry, et al, 2008). These files can remain on these folders for
a long time because most of these folders lack an automatic systems prompt for attendance.

Gilmore (2001) recommends that the longest a customer should be kept waiting in the queue is 30
seconds per call per agent. A longer queue time may result in the customer deciding to abandon the
queue, which can have a direct impact on customer retention. The relationship between queueing
time and productivity should always be negative (Anton & Gustin, 2000). This means keeping the
queueing time as low as possible in order to achieve higher productivity. The table below
summarises the queueing time measure discussed above:

Table 5: Queueing time (Anton & Gustin, 2000; Gilmore, 2001)

Measure of productivity Calculation formula Recommended performance level


N/A: Time the client waits for
Queueing time 0.5 minutes per call per agent
service

The time taken by the customer queueing for service can be a deciding factor on whether they
abandon or proceed with the call for service. Customers who abandon the queue can either dial
back or they can take their business somewhere else. For call centres to achieve higher productivity,
they need to keep the queueing time as low as possible, as this will also reduce the number of
abandoned calls.

2.4.5 Abandon rate

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Abandon rate is defined as the time a customer is willing to wait before abandoning the queue
(Aktekin & Soyer, 2014). As customers lose patience due to long waiting times, the quality of the
service as well as the productivity of the call centre are compromised (Aktekin & Soyer, 2014). This
can have a big impact on a call centre as it can translate to lost customers (Gilmore, 2001). The
abandon rate is measured by comparing the number of calls that are abandoned during a certain
period with all calls for that period. It is recommended that this does not exceed 3.1% per agent per
shift (Koole & Mandelbaum, 2002).

The abandoned calls are beyond the call centre’s control as they are influenced by a number of
factors, one of which is the queueing time (Anton & Gustin, 2000). Some call centres try to address
this by making available a large number of telephone lines or other communication channels which
clients can use to communicate with the call centre without having direct communication with a call
centre agent (Koole & Mandelbaum, 2002).

Call abandonment can happen at three stages of the call setup: while waiting for a dial tone, during
the dialling, or while waiting for network response (Koole & Mandelbaum, 2002). This can be
influenced by various factors such as the channels which the customer has used as well as customer
patience (Koole & Mandelbaum, 2002). Most of the factors that influence this are human factors and
they are difficult to measure.

The figure below illustrates the different factors that contribute to the total number of abandoned
calls in a call centre (Garnett, et al, 2002).

AGENTS

2
Lost demand
Retrials

ACD
Incoming calls
1 2 3 4 . . . K .

.
Retrials

Lost demand .

Figure 5: Incoming calls queue (Garnett, et al, 2002)

The above figure depicts a simple-finite queue with abandoned calls, retrial calls and incoming calls
(Koole & Mandelbaum, 2002). Even though some of the customers abandon the queue, some do
decide to redial. The abandon rate can be expressed as follows (Koole & Mandelbaum, 2002):

15
𝑓(𝑡)
𝑟(𝑡) =
1 − 𝑓(𝑡)

Where:
𝑟(𝑡) = abandoned rate
𝑓(𝑡) = probability of customer dropping a call
1 − 𝑓(𝑡) = failure rate of calls

The above formula defines the failure rate, which is used to measure the risk that the failure will
occur at a time (t) (Aktekin & Soyer, 2014). The abandon rate is given as r (t) in the equation, while f
(t) represents the probability of failure. The table below summarises the above discussion on the
abandon rate as a measure of productivity:

Table 6: Abandon rate (Koole & Mandelbaum, 2002; Anton & Gustin, 2000)

Measure of productivity Calculating formula Productivity benchmark


Abandon rate 𝑓(𝑡) A maximum of 3.1% abandonment
𝑟(𝑡) =
1 − 𝑓(𝑡) of the total calls per agent

It is recommended that the relationship between call centre productivity and the failure rate be kept
to minimum levels at all times (Anton & Gustin, 2000). So it is of great importance that the
relationship between the two factors remains positive because this can result in many customers
being served. It is also vital that the ACD be programmed in a manner that it addresses the sequence
of arrival and distributes calls or requests. These ACD setups must also be linked with the daily
production planning schedules, which deal with product type, agent availability and absenteeism. It
is important that the schedule be adhered to since it links the right client to the right agent.

2.4.6 Schedule adherence

This measures how agents comply with the scheduled hours in a given working day. The two types of
adherence that agents are measured against are total hours worked and specific hours worked
(Gilmore, 2001). Agents’ productivity in a call centre must be measured on total hours worked
versus the schedule, as well as the defined work schedule of start and stop time, scheduled breaks,
etc. (Anton & Gustin, 2000). This metric is important in measuring the individual performance of the
agent since the schedule is of the individual agent. Adherence to schedule generally consists of all
logged-on time, waiting time for call arrivals, talk time, after-call work and all other non-call time.

A simple calculation for determining adherence as provided by (Aktekin & Soyer, 2014) is:

𝑇𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑎𝑑ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒


Adherence to schedule =
𝑇𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑠𝑐ℎ𝑒𝑑𝑢𝑙𝑒𝑑

Scheduled minutes = 𝐻𝑜𝑢𝑟𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑎 𝑠ℎ𝑖𝑓𝑡 − 𝑙𝑢𝑛𝑐ℎ − 𝑏𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑘(𝑠) + 𝐸𝑥𝑐𝑒𝑝𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑠

16
There is no real industry standard for adherence. The only exception is meeting, training and lunch
time, otherwise any other time that cannot be accounted for will have a direct impact on
productivity (Aktekin & Soyer 2014). It is recommended that the call centre agent’s adherence rate
be 90% (per agent per shift) and above.

Anton & Gustin (2000) indicate that a higher adherence rate can result in good productivity by the
call centre agent. This then means that the relationship between these two factors must be a
positive one. A negative relationship between adherence and productivity can have a huge impact
on the organisation, since this can lead to customers moving their business to some other service
provider who can offer the same service. Table 7 below summarises the discussion above on
adherence to schedule as a measure of productivity:

Table 7: Schedule adherence (Anton & Gustin, 2000; Gilmore, 2001; Aktekin & Soyer, 2014)

Measure of productivity Calculation formula Productivity benchmark

Schedule adherence 𝑇𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑎𝑑ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 90% per agent per shift
AS=
𝑇𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑠𝑐ℎ𝑒𝑑𝑢𝑙𝑒𝑑

For agents to adhere to the schedule, they need to be available to take the requests as and when
they come through. Failure by call centre agents to be available to take customer requests defeats
the schedule adherence objective (Aktekin & Soyer, 2014).

2.4.7 Agent availability

This is the percentage of time agents are available to take calls while they have logged in on their
working stations (Gilmore, 2001). This metric can be affected by the time required off the phone to
do research, projects and other activities. It is a percentage of logged-in time and occupancy while
an agent is actually busy on a call. Availability can be calculated as per the formula provided by
(Gilmore, 2001):

Availability = Actual login time/Target * 100

Agent availability can be converted directly to the number of requests that the call centre agent can
service. It is defined by the time the agent is online/available to serve clients divided by the set daily
target, which is defined when setting up the schedule adherence targets (Anton & Gustin, 2000).
According to (Brown, et al, 2005), there must be a positive relationship between agent availability
and agent productivity in order to achieve good results. A positive relationship between the two
factors can only propel productivity to greater heights. Anton & Gustin (2000); Gilmore (2001) agree
that the agent needs to at least be 95% available for all requests sent to them. Anything less than
the recommended 95% (per shift) availability time reduces the chances for the agent to achieve the
set productivity target. Table 8 below summarises the discussion on agent availability:

Table 8: Agents’ availability (Gilmore, 2001; Anton & Gustin, 2000)

17
Measure of productivity Calculating formula Recommended performance level
Agent availability Availability = Actual login time/Target * 100 95% per shift

Since availability is the time which an agent takes to complete a transaction before serving the next
client, (Gilmore, 2001) states that this measure must be measured hand-in-hand with utilisation of
the agent and that the availability of an agent must be high in order to see an upward trend in
utilisation of the agent. The researcher therefore concludes that the higher the availability, the
higher the utilisation.

2.4.8 Agent utilisation

Agent utilisation in a call centre could be defined by the different states in which an agent can be
logged in on the system. The call centre utilisation state can be classified as the following (Aktekin &
Soyer, 2014):

a. Idle – agent is available to take calls or perform other duties


b. Active – handling calls
c. Wrap up – performing after-call work

Any idleness recorded on a call centre agent dashboard has a direct impact on the productivity
target of that very same agent (Aktekin & Soyer, 2014). Call centre work time needs to record a high
percentage on the “active” indicator. (Aktekin & Soyer, 2014) also emphasises that the call wrap-up
time or after-call work time must be kept to a minimum. A rise in either the wrap-up time or idleness
means that agents will produce far less than what they could have produced. Therefore it is
important that call centre agents remain active at all times in order to reduce idleness and long
wrap-up time. 80% utilisation is viewed as the minimal acceptable level for this productivity
measure. The industry benchmark for this metric is 80% per shift. The relationship between the
agent availability and productivity should be a positive one; the higher the availability, the higher the
productivity.

Subordinate measures used to calculate agent utilisation as provided by Anton & Gustin (2000) are:

a. Average calls handled by agent


b. Average handle time (talk time and after-call work time)
c. Average days worked in a month
d. Work hours in a day

𝐴𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑔𝑒 𝑐𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑠 ℎ𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑏𝑦 𝑎𝑔𝑒𝑛𝑡 × 𝐴𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑔𝑒 ℎ𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑙𝑒 𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒


Utilisation =
𝐴𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑔𝑒 𝑑𝑎𝑦𝑠 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑘𝑒𝑑 𝑖𝑛 𝑎 𝑚𝑜𝑛𝑡ℎ × 𝑊𝑜𝑟𝑘𝑖𝑛𝑔 ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑟𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑎 𝑑𝑎𝑦 × 60 𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑡𝑒𝑠

Table 9 below summarises the agent utilisation metric:

Table 9: Agent utilisation (Aktekin & Soyer, 2014; Anton & Gustin, 2000)

Measure of productivity Calculation formula Productivity benchmark


Agent utilisation (Ave. calls handled X Ave. handle time)/(Ave. 80% per shift

18
days worked per month X Hrs per day X 60 min.)

The agent utilisation measure is an integral part of measuring productivity for the call centre. This
measure focuses on the individual performance of the agent and outlines whether they are making
progress or where their time is wasted. This measure on its own allows the call centre management
to isolate the individual performance of agents. It also plays an imperative role in identifying the
time utilisation of each individual agent, and this information can be aggregated to determine the
overall call centre performance.

A summary is now provided of the different productivity measures as discussed in the above
sections.

2.4.9 Evaluation and summary of productivity measures

It is clear from the literature that the following relationships can be expected between the measures
and productivity:

a. A negative relationship between average talk time and productivity – the longer the caller
has to wait, the more the productivity (volume) of the agent decreases (Garnett, et al, 2002,
Gilmore, 2001).
b. A negative relationship between queue time and productivity – the longer the caller waits to
be answered in the queue, the more the productivity of the agent decreases (Brown, et al,
2005, Anton & Gustin, 2000).
c. A negative relationship between abandon rate and productivity – if the caller leaves the
queue without being served, the productivity of the agent and the call centre decreases
(Anton & Gustin, 2000, Brown, et al, 2005).
d. A positive relationship between average talk time and productivity – the shorter the talk
time of callers with the call centre agent, the more calls an agent is going to take and this
means an increase in productivity (Aktekin & Soyer, 2014).
e. A positive relationship between adherence and productivity – agents on seats and adhering
to the schedule means a high number of customers being served (Gilmore, 2001, Aktekin &
Soyer, 2014).
f. A negative relationship between the after-call work time and productivity – the higher the
after-call work time, the fewer customers are being served (Anton & Gustin, 2000).
g. A positive relationship between time before abandonment and productivity – the fewer
callers are kept holding, the more customers are served (Brown, et al, 2005).

Below are the productivity measures in tabular form:

Table 10: Summary of productivity performance measure benchmarks (Anton & Gustin, 2000; Aktekin &
Soyer, 2014; Gilmore, 2001; Brown, et al, 2005)

Productivity measure Calculation formula Productivity benchmark


Call volumes K + N (Total number of calls in a queue) 28 calls per agent per shift
Average talk time (Skill set + No. of incoming calls + Pre-post 15 minutes per call

19
time)/(Skill set + No. of incoming answered)
After-call work time N/A: Time taken to wrap up and perform 1.2 minutes per call
administration task
Queueing time N/A: Time the client waits for service 0.5 minutes time per call
Abandon rate 𝑓(𝑡) 3% per agent per shift
𝑟(𝑡) =
1 − 𝑓(𝑡)
Adherence to schedule 𝑇𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑎𝑑ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 90% per agent per shift
AS=
𝑇𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑠𝑐ℎ𝑒𝑑𝑢𝑙𝑒𝑑
Agent availability Availability = Actual login time/Target * 100 95% per shift
Agent utilisation (Ave. calls handled X Ave. handle time)/(Ave. 80% per shift
days worked per month X Hrs per day X 60
min.)

Though productivity can decrease if it is not measured properly, it is also important that those
measuring it are properly trained to do so. There are factors that can prevent the actual
measurement of productivity from taking place as expected, which are discussed below.

2.5 Factors affecting Productivity in a Call Centre

A factor can be defined as “one that actively contributes to an accomplishment, result, or process”
(Dictionary, 1989). The work factor in this research is used to elaborate on productivity variables.

According to (Sharp, 2003), challenges such as lack of visibility of customer traffic, expectation of
personalised customer service and high turnover of high-quality staff are very common in modern-
day call centres. These challenges are attributed mainly to the introduction of new technology to the
call centre environment. Human resources have been identified as the biggest contributor to the
challenges faced by call centres when it comes to productivity (Sharp, 2003).

The table below summarises the different factors that can have an impact on call centre
productivity:

Table 11: Factors affecting productivity in a call centre

Factor Impact References


 Complex operational processes (Curry, et al, 2008, Robinson,
Technology  Increased targets Morley 2006, Rowe, et al, 2011)
 Increased volumes
 Poor resource scheduling (Garnett, et al, 2002, Aktekin &
Lack of call traffic  Poor customer service Soyer, 2014, Sharp, 2003)
visibility  High abandonment of calls
 Overworked staff (Fukunaga,
Understaffed call centre  Disgruntled customers Hamilton, Fama, Andre, Matan,
 Higher costs & Nourbakhsh, 2002, Garnett, et
 Loss of revenues al, 2002, Mukherjee, et al, 2009)

20
Unrealistic expectations  Increase in customer complaints (Curry, et al, 2008, Mukherjee,
from customers  Increase in technology costs et al, 2009, White & Roos, 2005)

The summarised table above is elaborated on in detail in sections 2.5.1 – 2.5.4 below.

2.5.1 Technology

Researchers such as Legros, et al, (2015), Curry, et al, (2008), Gans, et al, (2003) concur that the
introduction of technology in a call centre has improved productivity tremendously for modern call
centres but they also agree that it has brought with it new challenges such as knowledge gaps and
larger volumes. For a call centre to achieve good productivity, it is recommended that it effectively
integrate its human resources processes with technology (Evensen, Frei & Harker, 1999).

Technology plays a key part in measuring technology in modern call centres. (Robinson & Morley,
2006) regard 60% of the investment made in call centres today to be for technology and human
capital. The technology used in a call centre can help automate some of the business processes,
which then helps to free capacity for both the call centre and the agent to serve clients (Curry, et al,
2008). The automation of processes in a call centre can also help increase the total productivity of
the call centre (Curry, et al, 2008). Some of the key IT and software that help improve productivity in
a call centre include the following (Curry, et al, 2008):

a. Automatic call distribution – This technology is central to answering and distributing calls in
the call centre by using idling agents and skilled-based routing definition. The information
captured here helps to measure the blockage, delay times, average handling time, hold
times, after-call work time and abandon rates.
b. Workforce management (WFM) – This technology uses historical data from the ACD to
create a forecast, calculate staffing requirements and create a staff schedule. This enables
the call centre to measure the schedule efficiency, staff occupancy and adherence.
c. Interactive voice response – This is voice-processing technology that provides an automated
menu allowing clients to make their request without talking to the agent or to route calls as
per the customer’s choice on the voice prompts.

Understaffed call centres, abandoned calls, and long waiting times have a negative impact on the
total productivity of a call centre as well as the agent. Effective call centre technologies are very
important for cost reduction and improve productivity in a call centre (Rowe, et al, 2011).

Investment in technology must be matched with the correct number of resources required to service
the capacity of the new technology. (Rowe, et al, 2011) recommend that when a call centre business
decides to acquire new technology, it needs to take into account the current number of resources as
well as ensure that the volumes that are expected from the new technology are not higher than the
current resource capacity. If the new technology has the potential to accommodate more than
current capacity, it is suggested that the company either reconsider the new technology or recruit
new staff to help match the incoming volumes.

2.5.2 Understaffed call centre

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Staffing in a call centre environment refers to how resources are allocated to serve the different
customers that may call or contact the call centre for service.

Historically, staff scheduling has always been one of the key process inputs that determined whether
a call centre was able to meet the customer expectations (Fukunaga, et al, 2002). Poor staff
scheduling can result in an understaffed call centre. Understaffed call centres can result in long
waiting time for clients, and this in turn can result in frustrated, dissatisfied customers (Fukunaga, et
al, 2002).

Efficient call centre staff scheduling is important to the organisation both in terms of revenue,
operating margins and profitability. Understaffing occurs in a call centre due to the nature of
unpredictability of the incoming requests as well as customer demands to have personalised service
(Garnett, et al, 2002). Because training all call centre agents is not cost effective, call centres have no
choice but to live with the risk of being understaffed at times.

The unpredictable random nature of call arrival is the core source of the understaffing problem in a
call centre (Fukunaga, et al, 2002). In a typical call centre call arrival is random, call durations are also
random, waiting calls may also abandon after a random time and agents may fail to show up for
work for various reasons. These expose call centres to staffing challenges such as understaffing.

Understaffing can result in many problems for a call centre organisation. According to (Fukunaga, et
al, 2002, Mukherjee, et al, 2009), the following can happen if a call centre is understaffed:

a. Poor service to customers


b. Overworked staff
c. Higher costs
d. Loss of revenue
e. Loss of customers

Call centre staffing needs to be managed effectively in order to avoid the above possible problems.
Factors such as caller visibility and traffic need to be managed in order to avoid high abandonment
and customer dissatisfaction and to enable accurate resource scheduling.

2.5.3 Lack of call visibility of call centre traffic

Lack of call traffic visibility can only result in unexpected surprises to the call centre staff (Sharp,
2003). An increase or decrease in the number of calls coming through to the call centre can have a
direct impact on the call centre’s planned resources. Such increases or decreases are a result of the
invisibility of the call centre traffic (Sharp, 2003). The combination of increased volumes and
decreased numbers of agents has a direct impact on call centre productivity (Garnett, et al, 2002). If
volumes increase significantly, they may eventually reach a point where the number of inbound calls
outnumbers the capacity of the available agents and as a result, some of the calls will have to be put
on hold (Aktekin & Soyer, 2014).

22
An increase in volumes in a call centre can result in a high abandon rate. Abandonment can also take
place as a result of long waiting times, lack of tolerance/patience by callers, time of day and
availability of service. The higher the number of abandoned calls, the lower the productivity in the
call centre. 80% of callers who abandon the queue due to long waiting times run out of patience at
the wait (Garnett, et al, 2002). The abandon rate can translate to loss of customers, and monitoring
it can assist in identifying the patterns in call abandonment.

Call Answered

Answered

Call

Answered

Call

Queue

Call

Call

Call

Abandoned

Figure 6: Increased call volumes vs. number of agents (Garnett, et al. 2002)

The above figure illustrates how an unpredicted number of calls can come through to the call centre,
but the planned resources are limited to half the capacity of the incoming calls. In this scenario,
customers are either forced to wait longer for service or they abandon the call, both of which have a
negative impact on the agent’s and call centre’s productivity.

Invisible call traffic may be the result of outdated technology or poor resource planning (Curry, et al,
2008). For a call centre to be able to predict the different events that are likely to happen, they need
to invest in effective technology systems that can enable them to make future predictions/forecasts
(Evensen, et al, 1999).

An increase in call volumes can be caused by different factors such as emergencies because of
unforeseen product issues, infrastructure problems, or natural disasters (Aktekin & Soyer, 2014).
Below are some of the universal common causes of invisible call traffic (Aktekin & Soyer, 2014,
Garnett, Mandelbaum et al. 2002):

a. Long waiting time


b. Infrastructure failure
c. Lack of patience
d. Time of day for service

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Caller tolerance is very important in understanding customer behaviour (Anton & Gustin, 2000). It
can be influenced by the following:

a. The degree of motivation for the call


b. Availability of a substitute service provider
c. Competitor’s service levels
d. Level of expectation
e. Time available
f. Who is paying for the call

The biggest impact of a lack of service is a loss in customers and revenue. If customers are not
served as per their expectation, they are likely to move to another service provider (Anton & Gustin,
2000). Customer loss can have a direct impact on company profits as well as result in unnecessary
operational resource costs (Curry, et al, 2008).

Customers who abandon a queue have two options:

a. They can search for competitors.


b. They can call the company again, resulting in high volumes.

High volumes in a call centre can be caused by many factors, as identified above, one of which is
customer expectations. If customers are used to a particular type of high-quality service, they are
bound to call back for other services or recommend the business to other customers. The call centre
has a duty then to be on standby to provide the same type of service all the time to all new and old
customers. This can at times put the call centre under pressure in the case of new customers since
they might be looking for services which are not offered at the time of their call.

2.5.4 High expectation of customised services

Customisation can result in organisations losing out on the benefits of centralised processing, which
is driven mainly by standardised processes that do not require a lot of variety (Kravetz, 1997).
Customised processes mean that a call centre needs to have dedicated resources to attend to
different customers on their own terms (White & Roos, 2005). Customised service may also mean
that a call centre must invest in state-of-the-art technology that is able to identify with the customer
and their type of service. This is all well and good for call centres that can afford this, but it can be a
problem for call centres that do not have the financial means to do so (Curry, et al, 2008).

Service customisation demands can be caused by various factors, i.e. large volumes, uncontrolled
average talk time, too many inbound calls, shortage of agents, customer waiting time estimation
error and individual customer pressure (Mukherjee, et al, 2009). Customer pressure can be
influenced by:

a. The real waiting time vs customer estimated waiting time


b. Customer expectation
c. Individual factors during the wait

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d. Situational factors during the wait

Factors that can affect call centre productivity are critical as they lead to loss in customers and
revenue, lack of visibility of incoming calls, poor forecasting and planning, and unavailability of
resources and agents.

Call centre knowledge is critical for call centre staff to be able to execute their tasks and achieve the
expected productivity targets. (Sharp, 2003) cautions that productivity measures can only be
measured properly if the people measuring them have been trained in them. He emphasises that as
much as agents require operational knowledge, they also need to know what is accepted as good
productivity while executing their tasks.

2.6 Knowledge Requirements for Call Centre Agents

Knowledge in this context refers to the ability to understand productivity drivers on which the call
centre agents operate.

Knowledgeable call centre agents can be the main differentiator between a productive and a non-
productive call centre (White & Roos 2005). Call centre agents act as the contact between the
company and the customers, and therefore their call centre knowledge is important to call centre
productivity (Kravetz, 1997).

For the call centre to be productive, it needs to deploy the right person in the right position at the
right time (White & Roos, 2005, Kravetz, 1997). To ensure that the individual fits a particular profile,
it is very important to identify the key competencies and characteristics necessary for success within
a particular position at a particular time (Kravetz, 1997). The identified competencies can be used as
recruitment guidelines as well as to identify agent knowledge gaps that need to be addressed.

2.6.1 Navigation interfaces

An effective call centre agent needs to be knowledgeable. It is of great importance that call centre
agents understand the different products/services, customer profiles, as well as the systems
navigation and processes on which they operate (Grobbelaar, Roodt & Venter, 2004). An effective
call centre agent must be able to predict the time he/she will take to complete a particular
transaction with a customer by using the little information provided by the customer during the
enquiry. The figure below depicts a prototype of a modern call centre and the different interfaces a
call centre agent needs to navigate through in order to provide the correct service to the customer
(Tanir & Booth, 1999).

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0
1 Vcc1 5
a1 b1

Hard copy 2 6 Servers



a2
Customer datab2

3

a3 Product data b3 7

4 8
a4 b4
Customer Fax

Request for service

Information Enquiry
Return results
Agent Multimedia
Multimedia

Calls

Call

Figure 7: Call centre agents’ information interfaces (Tanir & Booth, 1999)

The above figure depicts a call centre agent with the different interfaces that he/she needs to
navigate through in order to serve customers. Input/information can come through different
channels, i.e. customer direct contact, multimedia (email, web chat, Twitter, Facebook, Skype),
hardcopy files, or fax. The call centre agent reads and decodes the communication coming through
these channels and applies his/her knowledge to them. The communication interpretation may
follow certain procedural steps, such as identifying and validating the customer, understanding the
reason for the request, making a decision on where to go based on the information provided,
allocating the right product/service as per the customer’s request and communicating back to
customer. As much as the call centre agents may have the knowledge on how to navigate, he/she
still relies on the backend systems to respond to this processing accurately, in good time and per the
field inputs. Technology response is very important in ensuring that the call centre agent meets or
exceeds daily productivity targets.

2.6.2 Core knowledge areas required for a call centre agent to be productive

Below are the knowledge areas that a call centre agent needs (White & Roos, 2005):

a. Technology
b. Products and services
c. Customer profile
d. Processes and procedures

2.6.2.1 Technology

Modern call centre agents are expected to have the knowledge and ability to apply computer and
telephony skills (White & Roos, 2005). An effective call centre agent must have basic telephony skills,
such as how to greet customers appropriately and interacting with customers to elicit the correct
information in order to help the customer without making the customer impatient (White & Roos,

26
2005). Other basic computer skills that a call centre agent must possess include being able to
retrieve information from databases and typing skills (Kravetz, 1997).

The technology used in a call centre needs to be embedded with predictive analytics tools to enable
a quick information search by agents (Curry, et al, 2008). These predictive tools can also be
integrated with biometric tools that enable voice reading during conversations between both the
customer and the call centre agent.

2.6.2.2 Products and services

Call centre agents need to have a thorough knowledge of the different products and services that
they are responsible for (Grobbelaar, et al, 2004). They are expected to know how these products
and services are applied in various contexts as well as why they are applied in that way (Grobbelaar,
et al, 2004).

Effective call centre agents listen without being distracted by the surrounding environment and
remain attentive, ensuring that accurate and detailed information is collected. In order to make sure
that the customer enquiry does not waste a lot of time, the agent must show understanding of the
customer’s predicament and make an effort to understand their specific need (White & Roos, 2005,
Kravetz, 1997). To ensure that productivity time is properly monitored, the call centre agent needs
to be in control of the interview with the client by showing product and service knowledge
(Grobbelaar, et al, 2004).

2.6.2.3 Customer profile

Knowing the customer profile can help the call centre agent to create, develop and enhance
relationships, which in turn can improve the turnaround time of the service offered at any given
point in time (Payne & Frow, 2005) Multimedia channel integration can enable two-way
communication between the call centre agent and the customer. This platform can allow a call
centre agent to perform multiple tasks at once instead of the series process where an interview
approach is usually used to get a clear understanding of what the customer wants. Parallel
processing by call centre agents has a direct positive impact on the agent’s productivity (Payne &
Frow, 2005).

2.6.2.4 Processes and procedures

Although customers may not specifically ask about the agent’s experience, there is a great trust that
the call centre agent possesses the right knowledge to be able to apply the correct processes and
procedures (White & Roos, 2005). Lack of understanding of how the processes and procedures
operate can result in abandoned calls, disgruntled customers and long processing times, which have
a direct impact on the agent’s productivity (Kravetz, 1997).

The discussion above shows that it is of the utmost importance that call centre agents have a great
understanding of how to use the technology available, of the products and services that are offered,
of the different customer profiles and also of the processes and procedures for conducting a service.

27
Possible solutions and best practices on how to measure productivity are discussed next.

2.7 Possible Solutions to manage Productivity Effectively in a Call Centre

Like in any other organization that is profit driven, the call centre needs to manage its productivity
very well. For productivity in a call centre to be efficient, the call centre needs to have cutting-edge
integration between technologies, business processes and human resources (Betts, Meadows &
Walley, 2000). In order to address the issue of understaffing and overstaffing in a call centre,
resource planning is critical. Resource planning is very important if a call centre wants to achieve a
competitive edge over its competitors. Effective processes play a key role in the quality of customer
interaction.

2.7.1 Planning and integration

Knowing exactly what customers want can yield a positive result on call centre productivity (Rowe,
et al, 2011). The fastest growing sector in call centre evolution is providing agents with better
knowledge stored within the enterprise information technology in order to improve transaction time
as well as the quality of the service (Anton & Gustin, 2000). Knowledge can help the call centre agent
to be able to verify and compare the following (Anton & Gustin, 2000):

a. Customer information, such as customer name, contacts and risk address


b. Operational knowledge such as billing, frequently asked questions and pricing
c. Transaction time
d. Easy access to product information

Integration in call centre systems can ensure effective management of information flow as well as
improved efficiencies. It must address business-to-business integration as well as business-to-
consumer integration (Payne & Frow, 2005). Business-to-business integration aims to address
internal communication between call centre and expert services, whereas business-to-consumer
integration aims at integrating the business with the outside world (Aksin, et al, 2007). Though
integration can yield good results for a call centre, too much integration can result in a lot of
complexities that might require a lot of spending before the benefits are realised (Anton & Gustin,
2000).

2.7.2 Effective resource planning

Resources in a call centre can mean the staff, systems, time, as well as the infrastructure (Thompson,
et al, 2001). Call blending and multimedia is the most common strategy that modern contact centres
apply in order to achieve high productivity as well as outperform their competition (Gans, et al,
2003). Modern call centres have invested in systems that allow clients to leave messages for call
back as well as telephonic voice response units (Payne & Frow, 2005, Anton & Gustin, 2000).

28
Achieving high productivity in a call centre means that the customer contact management must be
integrated with the Voice Response Unit (VRUs), voicemail, fax, automated email response, internet,
automated dialling and WFM and a flexible scheduling functionality (Gans, et al, 2003).

Human resources take about 60% of the operational budgets. This makes it critical for people
management in the call centre to be carried out effectively (Betts, et al, 2000). Training is one of the
ways that can be used to improve the skills and utilisation of agents/human resources in a call
centre. For a call centre to achieve positive results, effective people are required.

Call centre staff are encouraged to optimise this area of the business as it plays a key part in
ensuring high productivity. Agents in a call centre ensure that calls are picked up on time, customers
are served as per their expectations, customers are served right the first time, there is less or no
queuing of customers waiting for service, they pick as many calls as possible on any given day and
the speed of service is not slower than expected (Mohanty & Deshmukh, 1999). Effective people in a
call centre mean the following:

a. Empowered employees – Agents should be allowed to deal with calls without handing them
to their supervisors or “the elite” trained group.
b. Low turnover – It is of great importance that call centres hold on to their staff since this not
only improves the quality of service they offer, but it can also save the organisation
recruitment costs.
c. Long employee tenure – For a call centre to be able to achieve quick turnaround times when
serving customers, skilled and experienced agents are required.
d. High agent utilisation – Call centre staff should be occupied at all times if their status
indicates that they are available at their working stations. It is of great importance that the
agents be occupied since their occupancy means an increase in productivity for both the call
centre and the agent.
e. High percentage of generalist agents – The higher the number of generalist agents, the
fewer calls are transferred due to lack of knowledge.

Employee management processes are core to the success of call centres. These processes can be
divided into six stages, each of which is critical in preparing and improving call centre productivity
(Anton & Gustin, 2000). Below are the six major employee management processes:

Day-to-day
Traffic forecasting & Recruit, train, and
Staff Design operations and Management Motivation
staff modeling manage staff attrition
schedule adherence

Figure 8: Major employee management processes (Anton & Gustin, 2000)

(Payne & Frow, 2005) recommend that at least 35% of call centre staff be specialists with the
balance being generalists on the different products. They advocate that 65% of the resources must
have available capacity that must enable flexibility for production planning. Call centres are advised
to use automated workforce software and historical data in order to achieve accurate forecasting on
staffing levels, control idle time and achieve high service levels.

29
Agent knowledge is very important as this enables the call centre agent to (White & Roos, 2005):

a. View and read enterprise contact history


b. Select broadcasting alerts for customer dialling-in
c. Call products and procedures for service
d. Understand customer value information

2.7.3 Effective business processes

These processes refer to the inbound and outbound calls made to and from the call centre. Effective
processes play a key role in the quality of customer interaction. When processes are put together,
the designers must take into account how the rest of the resources will fit into and utilise the
process (Evensen, et al, 1999). Effective processes mean flexibility, better response time and
adaptiveness. Call centre processes must be designed in such a way that they are aligned with the
customers’ needs. Effective processes play a key role in the quality of customer interaction and
positive productivity (Evensen, et al, 1999).

2.7.4 Effective information technology

Information technology (IT) has the potential to be a significant source of competitive advantage
(Evensen, et al, 1999). IT enables organisations to monitor and align themselves more closely with
their customers’ needs, but has the potential to improve the effectiveness of both internal processes
and personnel significantly. The most common IT feature that is shared by most call centres around
the globe is the automated voice response system (Curry, et al, 2008).

Some of the key features that effective technology must include (Curry, et al, 2008) are:

a. Voice: Telephone switch, voice network, contact routing, interactive voice response (IVR)
b. Web: websites, email, email management, web integration (web chat, web calls, social
media, collaborations)

However, it must be said that for this to work effectively, the correct customer interaction points
and business processes must be defined properly (Evensen, et al, 1999). Selecting the right
technology can have an impact on:

a. Reducing the transactional time of a call


b. Increasing call centre agents’ knowledge of customer behaviour and needs
c. Reducing training time
d. Increasing productivity

Some of the key global hardware recommended includes:

a. Automatic call distributor


b. Voice response unit
c. Interactive voice response unit

30
d. Computer-telephony integration
e. Predictive dialling
f. Headsets
g. Reader board

Below is some of the major software that is recommended by Payne & Frow (2005), Anton & Gustin
(2000) in order to achieve high productivity:

a. Automatic number identification (ANI)


b. Dialled number identification service (DNIS)
c. Computer-assisted telephone (CAT) questionnaires
d. Automated mail response software
e. Skill-based routing
f. Agent monitoring software

2.8 Conclusion

This then concludes the literature review chapter. Call centre productivity, measures of call centre
productivity, factors that can impact the productivity of call centre agents, the knowledge required
by call centre agents in order to be productive in a call centre, as well as the possible solutions that
can be adopted to address low productivity challenges were discussed.

The knowledge obtained in this literature review was used as a baseline/framework to create a
questionnaire for the data collection process.

The next chapter provides the theoretical background on how the research was conducted.

31
CHAPTER 3 – RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

3.1 Introduction

The research problem statement investigated in this research is as follows: productivity is low in call
centres due to a lack of knowledge. In order to determine the causes of low productivity in a call
centre, the following questions needed to be answered:

a. How is productivity measured in a service call centre?


b. What are the factors that affect productivity in the call centre industry?
c. What knowledge is required for call centre staff to be productive?

In order to understand the logic of the data collected with regard to the research problem, a
research method is required. The research method assists in gaining insight into the problem.

3.2 Research Methodology

Research methodology can be defined as “the overall approach to the research process, from the
theoretical underpinning to the collection and analysis of the data” (Sharp, 2003). The purpose of
research is the “reviewing of existing knowledge in order to describe a situation or problem to
construct something innovative or to explain something” (Sharp, 2003).

The research methodology applied in this research was a case study. Yin (2013), states that a case
study enables researchers to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular situation by making use
of multiple sources of information.

3.3 Case Study Research

A case study is a research strategy which focuses on understanding the dynamics of the present
within a single setting (Eisenhardt, 1989). As explained by Yin (2013), a case study focuses on a
particular situation; in this study the focus was on service call centres. In conducting the case study
for this research two data sources were used, namely: document analysis and a questionnaire.
According to Yin (2013), the following aspects are significant for case study research:

a. A case study should be applied in an empirical enquiry that investigates a modern


phenomenon within its real-life context, especially if the boundaries between the
phenomenon and context are not clear.
b. A case study aims not only at investigating certain phenomena, but also at understanding
them in a particular context.
c. The “how” and “why” are used mainly in case study research.
d. A case study is viewed as a comprehensive research strategy since it covers both the data
collection and the future design.
e. A case study uses surveys to collect data which can be both qualitative and quantitative.
f. A case study is typically used when contextual conditions are the subject of research.

32
The above aspects were used in this study to ensure a solid research design and to eliminate all
unnecessary errors in gathering the data for this research.

3.4 Case Study Approach

A case study was selected to gain an in-depth understanding of the productivity levels in call centres.
The unit of analysis for this research was the management of productivity in a call centre. The case
study diagram process below, as recommended by Yin (2013), was followed in conducting the case
study for this research.

Define & Design Prepare, collect, and analyse Conclude and summarise

Collect, tabulate, Draw


Analyze Draw cross
Document and validate document
operational case
Analysis operational analysis and
reports conclusion
Case 1 reports conclusions

Develop Modify
theory theory

Case 2 Prepare
Draw
questionnaire Collect and
questionnaire Draw
Questionnaire and select summarize
analysis and conclusions
participants and feedback
conclusion
distribute

Research Process
Figure 9: Case study approach (Yin, 2013)

3.4.1 Case study process

The high-level research process steps followed for this research are described below (Yin, 2013).

3.4.1.1 Define and design the case study

This is the initial stage of the research where the research is defined, planned and designed. This
stage of the research elaborates on the literature review and the observations made in relation to
the research problem statement. The case study explored whether lack of knowledge plays a part in
the low productivity observed in call centres. The data obtained from the literature review was used
to help answer the research questions as set out in 3.1.

3.4.1.2 Prepare, collect and analyse

Since the objective of this study was to prove a link between the lack of knowledge and
management of productivity in a service call centre, the research focused on sources that would
provide meaningful data that could be used for this research.

As defined by Yin (2013), “a case study is an in-depth study of a particular situation rather than a
sweeping statistical situation that can focus on multiple institutes and organizations with a common
question”. For this research, data from a single call centre was used to arrive at the conclusion made
in this research.

33
3.4.1.3 Data collection

The following were used to ensure that valid data was collected:

 A list of questionnaire respondents was compiled along with the management of the call
centre in order to ensure that the people earmarked were currently employed in the call
centre.
 Operations reports were drawn directly from the business intelligence (BI) tool and were
validated with the call centre management team before they were used for this study.

The two sets of data were used as validation against the same research questions that this research
aimed at answering.

The document analysis was done on operations reports from January 2011 to October 2015.

a) Document analysis

The document analysis was used to calculate actual average monthly productivity levels which were
compared with levels prescribed in the literature. The main objectives of the document analysis
were:

 To gain an understanding of current call centre productivity levels


 To compare current call centre measures against what the literature recommends
 To draw valid conclusions with regard to improvements that may be required in the call
centre in order to achieve the required productivity levels

The document analysis was used to determine whether all measures of productivity as prescribed by
the literature were in place and adhered to and also to determine the performance levels of the
existing measures.

Summaries and comparisons are made where conclusions will be drawn between the theoretical
models (literature prescription) against what the call centre is currently doing.

b) Questionnaire

In this research, a list of questions was distributed to everyone giving input into the research
problem. The researcher therefore deemed the sampling of specific participants (different call
centre roles) as the suitable way to collect data. The questionnaire contained closed questions. The
main objective of the questionnaire was to gauge the knowledge gap that currently existed among
the call centre staff. According to Cooper & Schindler (2003), there are three primary types of
questionnaires:

a. Personal interviewing
b. Telephone interviewing

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c. Self-administered questionnaires

Given the multiple roles that the participants played in the call centre, a self-administered
questionnaire approach was deemed necessary and suitable since it is able to measure large
samples (Yin, 2013). Given the different roles that would be covered in this research, this approach
helped the researcher to collate the data with ease.

The following points were important in choosing a closed questionnaire as the research method for
this case study:

 Straightforward and easy to collect data


 The time constraints of the call centre participants during a normal day at work
 The ease of gathering different opinions from various roles with the use of the
standardised questionnaire

The responses provided by the participants were summarised by the research questionnaire tool.
This made it easy for the researcher to draw conclusions on the characteristics, qualities and views
of all the participants.

All data collected from the questionnaire has been grouped under each question. The participant
roles were also used to group responses and conclusions have been made about each role.

Summaries have been made of the analysis of each research question feedback. Similarities and
differences are discussed and compared to the literature.

c) Questionnaire design

A structured questionnaire has the purpose of counting the representative sample, which allows
inferences to be made about the population as a whole (Creswell, 2013). Furthermore, the
questionnaire indicates how many members of the population have a certain characteristic
(Creswell, 2013). In this regard the questionnaire was seen to be the most suitable instrument
because it could help the researcher do the following:

 Avoid double-barrel statements


 Avoid double-negative statements
 Avoid prestige bias
 Avoid leading statements
 Avoid assumptions of prior knowledge

On the other hand, document analysis was chosen because of its ability to provide the researcher
with a testing model that allows the researcher to check if the recommended theoretical model is
properly applied in the practical space (Gaborone, 2006). Document analysis provided insight into
the current practices of the call centre.

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This section highlights the key questions used in order to get the data required to draw valid
conclusions about the problem statement. See a full transcript of the questionnaire in Annexure A of
this document.

The benchmark answers to these questions were derived from the literature review.

Section 1: Research question 1 – Knowledge & Measures of productivity in a call centre

Question 1: Do you believe measuring productivity is important?


Question 2: Which of the following in your opinion is relevant to measure for productivity?
Question 3: Please rate the likelihood of achieving the following levels of productivity?

For the above questions on knowledge and productivity measures, the productivity measure levels
were obtained from the literature review.

Section 2: Research question 2 – Knowledge & Factors that can impact productivity in a call centre

Question 4: Which of the factor/s below is currently preventing you from achieving your productivity
targets?
- Technology
- Call traffic visibility
- Understaffing
- Unrealistic expectations from customers
- Other

The above questions on knowledge and productivity impact factors were derived from the baseline
that the literature review provided.

Section 3: Research question 3 – Knowledge required to be efficient in a call centre

Question 5: How familiar are you with the technology used in the call centre?
Question 6: How familiar are you with the product and services that are provided by the call centre?
Question 7: How familiar are you with the customer profiles that the call centre is servicing?
Question 8: How familiar are you with the call centre processes and procedures?

The knowledge questions were based on the critical knowledge requirements that the literature
highlighted as key for call centre staff and productivity.

d) Target population

A population of a study can be defined as a specific group of participants about whom the conclusion
of the research is drawn (Babbie, 2013). In this study, the population was call centre staff (1 head of
department, 2 managers, 5 supervisors and 18 agents). The respondents that participated in this
questionnaire were sampled from the same call centre, which was based in Gauteng.

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e) Participants’ roles

As indicated above, the research was conducted among call centre staff. Table 12 below defines
each call centre staff role:

Table 12: Questionnaire participants’ roles

Role (call centre) Sample size Definition


The call centre head of department is responsible for liaison
HOD 0 with other departments as well as external strategic
stakeholders.
A call centre manager is responsible for the management of
Manager 2 the budget, operations and business performance of the call
centre activities.
A call centre supervisor ensures that the call centre meets the
Supervisor 5 desired standards (i.e. measuring the daily productivity of the
centre and the agent, ensuring that the number of calls that
need to be answered at a certain time are indeed answered).
A call centre agent is responsible for communicating with the
Agent 12 customers and is expected to keep the communication
channels as fully occupied as possible.

3.4.2 Geographical location

A call centre in Gauteng was recognised as the best place to conduct the questionnaire, since the
researcher was also based there.

The target population was specifically chosen to help validate the outcome of the research from
their different perspectives. While selecting the target population the author acknowledged and
recognised the risk of bias, which cannot be easily eliminated.

3.4.3 Sampling method

Cooper & Schindler (2003) define two sampling methods for a case study:

 The conventional sample, in which a limited number of elements less than the chosen
population are chosen (typically randomly) in such a manner as to accurately represent
(without bias) the total population
 The census approach, where an attempt is made to survey every element within the
population

The conventional sample was chosen for this research, as this approach works best when the total
number of population elements is sufficiently represented by a limited number of smaller elements.

3.4.4 Evaluation and analysis of data collected

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All efforts were made to ensure that the analysis in the report was relevant to the problem
statement as well as the research questions asked. Efforts were also made to ensure that every data
finding is represented and discussed in the body of this document.

Summaries, conclusions, comparisons and similarities are drawn at the end of every section as a
form of highlighting the results from the study. All results are discussed as represented in tables or
graphs, and no sophisticated statistical tools were used to draw any conclusions and
recommendations. All data discussed in the tables and graphs is attached as an annexure at the end
of this document.

3.4.5 Questionnaire

A Google form was used to consolidate and control data capturing. This automated form helped the
researcher with the auto-calculation and summary of the data collected. This made it easy for the
researcher to analyse the trends and data links among participants. Data cross-checking was done to
ensure that the data was properly validated. All data used in this research has been referenced in
order to give evidence of the source of information.

The study results are tabulated for each question and respondent that completed the questionnaire.
Graphical analysis is used to draw summaries and a pictorial view of responses.

3.4.6 Document analysis

The data drawn from the operations reports is summarised and compared with the literature
recommendations for similarities and differences. All findings obtained in the analysis are validated
against the three main research questions outlined in the introduction to this research document.
Conclusions are drawn to confirm links between literature and analysis results in terms of knowledge
gaps, productivity measures and factors that affect call centre staff.

3.6 Case Study Conclusion

See the questionnaire and operations reports in Annexure A and B. The questionnaire was designed
to elicit the opinion of the respondents on their understanding of what contributes to low
productivity in a call centre as well as their knowledge of how productivity should be measured for
the call centre. The reports were also validated with the management team before being assumed to
be accurate for the research analysis.

3.7 Ethical Considerations

The conditions as well as the guarantees of the study were as follows:

a. Participants were offered an opportunity to be treated as anonymous.


b. All information was treated confidentially.
c. Statements made by interviews were verified by participants before finalisation.
d. All participants will be furnished with a copy of the report at the end of the study.

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See Annexure B, the ethical declaration letter.

3.8 Limitation of Study

The limitation of this study is the fact that only one call centre in Gauteng was analysed therefore
cannot be generalised to all call centres.

3.9 Elimination of Bias

See Annexure B, the ethical declaration letter.

3.10 Research Setting

3.10.1 Case study description

The primary function of a call centre is to provide satisfaction and quality service through receiving
and making calls to and from customers and communicating online with them. The call centre must
also ensure that each unit/agent makes as many efficient contacts with customers as possible at any
given time (Aksin, et al, 2007). This means that the call centre must strive to increase its efficiency
rate by reducing unnecessary process waste and also ensure that the call centre is as cost-effective
as possible.

3.10.2 How productivity is managed in a call centre

Productivity in a service call centre (inbound call centre) is measured by its ability to be contacted by
as many customers as possible and their ability to verify that their endeavour to make contact is
successful. At the time of the study, the call centre was only measuring the following productivity
indicators:

 Call volumes
 Average talk time
 Abandon rate
 Available time
 Average speed to answer
 Service levels

3.10.3 Who is responsible for managing productivity in the call centre

Productivity in the call centre was measured by the call centre managers. These managers used BI
tools to conduct productivity measuring. The BI data was collected from the agents’ daily statistics.
This data was summarised into the different productivity measures which were then drawn up daily
for discussion with the stakeholders that had an interest in them.

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These call centre reports were also shared with the different team leaders for them to discuss with
the different agents as per the reporting lines.

3.10.4 Use of call centre productivity reports

Call centre productivity reports were used to measure the call centre’s performance as well as that
of the call centre team. The call centre also measured productivity in order to ensure that there was
positive customer satisfaction with the services rendered.

3.10.5 Research environment

This research was conducted in a single service call centre based in Gauteng. The participants were
all based at the same call centre, reporting to the same operational head. All participants were full-
time employees with two or more years of working with the company. The evidence used was all
generated by the same participants as well as the systems used in this service call centre.

3.11 Conclusion

In this chapter, the research methodology was discussed. The specific focus was on aspects such as
the research method, the case study process, the sampling method and the research setting.

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CHAPTER 4 – RESEARCH RESULTS AND ANALYSIS

4.1 Introduction

Data analysis can be defined as the process of bringing order and structure to the collected data and
creating meanings by uncovering the relationships between the elements (Marshall & Rossman,
2014).

The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the results obtained from the research and to answer the
research questions. The study followed a structured approach in which a process of organising and
analysis was strictly adhered to. A questionnaire was designed and consensus was obtained from all
relevant parties on the questions to be asked.

The data will be discussed in two main sections, firstly the data from the document analysis and then
the data from the questionnaire.

4.2 Document Analysis

The first part of the analysis contains the operational call centre reports with a view to gaining an in-
depth understanding of how productivity was measured in the call centre. These documents
consisted of historical productivity reports (from January 2011 to October 2015).

4.2.1 Productivity measures

Table 10 was used as a baseline during the document analysis. From the initial check it was noticed
that the call centre only measured the following indicators to monitor productivity:

 Call volumes
 Average talk time
 Abandon rate
 Agent available time
 Average speed to answer
 Service levels

Average speed to answer and service levels is not listed in table 10 as important for measuring
productivity in a call centre.

The following productivity factors were not measured in the call centre. The lack of data on these
factors limited the researcher in conducting an in-depth analysis on them.

 After-call work time


 Queueing time
 Schedule adherence
 Agent utilisation

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The absence of the above productivity measures is the first indication of a possible lack of
understanding of what and how to measure productivity accurately in a call centre.

4.2.1.1 After-call work time

Measuring after-call work time in a call centre enables the call centre to employ the right number of
agents required to handle all calls coming in and going out of the call centre (Gilmore, 2001). Failure
to measure this factor can result in call centre agents spending more time doing unnecessary
administration which can done quicker if monitored properly (Gilmore, 2001).

4.2.1.2 Queueing time

Measuring queueing time in a call centre can help the call centre to measure the waiting time for
customers in the queue before being served (Dawson, 2003). If queueing time is not measured in a
call centre, this can result in long queueing times which in turn can result in disgruntled customers,
especially those that send their service requests through email, fax, mail and web service (Curry, et
al, 2008).

4.2.1.3 Schedule adherence

For the call centre to be able to measure productivity accurately, the total number of hours per shift
needs to be adhered to accurately (Anton & Gustin, 2000). If schedule adherence is measured
properly, it enables the call centre to forecast the expected productivity per agent per shift. Failure
to measure this factor accurately can result in the call centre failing to account for the operations
costs as well as for the total number of people employed to handle all call volumes.

4.2.1.4 Agent utilisation

Agent utilisation can help the call centre to monitor the effective usage of the call centre agent’s
time. Measuring this factor plays a key role in forecasting the total productivity that can be achieved
by each agent at any given point in time. The predictability that this measure provides enables the
call centre agents to be accountable for every minute allocated to them for their productivity per
shift (Aktekin & Soyer, 2014).

After identifying what was currently measured in the call centre, the researcher then went on to
make a performance comparison between what best practice prescribes and what was currently set
as standard in the call centre. The results of the comparisons made are discussed in detail below.

4.2.2 Operations reports benchmark

The call centre operational data used in this report is from January 2011 – October 2015. The
purpose of the documentation benchmark is to compare the current business performance levels
against the set standards as indicated in table 10 from the literature review.

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Table 13 gives a breakdown of how the call centre shift allocated the daily available time for the
different variables required to calculate the daily target. By the end of 2015 the call centre was
operating with a total number of 25 agents, with each agent averaging at 85% service level per shift.

Table 13: Breakdown of time available for production in the call centre

Service call centre target input variables per agent


Measure of productivity Time Unit of measure
Total available shift time 540 minutes
Breaks and lunch 80 minutes
Available work time 460 minutes
Schedule deviation allowance per shift 40 minutes
Miscellaneous 20 minutes
Actual productive time 400 minutes

The call centre worked 5 days a week with a 1-day shift team. The shift started at 7 a.m. Table 13
above shows a breakdown of how time was allocated for the call centre staff per shift. The total
available shift time is the total time available from the moment the call centre staff signed on to
their workstation. Breaks and lunch were broken down into 50 minutes’ lunch and 10 minutes’
breaks, of which 3 per shift were allocated to agents. The call centre also provided a 40-minute
schedule deviation and 20 minutes for miscellaneous. Schedule deviation time was for the staff to
perform call centre duties which were not part of the initial plan as given at the beginning of the
shift. The miscellaneous time was provided to the agents to perform any other tasks that could not
be accounted for in the WFM.

Table 14 below gives a summary of best practice targets, Dimension Data targets and actual
productivity levels. The Dimension Data target numbers were given to the call centre management
as a specification for the call centre operations during the call centre commissioning.

Table 14: Target comparisons vs. actual productivity

Targets vs actuals per shift


Measure of
productivity Calculation formula
Best practice Dimension Data Actual
target target productivity
Call volumes Number of calls coming through 28 calls/shift 23 calls/shift 14 calls/shift
Average talk time Number of incoming calls/Total available time per shift 15 minutes/call 16 minutes/call 22 minutes/call
After-call work time Total time taken to complete administration work 1.2 minutes/call 1.2 minutes/call N/A
Queueing time Total time client waits for service 0.5 minutes/call 0.5 minutes/call N/A
Abandon rate Total abandoned calls/Total calls dialled-in 3% per shift 3% per shift 4% per shift
Schedule adherence Total minutes in adherence/Total time scheduled 90% per shift 90% per shift N/A
Available time Actual login time/Target x 100 95% per shift 95% per shift 79% per shift
Agent utilisation Ave. calls handled x Ave. handle time/Ave. time per 80% per shift 80% per shift N/A
month

See Annexure B for the call centre productivity data which was used to derive the actual productivity
values.

The best practice figures in table 14 above were obtained from the literature review. The Dimension
Data figures are the standards which the call centre was initially set when it was commissioned in

43
2009. The call centre had difficulty in achieving the set targets as outlined by Dimension Data. The
failure to achieve the set targets is confirmed by the actual productivity figures presented in the
actual productivity column. The actual productivity numbers are a summary of productivity figures
collected between 2011 and 2015 (Annexure B).

When comparing the best practice and Dimension Data targets, most measures are set to the same
standard levels, with the exception of call volumes and average talk time. Figure 10 below gives a
summarised view of the call volumes:

Call Volume Comparisons


30
25 28
20 23 Actual
15
Dimension data
10 14
Best practice
5
0
Actual Dimension data Best practice

Figure 10: Call volume comparisons

The call volume target in the Dimension Data column is slightly lower at 23 calls per shift compared
to the best practice target of 28 calls per shift. However, the call centre was still not able to achieve
the lowered call volume target set by Dimension Data. The call centre volumes averaged at 14 calls
per shift. This is 61% of the set target of 23 calls per shift and 50% of the best practice prescribed
target of 28 calls per shift.

The other factor which was also set low by Dimension Data compared to best practice standards is
the average talk time per call. Best practice recommends an average talk time of 15 minutes per call.
Dimension Data set this at 16 minutes per shift. Though Dimension Data relaxed this a little, the call
centre staff were still only able to achieve 22 minutes per call. This is 40% off target from the best
practice recommendation and 38% off target from the Dimension Data target.

The rest of the measures are the same between Dimension Data and best practice. The call centre
seemed not to be able to achieve the required targets. The details on how each of these factors was
measured is elaborated in the subsections below.

4.2.3 Call volumes

As per table 10 in the literature review, the call volumes should be 28 calls per agent per shift. The
call centre volume target per agent was 23 calls per shift as set by Dimension Data specifications.
The graph below depicts the call volumes per shift compared to the two prescribed targets as per
Dimension Data and best practice.

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Figure 11: Call volumes

The above graph shows that the call centre performed below target between the period of January
2011 and April 2014. The call volumes were even lower for the same period compared to the best
practice target of 28 calls per shift. The graph also shows that call centre productivity started an
improvement trend in April 2014. The improvement in productivity was maintained from the second
quarter of 2014 to October 2015.

In May 2013, the call centre introduced new call centre technology called AVAYA. The change in
technology had a big impact on the outputs of the staff. It proved to be extremely beneficial as it can
be seen that after its implementation the call centre’s productivity started to increase above the set
target of 28 calls. The newly introduced technology has more features that assisted in managing and
allocating work effectively to the call centre agents. The new technology is in line with what
(Fukunaga, et al, 2002) recommended, namely that for a call centre to be productive; it needs
multiple volume handling channels.

This resulted in volumes exceeding the planned capacity within the call centre operations. Product
segmentation and specialization was introduced for teams to focus on particular channels of work.
The introduction of specialized teams has led to stabilization in call centre service levels. This
increase has been fluctuating between 25 and 30 calls per month for the past 20 months (from April
2015 – September 2016). The fluctuation of volumes between these has enabled the call centre
management to staff the call centre within this range. There is no indication that the calls will exceed
an average of 32 calls per shift in the near future base on the projections of the past two seasons’
peak periods (Call Centre Peak Period is December – April).

On average the call volumes in the call centre were at 14 calls per agent per shift. This is 61% of the
call centre target, and 50% of the envisaged target set by best practice.

An overall view of the graph highlights that volumes were generally low in the months of November
and December when staff went on leave. There are a few other factors that can have an impact on

45
call volumes, one of them being average talk time each agent takes to complete a call. Long talk
times could mean fewer calls answered.

4.2.4 Average talk time

The call centre averaged at 22 minutes per call compared to the best practice standard of 15
minutes. A higher talk time in a call centre has a direct impact on the total possible output that each
call centre agent can achieve. As indicated in the call centre volumes analysis, the impact of this can
be felt when it comes to the best practice productivity expectations. The graph below depicts the
average talk time between the period of 2011 and 2015:

Figure 12: Average talk time

The above graph shows that actual average talk time was between 20 and 30 minutes, which is
higher than the expected average of 15 minutes recommended in the literature and the 15 minutes
as set by Dimension Data. The graph shows that from the period of January 2011 to April 2014 the
talk time ran above the set standards. With the implementation of the new Avaya technology in
2013, the call centre talk time improved but not for long, since it quickly went up in the following
month. The average talk time remained below target even after the implementation of the new
Avaya technology. This is more evidence that the agents’ skills need to improve in order to ensure
that the technology is used by skilled staff.

The higher average talk time is caused by a few factors within the call centre environment, one of
which can be said to be skills. The lack of skill here is highlighted because even after the technology
was improved, the talk time remained high. As a result, the high talk time resulted in a high abandon
rate. A high abandon rate is not desired as it has a direct contribution to negative customer
retention.

4.2.5 Abandon rate

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Best practice prescribes that this measure be set at 3% in most cases (Koole & Mandelbaum, 2002).
The researcher observed that this measure would be difficult to maintain due to the varying number
of calls coming through to the call centre. The graph below shows the abandon rate between 2011
and 2015.

Figure 13: Abandon rate

The abandon rate observed from the reports shows that the call centre was almost on par with its
target. From the graphical summary above, the researcher can conclude that the call centre agents
operated above the set best practice standard of 3%. The facts obtained therefore lead to the
conclusion that the abandon rate has no impact on the low productivity of the call centre.

4.2.6 Agent available time

The average available time was at 79% compared to the set target of 95% by both Dimension Data
and best practice. The graph below depicts the available time recorded between the period of 2011
and October 2015.

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Figure 14: Average available time

Performance was below target as indicated on the above graph. In the period reviewed the call
centre operated at an average of below 80%, whereas productivity showed an improvement
between October 2013 and October 2015.

4.2.7 Document analysis conclusion

Based on the document analysis the following similarities and differences are highlighted regarding
how productivity is measured:

Table 15: Document analysis summary and comparisons

Literature Actual
No. Recommended Actual performance
Measure Measure
performance level level
1 Call volumes 28 calls per shift Call volumes 14 per shift
2 Talk time 15 min per call Talk time 22 min per call
3 Abandon rate 3% per shift Abandoned rate 4% per shift
4 Available time 95% per shift Available time 79% per shift
5 Queueing time 0.5 min per call Ave. speed to answer 0.38 min per call
6 Schedule adherence 90% per shift Service level 89% per shift
7 After-call work time 1.2 min per call
8 Agent utilisation 80% per shift

Table 15 above shows that only four measures are common between the literature and the actual
call centre productivity measures. These measures are call volumes, talk time, abandon rate and
available time. Though these measures are the same in both, it was also noted that the call centre
performance levels were not at the same level as the levels prescribed in the literature. Differences
in productivity levels were noted in all four productivity measures.

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Four other measures that are prescribed by literature were not measured in the call centre. These
measures are queueing time, schedule adherence, after-call work time and agent utilisation. As
discussed in the literature, these measures are deemed important as drivers of productivity in a call
centre.

It was also noted that two other measures that are not prescribed in literature as important were
measured in the call centre. These measures are average speed to answer and call centre service
levels. These measures do form part of the general measures that a call centre needs to measure,
but they are not deemed as drivers of productivity in a call centre.

The inconsistencies between the actual and the prescribed call centre measures indicate that there
is a knowledge gap in understanding what the correct measures of call centre productivity are within
the call centre.

4.3 Questionnaire Analysis

This section details the results of the questionnaire. The high-level questions that this research
aimed to answer were:

a. How is productivity measured in a service call centre?


b. What are the factors that affect productivity in the call centre industry?
c. What knowledge is required for the call centre staff to be productive?

19 respondents answered the questionnaire from a targeted 24. A total number of 8 questions were
formulated in order to determine the respondents’ understanding of productivity measures,
technology, processes and knowledge. All responses obtained from the questionnaire are
summarised in either tables or graphic format.

See Annexure A for the complete questionnaire used to gather the respondents’ views.

The different views collected from the different respondents are elaborated on here. The
respondent profiling is meant to summarise and give a high-level view of the correlation between
the literature and the actual call centre staff.

4.3.1 Respondents’ call centre roles

This question was posed to the respondents in order to gain an understanding of the research topic
per role/group. The objective was to understand and establish the number of respondents per role.

The majority of the respondents were agents (63%), followed by team leaders (26%) and then
managers (11%). There were no heads of departments. The percentage responses were in line with
the target objective of the study. Productivity is mainly driven by the call centre agents, and hence
the large number of these respondents.

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Table 16: Respondents’ roles

Role Actual respondents Percentage respondents


actual vs. total
Head 0 0%
Manager 2 11%
Team leader 5 26%
Agent 12 63%
Total 19 100%

The head of department did not answer this questionnaire since he had just left the business. All
managers and team leaders who were requested to complete the questionnaire gave responses as
requested.

The ratio of control in the call centre was as follows:

Table 17: Ratio of management to employee (internal service call centre ratio 2016)

Role Span
Head : Managers 1:2
Manage : Team leaders 1:5
Team leaders : Agents 1:8

The questionnaire was only sent to 2 managers, 5 team leaders (3 and 2 from each manager,
respectively) and 18 agents. All managers and team leaders who were requested to respond gave
feedback, whereas of the 18 agents, only 12 respondents gave feedback. 3 of these respondents
were on leave when this questionnaire was administered. The other 3 respondents chose not to
participate in the questionnaire.

4.3.2 Respondents’ beliefs about measuring productivity

This question was asked to understand how each person per role valued the importance of
measuring productivity in a call centre. The objective was to determine how each person and group
ranked the importance of measuring productivity in a call centre.

Table 18: Personal views on the importance of measuring productivity

Option Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree Summary


Actual responses 15 2 1 1 0 19
Percentage view 79% 11% 5% 5% 0% 100%

The above summary shows that the majority of the respondents agreed that productivity should be
measured and a small minority did not.

The above summary shows that 90% believed that it was important to measure productivity in a call
centre. Of the 90%, 79% strongly agreed that productivity must be measured, while the other 11%
agreed. This shows that the majority of the respondents agreed that productivity should be

50
measured. Only 5% did not agree that it was important to measure productivity in a call centre,
while the other 5% were neither in agreement nor disagreement with the concept of measuring
productivity in a call centre.

Table 19: Views on importance of measuring productivity per participant role

Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly agree Response summary


Head 0 0 0 0 0 0
Manager 2 0 0 0 0 2
Team leader 2 1 1 1 0 5
Agent 11 1 0 0 0 12
Total 15 2 1 1 0 19

A total of 17 respondents agreed that productivity should be measured in a call centre. These 17
respondents were made of up 12 call centre agents, 3 team leaders and 2 managers. The
respondents that did not agree that productivity was important or that were neutral were both team
leaders. The responses by the team leaders are inconsistent with their roles as outlined (Garnett, et
al, 2002). According to Garnett, et al, (2002), a call centre team leader needs to conduct
performance and productivity evaluations for each agent.

The call centre team leaders have the responsibility to assist the call centre manager in managing
the day-to-day operation of the call centre. This position works closely with other team leaders to
ensure the delivery of exceptional service to the customers and clients of the call centre. Below are
the roles and functions of a call centre team leader according to (Garnett, et al, 2002):

 Responsible for managing day-to-day operations of assigned team, motivating and inspiring
excellent customer service.
 Monitoring call volumes to ensure achievement of service standards (this includes taking
calls during high-volume periods).
 Conducting performance and productivity evaluations for each employee.
 Providing call centre agents with support, answering questions and ensuring that the team
consistently provides accurate information and exceptional customer service.
 Responding to escalated client calls.
 Monitoring daily call centre reports to achieve service standards.
 Monitoring attendance and scheduling shifts and ensuring adequate staffing to
accommodate call volumes, especially during peak periods.
 Monitoring the team’s customer service skills and working with the department manager in
identifying areas that require further development/training.
 Ensuring that the working environment is kept clean and organised.

One of the above outlined roles and functions of a call centre team leader are to conduct
performance and productivity evaluations of agents. The view of the team leaders that measuring
productivity was not important could indicate that they lack knowledge and that there is a potential
need for upskilling and training in the team leader role.

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The conclusion from these results is that the majority of the call centre staff understood and knew
the importance of measuring productivity in the call centre. There is a concern that the team leaders
did not agree with the literature.

4.3.3 Call centre productivity measures and knowledge required

This question was posed to the respondents to understand how many people were familiar with the
correct measures of productivity in a call centre. The research questions relevant to this question
were:
a. How is productivity measured in a service call centre?
b. What knowledge is required for the call centre staff to be productive?

The results obtained for this question will be presented per role in order to allow accurate
comparison of responses.

The table below gives a summary of the managers’ responses.

Table 20: Managers’ views on measures of productivity in a call centre

Manager
Call Average talk After-call Abandon Schedule Available Agent
volumes time work time rate adherence time utilisation
Would not 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
consider
Might or might 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
not consider
Definitely 2 2 2 2 2 1 1
consider

Table 20 above shows the call centre managers’ understanding of what they deemed necessary and
relevant to measure productivity. The majority of their responses indicate that they agreed with the
best practice notion that these measures are important for productivity. The only variation in
response was noted under available time and agent utilisation. The managers had different views on
these measures with one manager saying he “might or might not consider” both measures as
important to measuring productivity in a call centre.

The high positive response noted here can be attributed to the fact that respondents had undergone
call centre management training in their journey to call centre leadership. According to (Holman,
Batt & Holtgrewe, 2007), call centre managers need to undergo the following training for them to
be able to manage call centres effectively, efficiently and economically:

a. Strategy and assessments


b. Metrics and key performance indicators
c. Call centre technology
d. Forecasting and scheduling
e. Call centre staffing
f. Training and retention

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g. Coaching and communication
h. Quality monitoring
i. Call centre project planning

According to Holman, et al, (2007), under “Metrics and key performance indicators”, the call centre
managers learn about call centre productivity measures. This would include in it all seven measures
listed in table 20 above.

The managers’ responses were split between “definitely consider”, accounting for 85%, and “might
or might not consider”, accounting for 15%. Nothing was logged under the “would not consider”
option. The response by managers shows that they knew that all these measures were important to
measure productivity in a call centre. The difference in opinion is found in available time and agent
utilisation.

(Brown, et al, 2005) stress that there must be a positive relationship between agent availability and
agent productivity in order to achieve good results in a call centre. Managers ought to know that this
is important part for call centre productivity, otherwise they will be missing out on a key driver/lever
for productivity measuring as indicated by (Holman, et al, 2007).

Table 21 below summarises the views of the call centre team leaders. The total number of team
leaders that responded was five.

Table 21: Call centre team leaders’ views on measures of productivity

Team leader
Would not consider Might or might not consider Definitely consider
Call volumes 0 0 5
Average talk time 0 3 2
After-call work time 0 2 3
Abandon rate 0 2 3
Schedule adherence 0 2 3
Available time 1 0 4
Agent utilisation 0 2 3

The team leaders’ responses were split between all three answer options, namely “definitely
consider”, “might or might not consider” and “would not consider”. The graph below summarises
the team leaders’ answers regarding the measures of productivity:

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Figure 15: Team leaders’ views on measures of productivity

The above graph shows that 66% of the team leaders would consider the above productivity
measures. The selection of “might or might not consider” also shows that there was a lot of doubt in
the minds of the team leaders in terms of knowing and considering the measures of productivity.
This option was selected by 32% of the team leaders. One team leader would not consider available
time as a measure of productivity. This represents about 2% of the responses given by the team
leaders.

The 32% who selected “might or might not consider” is very high. This is a potential indication that
the team leaders did not possess sufficient knowledge on measures of productivity. The lack of
knowledge by team leaders in this aspect can be justified. The call centre training did not include
“Metrics and key performance indicators”, which would cover training on call centre productivity
measures. The call centre team leader training covered the following modules:

a. The call centre environment


b. Leading and motivating teams of people
c. Understanding performance management
d. Coaching
e. Giving effective and contrastive feedback
f. Reporting in the call centre environment
g. Personal action plan

The above modules can be considered incomplete because, according to Holman, et al. (2007), call
centre team leaders need to get the same training as managers since they perform similar tasks but
to various scales. For this error to be corrected, an adjustment is required in the current call centre
team leader training material which must include a “Metrics and key performance indicators”
module.

Table 22 below depicts how agents saw these measures of productivity:

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The responses discussed here are from the call centre agents. The total number of agents that
responded was 12.

Table 22: Agents’ views on important factors required to measure productivity

Agent
Would not consider Might or might not consider Definitely consider
Call volumes 0 0 12
Average talk time 1 4 7
After-call work time 3 3 6
Abandon rate 0 3 9
Schedule adherence 1 2 9
Available time 2 3 7
Agent utilisation 1 2 9

The summary table above shows an increase in the “would not consider” view compared to
responses by the managers and team leaders. These views of the agents indicate that they were
either not sure or they lacked training in/knowledge of what is necessary to measure productivity. In
the summary it can also be seen that there was a lot of doubt among the agents whether these were
good measures of productivity for the call centre. The table below summarises the agents’ responses
in percentages:

Table 23: Agents’ views on measures of productivity

Agent
Would not consider Might or might not consider Definitely consider
Response 10% 20% 70%

70% of the responses show that the call centre staff would consider these measures to measure
productivity in a call centre. 20% of the responses show that the call centre staff were not quite
certain whether these factors should be considered to measure productivity. The other 10% of the
responses show that the factors should not be considered for measuring productivity. The graph
below depicts the split as explained in this paragraph.

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Figure 16: Call centre agents’ views on measures of productivity

The feedback on the graph above does indicate that there is a need to train the call centre agents on
measures of productivity. 30% of the agents need to be trained on call centre measures since their
feedback shows that they did not know the correct measures of productivity in a call centre.

In conclusion, this section of the questionnaire was meant to determine whether the call centre staff
knew and understood the call centre productivity measures. The feedback received indicates that
30% of the agents’ responses, 34% of the team leaders’ responses and 15% of the managers’
responses were inconsistent with what is recommended in the literature. These inconsistencies with
the literature are an indication that there is a lack of knowledge of call centre measures across all
roles in the call centre.

4.3.4 Confidence in achieving the literature-prescribed productivity levels

This question was posed to establish the confidence of the different respondents in how possible it
would be to achieve the literature-prescribed standards. The research questions relevant to this
question were:
a. How is productivity measured in a service call centre?
b. What knowledge is required for the call centre staff to be productive?

The table below summarises the managers’ views on the possibility of achieving best practice
targets.

Table 24: Managers’ views on possibility of achieving best practice targets

Manager
Extremely unlikely Unlikely Neutral Likely Extremely likely
Call volumes: 23 calls per shift 0 1 0 1 0
Talk time: 16 min per call 0 0 1 1 0

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After call: 1.2 min per call 0 1 0 1 0
Abandon rate: 2% per shift 1 0 0 1 0
Schedule adherence: 90% per shift 0 0 0 2 0
Available time: 95% per shift 0 1 0 1 0
Agent utilisation: 80% per shift 1 0 0 1 0

The above table depicts a summary of how the managers saw the possibility of achieving the best
practice call centre productivity targets. The data shows that in most cases managers believed that
these targets were obtainable. There was thus a 57% confidence level.

The table below summarises the views of the team leaders on this question:

Table 25: Team leaders’ views on possibility of achieving best practice targets

Team leader
Extremely unlikely Unlikely Neutral Likely Extremely likely
Call volumes: 23 calls per shift 1 2 1 1 0
Talk time: 16 min per call 0 0 2 2 1
After call: 1.2 min per call 1 3 0 1 0
Abandon rate: 2% per shift 0 1 1 2 1
Schedule adherence: 90% per shift 0 0 1 3 1
Available time: 95% per shift 3 1 1 0 0
Agent utilisation: 80% per shift 0 0 1 3 1

In the table above it can be seen that the respondents preferred to rather stay neutral for most
questions. The general feedback observed here is that there was a high negative response to the
best practice targets. The graph below shows the percentage split on how team leaders saw the
possibility of achieving the best practice targets:

Figure 17: Team leaders’ views on possibility of achieving best practice targets

34% of the team leaders felt that the targets were unachievable. The lack of confidence in this
aspect is another sign that there is a lack of knowledge among the team leaders in the call centre
environment. The difference between the possibility of not achieving the targets and achieving them
is also very small. 20% of the team leaders were in doubt about the potential to achieve these
targets. This is also viewed as a negative response, which then takes the total negative response to

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54%. Ngambi (2011) says that lack of knowledge can lead to people being less confident about
achieving certain results. The lack of training as initially pointed out regarding the productivity
measures is also shown here. The fact that team leaders are not trained in measures of productivity
has led them to believe that they cannot achieve the set best practice targets.

The table below summarises the views of the call centre agents.

Table 26: Agents’ views on possibility of achieving best practice targets

Agents
Extremely unlikely Unlikely Neutral Likely Extremely likely
Call volumes: 23 calls per shift 6 2 2 2 0
Talk time: 16 min per call 0 4 2 5 1
After call: 1.2 min per call 1 6 3 2 0
Abandon rate: 2% per shift 0 4 4 2 2
Schedule adherence: 90% per shift 0 1 0 9 2
Available time: 95% per shift 0 4 2 5 1
Agent utilisation: 80% per shift 0 1 4 5 2

The above table shows the breakdown of agents’ confidence in achieving the set best practice
targets. The results show that agents were far less confident with regard to achieving the set best
practice targets. The combined score of negative (unlikely plus neutral) responses totals 46, which
equates to 55% of the responses. This feedback indicates that there is a great demand for training at
agent level. The graph below provides a summarised percentage split of the responses:

Figure 18: Agents’ confidence in achieving best practice targets

The high negative response percentage here is also in line with the responses regarding call centre
knowledge of measures. A huge number of call centre agents require training in skills improvement.
According to Holman, et al. (2007), the following training must be provided to call centre agents
before they are allowed to deal with clients:

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a. The call centre service environment
b. Customer service principles
c. Identifying and meeting customer expectations
d. Telephone skills
e. Dealing with irate customers
f. Communication skills in providing quality service
g. Meeting performance standards
h. Personal action plans

As much as it is believed that call centre agents are the drivers of high productivity in a call centre,
their answers reveal that they lack the knowledge to drive this requirement to its fulfilment.

In conclusion, this section of the questionnaire was meant to determine whether the call centre staff
had confidence in achieving the literature-prescribed productivity levels. The feedback received here
indicates that 55% of agents, 54% of team leaders and 43% of managers lacked confidence in or
disagreed with the performance levels as prescribed by the literature. The lack of confidence in the
literature-prescribed levels is an indication that there is a lack of knowledge of call centre measures
across all roles in the call centre.

4.3.5 Factors preventing call centre staff from achieving desired productivity targets

Sharp (2003) maintains that challenges such as lack of visibility of customer traffic, expectation of
personalised customer service and high turnover of high-quality staff are very common in modern-
day call centres. The following factors were identified as critical in affecting call centres’ ability to
achieve the desired productivity:

a. Technology
b. Understaffing
c. Lack of call visibility
d. Customer expectations

The factors were listed on the questionnaire and respondents had to choose one or more factors
that hindered them from achieving the desired productivity targets.

The objective was to establish hindrances that prevented call centre staff from achieving set and
desired productivity targets. The inclusion of this question in the questionnaire was to answer the
following research questions:

a. What are the factors that affect productivity in the call centre industry?
b. What knowledge is required for the call centre staff to be productive?

The presentation of the results is combined for all the participants who gave feedback on this
question. The discussion is presented per role.

The managers’ views are dealt with first.

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Table 27: Managers’ views on factors preventing them from achieving desired set productivity

Technology Understaffing Lack of call traffic Unrealistic expectations Other


visibility from customers
Manager 1 1 1 1 1 1
Manager 2 1 1

The above table shows that technology and understaffing were the two common factors which both
managers agreed affected their productivity. Manager 1 indicated that lack of call traffic visibility
and unrealistic expectations from customers had an impact on achieving desired productivity
targets. Manager 1 also indicated that there were other factors over and above the best practice
factors listed that prevented her from achieving her desired productivity levels. Table 28 below
provides a list of all those factors that were added over and above the best practice factors:

Table 28: Other factors that prevent managers from achieving desired targets

Other factors
1 Knowledge
2 WFM planning vs. actual
3 Backlogs
4 Visual management
5 Adherence
6 Skills sets
7 Unstable senior management
8 Support (back office update)

The factors listed above link with this research topic. Factor 1 is the main research problem, factors
2, 4, 6 and 7 were identified under the possible call centre solution section of the literature review
(sections 2.7.1 – 2.7.4.) and factor 5 was also discussed under the call centre productivity measures.
The only new factors which are not discussed are factors 3 and 8.

The table below shows the team leaders’ feedback on the same questions above.

Table 29: Team leaders’ views on factors preventing them from achieving desired productivity targets

Technology Understaffing Lack of call traffic Unrealistic expectations Other


visibility from customers
Team leader 1 1
Team leader 2 1 1 1 1
Team leader 3 1
Team leader 4 1 1
Team leader 5 1 1

The above table shows what each team leader believed was preventing them from achieving their
desired productivity targets. Team leader 1 indicated unrealistic expectations from customers were
preventing him from achieving targets. Team leader 2 said all four factors played a role. Team leader
3 only ranked understaffing as the main factor. Team leader 4 listed understaffing and lack of traffic
visibility as the two main factors that prevented him from achieving the desired productivity levels.

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Lastly, Team leader 5 listed technology and understaffing as the two factors that prevented him
from achieving the desired productivity levels. The graph below depicts each factor contribution
according to the five team leaders:

Factors affecting Team Leaders' Productivity


5
4
Counts

3
2
1
0
Unrealistic
Lack of call expectations
Technology Understaffing
traffic visibility from
customers
Series1 2 2 4 2

Figure 19: Team leaders’ views on factors preventing them from achieving desired productivity targets

With the exception of Team leader 1, all the other team leaders identified understaffing as a factor
preventing them from achieving their desired productivity levels. Technology was cited by Team
leaders 2 and 5, lack of call traffic visibility was cited by Team leaders 2 and 4 and unrealistic
expectations from customers were cited by Team leaders 1 and 2 as factors preventing them from
achieving desired productivity levels. None of the team leaders cited other factors over and above
the best practice factors.

The table below summarises the agents’ views.

Table 30: Agents’ view on factors preventing them from achieving desired productivity targets

Technology Understaffing Lack of call traffic Unrealistic expectations Other


visibility from customers
Agent 1 1
Agent 2 1 1 1
Agent 3 1 1
Agent 4 1 1
Agent 5 1
Agent 6 1
Agent 7 1 1
Agent 8 1
Agent 9 1 1
Agent 10 1 1 1
Agent 11 1 1
Agent 12 1 1

The above table shows that agents had different views on what was preventing them from achieving
their desired productivity targets. Agent 1 indicated that technology was the barrier, Agent 2

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identified technology, understaffing and unrealistic expectations, Agent 3 listed unrealistic
expectations plus an additional one which was not listed by best practice. The additional reason
from Agent 3 was the client’s lack of knowledge about the product. Agent 4 identified technology
and unrealistic expectations from clients and Agent 5 listed a factor that was not one of the listed
four. This factor was that targets were not clearly defined and she did not know what was expected
of her. Agent 6 mentioned unrealistic expectations from clients, Agent 7 mentioned understaffing
and unrealistic expectations, Agent 8 identified understaffing, Agent 9 listed technology and
understaffing, Agent 10 listed technology, understaffing and unrealistic expectations from clients,
Agent 11 identified understaffing and unrealistic expectations and Agent 12 understaffing and
unrealistic expectations. The researcher also observed that lack of call traffic visibility was never
cited as a factor by any of the agents. The graph below gives a summary of how many times each of
these factors were cited as preventing agents from achieving the desired productivity:

Factors Affecting Agents' Productivity


9
8
7
6
5
Count

4
3
2
1
0
Unrealistic
Lack of call
Technology Understaffing expectations Other
traffic visibility
from customers
Total 5 7 0 8 2

Figure 20: Factors preventing agents from achieving required productivity targets

With the exception of lack of call traffic visibility, all other factors were cited as having an impact on
the call centre agents’ productivity. Unrealistic expectations from customers were cited the most
compared to the rest of the factors. Unrealistic expectations were cited eight times, understaffing
seven times, technology five times, other twice and nothing was said about lack of call traffic
visibility. As indicated, Agents 3 and 5 mentioned additional factors which were not initially listed in
the literature. Table 31 below lists these factors which were indicated as also having an impact on
call centre agents’ productivity:

Table 31: Other factors preventing agents from achieving desired targets

Other factors
1 Client not informed about products
2 Target not clearly defined

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These two factors have been discussed as important for call centre productivity in sections 2.7.1 –
2.7.4 as part of the possible solutions for call centre productivity.

Customer expectations, understaffing and technology have been highlighted as key factors that
prevent call centre staff from achieving their productivity targets. Below is a combined summary of
all call centre staff responses on the factors:

Factors affecting Productivity of Call Centre Staff

Technology

8% 23% Understaffing
28%
Lack of call traffic
33% visibility
8%
Unrealistic expectations
from customers
Other

Figure 21: Overall factors preventing all call centre staff from achieving desired productivity

The above graph shows the percentage contribution of the different factors preventing call centre
staff from achieving the desired productivity. Understaffing emerged as the main factor that
prevents staff from achieving the required productivity. Most call centres are understaffed because
of the high staff turnover in the industry. The lack of skilled labour in the market makes it difficult for
call centres to maintain a full complement of knowledgeable staff.

The call centre agents also thought that customers had unrealistic expectations. This view is in line
with White & Roos (2005), who say that customers can have unrealistic expectations but (Kravetz,
1997) says that these need to be monitored and call centres need to have skilled resources who
know how to deal with them. Kravetz (1997) also states that call centre management needs to have
enough of a buffer of skilled labour to deal with any resource crises as they arise, including staff
turnover. Kravetz’s explanation compared with the call centre staff feedback reveals that the call
centre does not have enough skilled resources to deal with the issue of understaffing and unrealistic
expectations from customers.

Technology came third on the list of factors that affects productivity. According to (Curry, et al,
2008), call centres must invest in state-of-the-art technology in order to reduce volume handling,
open self-service channels and sort work according to skill. The fact that the staff surveyed
complained about technology indicates that the current technology in use is not helping them to
improve their productivity.

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This high number of concerns shows that there is a gap that needs to be closed for the call centre
staff to reach their full capacity as expected. The gap identified can only be closed by training the call
centre staff to deal with customer expectations and to utilise the technology effectively in order to
achieve the desired productivity levels and improve understaffing.

The conclusion drawn is that there is a lack of knowledge among call centre staff and the factors
identified do affect productivity in the call centre. The researcher can therefore safely say that this
conclusion has answered the two research questions concerned.

4.3.6 Level of staff knowledge on call centre productivity

According to Grobbelaar, et al. (2004), it is of great importance that call centre agents understand
the different products/services, customer profiles, as well as the systems navigation and processes
on which they operate in order to achieve optimum capacity utilisation. The question covering this
issue was posed to obtain answers to the following research question:

What knowledge is required for the call centre staff to be productive?

The objective was to determine the knowledge levels that facilitate the performance of duties. The
following knowledge factors identified as important for call centre staff to operate to their full
potential were listed for the respondents to select. Staff members were required to select their level
of familiarity with each factor.

a. Technology
b. Product and services
c. Customer profile
d. Processes

Table 32 below summarises call centre managers’ level of familiarity with the listed factors.

Table 32: Managers’ level of knowledge to reach full potential to achieve good productivity

Not familiar Slightly Somewhat Moderately Extremely


at all familiar familiar familiar familiar
Technology 2
Products & services 1 1
Customer profile 1 1
Processes 2

The above summary shows that both managers were moderately familiar with the technology that
was being used in the call centre. Their knowledge differed when it came to the products and
services offered. One manager was moderately familiar with the products and services, whereas the
other was only slightly familiar with the same. The managers did not seem to be sure about the
profiles of the customers they served. The lack of confidence in this knowledge factor is
demonstrated by the somewhat familiar and slightly familiar responses by the managers. High

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confidence was demonstrated by both managers when it came to their knowledge of the call centre
processes. This is shown by the extremely familiar response by both managers.

The managers’ feedback regarding products and services as well as customer profile were on the
negative side of the scale. Holman, et al, (2007) explain that call centre managers need to fulfil a
coaching and mentoring role to the call centre staff. Looking at the feedback provided by the
managers on these factors, there is a knowledge gap.

Table 33 below shows a summary of the feedback provided by team leaders:

Table 33: Team leaders’ level of knowledge to reach full potential to achieve good productivity

Not familiar Slightly Somewhat Moderately Extremely


at all familiar familiar familiar familiar
Technology 1 1 2 1
Products & services 1 1 3
Customer profile 5
Processes 1 4

The summary table above shows a divided response regarding the technology used in the call centre.
Of the five team leaders, one was slightly familiar with the technology, one was somewhat familiar,
two were moderately familiar and one was extremely familiar. Three team leaders indicated that
they were extremely familiar with the products and services, whereas one was somewhat familiar
and another was slightly familiar. Just like managers, team leaders are expected to fulfil a mentoring
and coaching role for each other and the agents that report to them.

All five team leaders were moderately familiar with the customer profile they dealt with. This
response is lauded since call centre team leaders are expected to give effective feedback to
customers and they require knowledge of both the customer and the type of service or product they
provide (Holman, et al, 2007). Four of the team leaders were extremely familiar with the call centre
processes, whereas one was moderately familiar with the same.

Of the response observed above, four were negative/less confident answers provided by the team
leaders. This feedback represents 20% of the total responses, and clearly these margins call for
knowledge to be shared with the team leaders so that they are confident in their call centre
knowledge.

Table 34 below summarises the feedback of the call centre agents:

Table 34: Agents’ level of knowledge to reach full potential to achieve good productivity

Not familiar Slightly Somewhat Moderately Extremely


at all familiar familiar familiar familiar
Technology 7 5
Products & services 8 4
Customer profile 1 6 5

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Processes 1 1 3 7

The majority of the feedback provided by the call centre agents indicates that they were familiar
with the call centre knowledge factors. Seven of the agents were moderately familiar with the
technology, and the other five were extremely familiar with it. Eight of the agents were moderately
familiar with the products and services, while the other four were extremely familiar with the same.
One agent was somewhat familiar with the customer profile, six were moderately familiar and the
remaining five were extremely familiar. One agent was slightly familiar with the processes, one
somewhat familiar, three moderately familiar and seven extremely familiar with the same.

4.3.7 Conclusion on level of staff knowledge

The diagram below provides a summary of all the staff responses to the question of knowledge.

Knowledge Familiarity

0%
7%
6%
41% Not familiar at all
Slightly familiar
Somewhat familiar
46%
Moderately familiar
Extremely familiar

Figure 22: Summary of all responses provided by respondents on question of knowledge

The graph shows that 46% of the call centre staff indicated that they were moderately confident in
their call centre knowledge. 41% of the call centre staff were extremely familiar with their call centre
tools.

The above summary shows that staff were confident about their knowledge when it came to
working in a call centre. 46% of all the respondents indicated that they were familiar with the
technology, products and services, customer profile and processes.

4.4 Conclusion

The purpose of this chapter was to discuss the results obtained from the research and to answer the
research questions. The document analysis was done, followed by the questionnaire analysis.

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The document analysis pointed to all the current gaps regarding the call centre operations. The main
gap identified in the document analysis was the lack of measurement controls for the following best
practice call centre measures: after-call work time, queueing time, schedule adherence and agent
utilisation.

There were similarities that were noted during this analysis as well. The common measures
identified during the analysis were call volumes, average talk time, abandon rate and available time.

The above measures are recommended as measures of productivity for a call centre. Though these
measures were measured by the call centre, it was noted that the targets set for them were not
what best practice recommends. The following two measures were measured by the call centre but
not recommended by literature: average speed to answer and service levels.

It was also noted that 10% of the staff did not see the importance of measuring productivity in the
call centre. The feedback received indicates that 30% of agents, 34% of team leaders and 15% of
managers lacked knowledge of the correct measures of call centre productivity. The respondents
also lacked confidence in or disagreed with the performance levels prescribed in the literature.
Understaffing, unrealistic customer expectations and technology were listed as the main obstacles
for call centre staff in achieving the required productivity measures. The overall knowledge gap was
at 54% across all staff in the call centre.

The biggest knowledge gap was identified to be among the team leaders, followed by agents. There
is a 54% and 55% need for training for both team leaders and agents, respectively. There is only a
15% need for managers to upskill their knowledge of call centre productivity. This is proof that there
is a lack of knowledge among call centre staff, which in turn has an impact on the call centre
productivity.

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CHAPTER 5 – CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

5.1 Introduction

This chapter provides the overall conclusion of the study as well as clear feasible recommendations
with action plans to improve knowledge among call centre staff. The purpose of this research was to
prove that there is a lack of knowledge among call centre staff, which has a direct negative impact
on the expected productivity of the call centre.

The benefits of this research are that it contributes to identifying global factors used to measure
productivity, factors preventing call centre staff from achieving desired productivity levels and
knowledge gaps among call centre staff.

This research was aimed at investigating the management of productivity in a service call centre
through an understanding of factors that contribute to lack of knowledge and low productivity levels
in a call centre. By identifying the factors that contribute to low productivity in a call centre, possible
solutions can be identified to develop an effective call centre productivity management process.

There has been significant research on the topic of call centre productivity and the knowledge
required to achieve the productivity targets, as discussed in chapter 2. The literature review was
used to create a questionnaire guide. The questionnaire created was then used to determine the
productivity knowledge of call centre staff. The responses from the call centre staff provided
significant insight into the call centre staff’s level of knowledge.

Among the results from the call centre staff responses, the following were noted:

 They understand the importance of measuring productivity in a call centre but they lack
the knowledge of how to measure it
 They lack knowledge of the correct call centre productivity measures.
 They do not believe they can achieve the suggested best practice call centre targets.

5.2 Synopsis of Results

During the document analysis the first key finding identified was the lack of control of the following
factors:
 After-call work time
 Queueing time
 Schedule adherence
 Agent utilisation

The current productivity measures applied at the call centre do not include the above listed factors.
The lack of measurement of these factors is in contradiction with the literature. (Gilmore, 2001,
Curry, et al. 2008, Anton & Gustin, 2000, Aksin, et al, 2007, Aktekin & Soyer, 2014) all indicate the
above factors as important call centre productivity metrics which can help the call centre to function
effectively.

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According to (Gilmore, 2001), if the after-call work time metric is not measured, the call centre will
miss the opportunity to determine the appropriate amount of time required to complete an activity
or a task. Gilmore (2001) suggests that the best after-call work time is 1.2 minutes per call per
agent. The conclusion can be made that the call centre’s lack of scientific control of after-call work
time makes the call centre experience long wrap-up times for calls.

Queueing time is the main factor determining whether clients would keep their business with a
company or go to a different service provider. Gilmore (2001) recommends that a client wait only 30
seconds in the queue before they are attended to; if this time is exceeded, the call centre faces a
great task of convincing the customer to stay with the company. The conclusion can be made that
the call centre is having difficulty in scientifically quantifying why certain customers are leaving or
staying with the organisation.

Schedule adherence helps the call centre plan resources effectively (Anton & Gustin, 2000). Kravetz
(1997), Anton & Gustin, (2000), Aktekin & Soyer (2014) agree that there is no set standard for
measuring schedule adherence as it depends on many factors like fatigue, rest times, breaks, etc.
Though there is no set standard for schedule adherence, Aktekin & Soyer (2014) suggest that 90%
adherence is the most common set standard by international call centres.

Agent utilisation is another factor which can have a direct impact on capacitating the call centre.
Poor agent utilisation can lead to high customer complaints due to poor service. The conclusion
made here is that these factors need to be included in the call centre measures in order to be able to
quantify productivity accurately.

The second major finding was on the call centre staff knowledge. The first knowledge gap that was
identified was in the measures of productivity. Both team leaders and agents demonstrated a great
deal of inconsistency when it came to what is deemed their core responsibilities in their day-to-day
tasks. The first inconsistency was identified when 34% of the team leaders said they would not
consider the best practice measures. This demonstrates lack of knowledge on the part of the team
leaders, which then proves the fact that there is a lack of knowledge among the call centre staff.
30% of the agents also said they would not consider the best practice measures. This is also an
indication of a lack of knowledge among the agents.

The second knowledge gap identified was in knowing what call centre productivity measures are
necessary in order to measure call centre productivity accurately. The majority of the team leaders
and the agents lacked knowledge of the correct factors to measure call centre productivity.

The staff’s disagreement with best practice is an indication that they do not know the correct
measures of productivity. This gap in knowledge would need to be closed through training.

The third knowledge gap identified was in the confidence in achieving the best practice targets.
Again at this level the two roles that could not agree with the best practice standards were the team
leaders and agents. The answers provided are enough proof that a knowledge intervention in the
form of training is required for both these groups.

69
The 54% and 55% of the respondents who need training are proof that there is a lack of knowledge
among call centre staff, which in turn has an impact on the call centre productivity.

The findings discussed here prove that the research problem is indeed a problem. This is supported
by the fact that not all the prescribed measures of productivity are applied, as well as the call centre
staff’s answers that contradict the literature.

5.3 Recommendations

Recommendations are made for this case study call centre based on the results obtained.

Call centre organisations need to start to appreciate that it is important to thoroughly train and
improve staff so that they can achieve the required productivity levels. The identified knowledge
gaps among the call centre staff surveyed can be addressed in the form of projects (Grönroos &
Ojasalo, 2004). The call centre needs individual projects in order to address the lack of knowledge
identified among the call centre agents, team leaders and managers. These projects need to be
broken down into technical improvements, process improvement, staff training and awareness.
While running these projects, the call centre staff need to be part and parcel of the solution design
and implementation. This will give the call centre staff a sense of ownership of the solutions and the
implementation required for change.

The call centre organisation needs to prioritize the training projects, since it is clear from the results
that the staff lack knowledge of call centre productivity. While running the training projects, the call
centre may be required to formulate personal development plans with individual call centre staff for
the staff to identify their knowledge gaps. The identified knowledge gaps must be closed as soon as
the discussion is concluded with the staff members affected.

5.3.1 Training

For the call centre to be able to close the knowledge gaps among their staff, proper training must be
given to the individuals concerned. Training can be offered in different ways, such as on-the-job
training, serial transfer or baton-passing, parallel transfer and/or far transfer. In the case of call
centres, formal training and on-the-job training are recommended. The following knowledge gaps
were identified among the call centre staff:

 Lack of appreciation regarding why it is important to measure productivity


 Lack of knowledge regarding the correct call centre productivity measures
 Lack of confidence in their capability to achieve the best practice productivity targets

Table 35: Recommended call centre productivity measures and required productivity targets

Productivity measure Calculation formula Productivity benchmark


Call volumes K + N (Total number of calls in a queue) 28 calls per agent per shift

70
Average talk time (Skill set + No. of incoming calls + Pre-post 15 minutes per call
time)/(Skill set + No. of incoming answered)
After-call work time N/A: Time taken to wrap up and perform 1.2 minutes per call
administration task
Queueing time N/A: Time the client waits for service 0.5 minutes per call
Abandon rate 𝑓(𝑡) 3.1% per agent per shift
𝑟(𝑡) =
1 − 𝑓(𝑡)
Adherence to schedule 𝑇𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑎𝑑ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 90% per agent per shift
AS=
𝑇𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑠𝑐ℎ𝑒𝑑𝑢𝑙𝑒𝑑
Agent availability Availability = Actual login time/Target * 100 95% per shift
Agent utilisation (Ave. calls handled X Ave. handle time)/(Ave. 80% per shift
days worked per month X Hrs per day X 60
min.)

The different training methods which must be applied for the call centre staff to gain the knowledge
required are recommended below.

5.3.2 Formal call centre qualification

For the call centre to improve/maintain good productivity levels, it needs to ensure that all its staff
have a formal qualification for the role/s they are employed to perform.

A formal call centre qualification is a necessity for the call centre to get the best out of its staff
members. The call centre entry-level qualification varies from country to country. In the South
African context a metric with a good mark in English is deemed sufficient to be employed in a call
centre (Benner, Lewis & Omar, 2007). There are a few call centre short-term courses that are
offered at various institutions. Most of these short courses offer the following modules for call
centre training (Palethorpe, 2013):

 Call Centre Basics


 Vocal Victories
 Sales
 Soft Skills
 Workforce Management
 Supervision
 Quality Assurance

On average, this call centre training lasts about 25 days or more (Palethorpe, 2013). Though this is
the training that call centre staff must undergo, global practice has shown that call centre staff need
more on-the-job training in order to perfect their skills (Banks, Roodt 2011).

5.3.3 On-the-job training (job mentoring and job rotation)

On-the-job training allows people to learn by performing the required tasks. This training can be
offered in both a structured and an unstructured approach. On-the-job training can help the call

71
centre to have face-to-face interaction with the staff and obtain immediate feedback on
performance. This will also help the call centre to make corrections if tasks are not performed
according to the set standards. This method of training could help call centre employees to do
various jobs overtime (Batt, 2002). Multiskilled employees in a call centre can be greatly welcomed
since the turnover of staff has proved to be a serious problem (Benner, et al, 2007). The call centre
would find it useful to have staff that can cover for different product types, different customer
profiles and different processes when they lose staff to rival call centres.

Overtime on-the-job training can be offered in the form of mentorship/coaching. This form of
training is only possible if there are enough experienced staff that can confidently part with their
knowledge (Batt, 2002). While performing on-the-job training, the call centre needs to make sure
that productivity does not suffer.

5.3.4 Reduction of Absenteeism through proper controls and staff motivation

Research by Holman (2003) indicates that lack of proper job control, role stress, performance
monitoring, inadequate coaching and training, and emotional exhaustion can lead to high turnover
in a work environment. Holman (2003) also suggest that it is imperative that call centre
organisations adopts the following six points in order to manage staff turnover:

 Higher the right agents


 Offer competitive pay and benefits
 Establish clear objectives
 Reward goal completion
 Create a career path that supports the growth of staff within the organization
 Give agents the tools they need to succeed in performing their duties

Batt (2002), also recommends that enough resource are made available for environment with high
job demand. Enough resource can reduce job demand, foster goal accomplishment, nd stimulate
personal growth and development. Enough resource in a call centre may lead to strong involvement
in terms of organizational commitment and dedication to one’s work, and thus to a lower intension
for one to leave the organization (Benner, et al, 2007).

5.4 Conclusion

The purpose of this chapter was to highlight the results obtained from the research and to provide
recommendations that will help eliminate the problem at hand.

The document analysis pointed out knowledge gaps in the call centre operations. The main gap is
that the call centre is not measuring all the controls that it is supposed to measure as prescribed by
the literature.

The questionnaire analysis indicated that the call centre staff do not know the correct drivers of call
centre productivity. The call centre staff also confirmed through their responses that they are not
confident enough that they can achieve the literature benchmark targets.

72
The combinations of the results from both the document and the questionnaire analyses all point to
one fact that the call centre staff do not possess enough knowledge to improve productivity.
Training is the solution to the knowledge gap identified. The two types of training recommended for
the call centre staff are formal call centre qualification training, as well as on-the-job training (job
mentorship and job rotation).

73
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4
Annexure A: Questionnaire

Q No. Questions Option 1 Option 2 Option 3 Option 4 Option 5


1 What is your role in the call center? Head Manager Team Leader Agent
2 Do you believe measuring productivity is important? Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree
3 Which of the following factors should be considered to measure productivity in the call center?
Call Volumes Definitely Consider Might or Might not consider Would not consider
Average Talk Time Definitely Consider Might or Might not consider Would not consider
After Call Work Time Definitely Consider Might or Might not consider Would not consider
Queuing Time Definitely Consider Might or Might not consider Would not consider
Abandoned Rate Definitely Consider Might or Might not consider Would not consider
Schedule Adherance Definitely Consider Might or Might not consider Would not consider
Available Time Definitely Consider Might or Might not consider Would not consider
Agent Utilization Definitely Consider Might or Might not consider Would not consider
4 Please rate the likelihood of achieving the following levels of productivity? please select relevant option
Call Volumes 23 calls per shift Extremely Unlikely Unlikely Neutral Likely Extremely Likely
Average Talk Time 16 minutes per call Extremely Unlikely Unlikely Neutral Likely Extremely Likely
After Call Work Time 1.2 minutes per call Extremely Unlikely Unlikely Neutral Likely Extremely Likely
Queuing Time 0.5 minutes Extremely Unlikely Unlikely Neutral Likely Extremely Likely
Abandoned Rate 2% per shift Extremely Unlikely Unlikely Neutral Likely Extremely Likely
Schedule Adherance 90% per shift Extremely Unlikely Unlikely Neutral Likely Extremely Likely
Available Time 95% per shift Extremely Unlikely Unlikely Neutral Likely Extremely Likely
Agent Utilization 80% per shift Extremely Unlikely Unlikely Neutral Likely Extremely Likely
5 Which of the following factor/s below prevents you from achieving your productivity targets?
- Technology Yes No
- Call traffic visibility Yes No
- Understaffing Yes No
- Unrealistic expectations from customers Yes No
- Other Yes No
6 How familiar are you with the technology in used in the call center? Not at all familiar Slightly familiar Somewhat familiar Moderately Familiar Extremely Familiar
7 How familiar are you with the product and services that are provided by the call center? Not at all familiar Slightly familiar Somewhat familiar Moderately Familiar Extremely Familiar
8 How familiar are you with the customer profiles that the call center is servicing? Not at all familiar Slightly familiar Somewhat familiar Moderately Familiar Extremely Familiar
9 How familiar are you with the call center processes and procedures? Not at all familiar Slightly familiar Somewhat familiar Moderately Familiar Extremely Familiar
10 Additional information you think we should consider to measure productivity?
11 Would you be available for a short follow up chart if and when required? If yes, please leave your contact below

a
Annexure B: Ethical declaration letter

Dear Questionnaire Participant, thank you for your willingness to participating in this research on
Call centre productivity.

Below is more information regarding this research:

Why are we doing this?

The aim of the project is to determine how productivity is managed within a call centre.

Who are the researchers?

The study is presently being carried out by Sizwe Ubisse an M&F employee and a student from the
University of Johannesburg. This is a questionnaire prepared toward fulfilment of course
requirements of a Masters dissertation supervised by Annelize Marnewick (Professor at UJ).

What does the researcher request of you in the study?

Participation in this questionnaire is voluntary and anonymous. By completing and returning this
questionnaire, you agree to participate in this research and to the publication of the results with the
understanding that anonymity will be preserved. Although this is an anonymous questionnaire,
space is provided at the end of the questionnaire for contact details of people who would be
prepared to make themselves available for short follow-up interviews. The questionnaire will take
you, at most, 10 - 15 minutes to complete. The majorities of questions are in multiple choice format
and ask that you select the most appropriate answer.

How is the researcher going to use the results?

The aim is not to uncover your identity, or examine the responses on an individual basis. The results
of the project will be published, but you may be assured that any information obtained in
connection with this study that may identify you will remain confidential and will not be disclosed.

If at any stage you have any queries or concerns regarding your participation in the study, please feel
free to contact me directly on the following contacts:

Sizwe Phillip Ubisse


083 875 6529 / 074 277 2979
Phillip.ubisse@gmail.com

a
Annexure C: Call centre operations report

The data presented below is the monthly average for the call centre staff performance. The summarised data was taken from operations and summarised on
averages; no alterations or changes have been made by the researcher.

a. Call volumes

YEAR 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015


MONTH Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
BEST PRACTICE TARGET 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28
CALL CENTER TARGET 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23
ACTUAL 11 9 8 7 8 11 13 8 9 11 9 10 12 11 9 10 9 9 7 8 7 11 9 10 12 10 9 12 9 11 8 9 9 5 12 9 11 11 12 16 17 16 18 22 24 25 26 22 24 28 26 27 26 28 29 27 28 29

b. Average talk time

YEAR 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015


MONTH Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
CALL CENTER TARGET 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16
BEST PRACTICE TARGET 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15
ACTUAL 20 20 21 23 20 22 24 26 25 19 21 26 26 24 23 24 21 27 26 26 28 25 22 24 21 23 20 26 17 22 26 25 24 25 17 18 20 19 20 19 26 18 26 24 22 19 21 26 18 19 22 24 21 18 19 24 25 22

c. Abandon rate

YEAR 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015


MONTH Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
CALL CENTER TARGET 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3%
BEST PRACTICE TARGET 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2%
ACTUAL 4% 3% 4% 5% 4% 5% 3% 3% 4% 3% 4% 3% 3% 5% 4% 3% 3% 4% 4% 4% 5% 3% 3% 5% 3% 4% 4% 4% 4% 2% 4% 5% 4% 4% 3% 4% 3% 2% 5% 2% 4% 3% 3% 3% 2% 5% 3% 3% 2% 5% 4% 3% 3% 3% 3% 4% 4% 3%

d. Available time

YEAR 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015


MONTH Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
CALL CENTER TARGET 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95%
BEST PRACTICE TARGET 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95% 95%
ACTUAL 80% 75% 86% 88% 70% 75% 74% 79% 78% 79% 76% 78% 70% 81% 79% 72% 75% 73% 79% 81% 74% 76% 80% 79% 78% 89% 78% 74% 73% 75% 76% 75% 71% 69% 71% 72% 78% 81% 82% 76% 85% 79% 76% 77% 85% 79% 82% 85% 90% 88% 85% 85% 79% 86% 86% 90% 79% 79%