Concerns of cost control combined with quality of service often make finding the optimum end-user to tech-support ratio difficult. There are a variety of factors that affect the number of support staff you hire. In response to a member's question, we asked industry experts Michele Triponey, Gary Manske, and Mike Overby to weigh in on how they determine the magic number. The following are their responses to the question: What is a reasonable end user/tech support ratio?
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Michele Triponey is vice president of Help Desk, Desktop & Server Support Practice, at Ajilon Consulting. Her response:
"Staffing and forecasting models are used to calculate the number of analysts required for each shift. Historical data by month is loaded for as many years as available. The following factors are then used to calculate work volumes:
- User base: User base is the number of customers that use the service.
- Calls to base ratio: This is the ratio of incoming calls to the customer base.
- Chase factor: Chase factor has to do with contact management. The desk owns the problem from cradle to grave. They 'chase down' the resolving agency if they are unable to resolve on their own under certain conditions and time frames. Not all calls are chased. Business rules are set up for chase by resolving agency.
- Growth factor: Growth factor is calculated using historical hiring patterns of the organization. This increases the base ratio.
- Change control factor: Change control factor is proprietary to Ajilon Consulting. It is a calculation we use for C-level executives that indicates the cost of change by group, lost sales, lost work, etc., as well as in forecasting increases in call volumes based on unplanned change.
"Once loaded, you can determine the number of analysts per shift. You can guess at the number of analysts needed (I don't advise this) by using a ratio of one analyst for every 700 incoming calls per month assuming standard work volumes in outgoing, Web ticket and chase processing."
Gary Manske is senior manager of business development at SEI Information Technology. His response:
"That's a tough question without knowing the environment. Let me answer this way: There are several factors at work that need to be balanced:
- End-user satisfaction expectations
- What is the goal? If it's to answer questions with high customer service and high first-call resolution, the ratio will be low.
- Conversely, if the desk takes requests and is not required to resolve a high number of requests on the first call or at the desk, it's a higher ratio.
- Sometimes budget dictates the type of support that is affordable. We all have tight support budgets, so we need to make certain we are using our dollars wisely. Again, it's the balance between customer satisfaction and problem resolution.
- Technical environment
- Complex technical environments may require lower tech/user ratios, but you need to take the whole support system into account. Again, what is the expectation of problem resolution at the desk?
- Scope of support
- If the desk primarily provides Log/Dispatch, the ratio can be very high. When you get to expectations of first-call resolution, the ratio changes and can grow exponentially with high expectations of first-call resolution."
Mike Overby is the owner of Express Personnel Services in Irving, Texas. His response:
"The answer is 'it depends'—each company would establish their own ratio based on a service level requirement. Service level is defined as X percent of calls answered in Y seconds or less. A typical service level would be to answer 80 percent of the calls in 20 seconds or less (or 80/20). In an environment where employees or customers can afford to wait/hold on the phone, a 70/30 service level might be used."
More about help desk staffing…
This is the third in a series of articles about help desk staffing. The first article explored guidelines for hiring help desk staff, and the second article expanded on the importance of interpersonal skills for help desk staff. The experts will be visiting the site to answer your questions in the discussion below. Or, if you'd prefer, send us your question by e-mail for a chance to have it answered in an article format.