Optimal Call Center Scheduling

July 13th, 2011 1:20 pm Category: Optimization, Scheduling, by: Dennis Dietz

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Many commercial enterprises and public agencies operate telephone call centers to provide effective and timely service for customers. By employing nearly 5% of the national workforce, call centers arguably define the “new factory floor” in an increasingly service-based economy. They are fascinating socio-technological systems which are exceptionally well-suited for the application of mathematical modeling and optimization methods.

A typical call center utilizes a computerized call handling system which can archive detailed historical information on call volume, call handling time, and other relevant attributes. This data can be analyzed and aggregated (with appropriate accounting for probabilistic variation) to generate a profile of staffing requirements across future time intervals. In theory, service agents can be optimally scheduled to closely accommodate this profile, resulting in high service levels, low customer abandonment, and efficient agent utilization. In actual practice, however, such performance represents the exception rather than the rule. Most call centers, even well-run ones, do not simultaneously achieve high levels of service quality and operational efficiency [1].

One important reason for the performance gap between theory and practice is lack of sophistication and flexibility in the standard software systems available for call center management. For example, standard systems invariably base interval staffing requirements on the classic “Erlang C” model, which is known to produce distorted results because it does not consider pertinent factors such as customer impatience [2]. Additionally, if the software has any capability for schedule “optimization,” the underlying algorithm is usually a greedy heuristic which sequentially adds agent shifts without due consideration of the complex interactions between them. Beyond these technical limitations, standard systems offer minimal capability to experiment with different shift types and customize the solution strategy.

Profit Point can provide the expertise and custom tools necessary to properly model your unique call center environment and achieve optimal performance. By applying recently-refined mathematics, interval staffing requirements can be accurately determined and optimal shift distributions can be precisely derived [3]. Efficiency improvements exceeding 10% are typical, coincident with improvement in service level performance. Many additional operational factors, such as on-line chat activity and agent specialization, can also be addressed. There is no better time than now for you to reap the rewards of optimizing your organization’s call center operations.


[1] Noah Gans, Ger Koole, and Avishai Mandelbaum, “Telephone Call Centers: Tutorial, Review, and Research Prospects,” Manufacturing and Service Management 5, 79–141 (2003).

[2] Lawrence D. Brown, et al., “Statistical Analysis of a Telephone Call Center: A Queueing-Science Perspective,” Journal of the American Statistical Association 100, 36–50 (2005).

[3] Dennis C. Dietz, “Practical Scheduling for Call Center Operations,” Omega 39, 550–557 (2011).

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