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

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

Gary Manske is senior manager of business development at SEI Information Technology. His

“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:

  1. End-user
    satisfaction expectations
    1. What
      is the goal? If it’s to answer questions with high customer service and
      high first-call resolution, the ratio will be low.
    2. 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.
  2. Budget
    1. 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
  3. Technical
    1. 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?
  4. Scope
    of support
    1. 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

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.