Determine Staffing Needs For Your Inbound Call Center
A modern version of the Erlang calculator, Nelnet Contact Center Calculator® uses two key factors to quickly estimate how many full-time customer service agents you might need to handle the inbound calls to your contact center or help desk.
After receiving your initial estimate from the Nelnet Contact Center Calculator, you may choose to provide more information to help us customize a free detailed estimate for you. We’ll apply our 40-plus years of U.S.-based call center experience to create a staffing estimate tailored to your situation that helps you:
- Determine how to best fill critical staffing shortages.
- Evaluate call center efficiency.
- Consider whether to keep your call center in house or outsource customer service.
A modern take on the classic Erlang calculator.
While the Erlang formula has been the universal standard for estimating call center staffing for over 100 years, text, email, chatbots, live chat, and video calls have changed how people communicate. Nelnet has built a reputation as a premier contact center – and our Nelnet Contact Center Staffing Calculator takes modern call center experiences into account. You’ll get insightful results for staffing estimates based on your hours of operation and the core service priorities provided by your call center (sales; customer service; and pre-default activity).
|Nelnet’s Contact Center Staffing Calculator||Erlang Calculator|
|Incoming call center volume|
|Traffic fluctuations for peak and off-peak hours|
|Prospective headcount estimates factoring in customer service core priorities|
Tap into Nelnet’s 40-plus years of contact center and back-office experience.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Learn more about how our modern Contact Center Staffing Calculator differs from its predecessor, what factors impact call center staffing estimates – and how Nelnet can help with outsourcing your call center or help desk staffing.
The Erlang calculator has been the universally accepted call center staffing formula for over 100 years. It was developed in 1917 by Danish mathematician Agner Krarup Erlang to predict the length of time callers would have to wait to speak to an operator during a time when direct dialing didn’t exist and every call had to be placed through a central switchboard. Even as switchboard operators became unnecessary, the Erlang formula stood the test of time and remained the standard – which was perfectly fine when the only means of connecting live with someone was by telephone.
As interpersonal communication has evolved to include new channels such as text, email, chatbots, live chats, and even video calls, the Erlang formula by itself has become outdated in favor of more dynamic and agile calculations that allow for contemporary technologies. While Erlang’s straight-line calculation considers only one dimension – staffing for incoming call center volume – Nelnet’s Contact Center Staffing Calculator is able to incorporate modern technology into its calculations for greater accuracy today.
Erlang Calculator Nelnet’s Contact Center Staffing Calculator Estimate includes: Incoming call center volume Traffic fluctuations for peak and off-peak hours Prospective headcount estimates factoring in customer service core priorities
Over the 40-plus years Nelnet has been providing white-labeled contact center services, we’ve stayed true to our core value of providing superior customer experiences – both for our internal businesses and to our outsourced partners. Part of that commitment has involved diligently protecting privacy, data, and the bottom line through keen financial discipline.
Our continued collaboration between people and technologies has led to the development and use of tools that integrate artificial intelligence to accurately predict and plan for volume. Our tools and processes use a dozen different algorithms to best leverage historical data into accurate future predictions. This has helped ensure we can achieve customer goals while providing clear transparency to financial drivers.
Traditionally, a call center handled all customer service interactions via the phone, using staff to take sales orders, process payments or changes, answer questions, or handle other service and support issues. Over time, additional communication channels such as email, texting, social media, and chat, have gained popularity as ways for customers to interact with organizations and government agencies. The term “contact center” is a modern term that is often used in place of “call center” as a way to encompass the expanded interactions between customers and organizations.
Contact centers are used to provide a variety of services – what we call core service priorities. Agents may take sales orders or customer service calls, or collect payments – or be responsible for several of these actions. Your call center’s goals and priorities can significantly impact staffing needs and costs. Your calculated estimate will tell you how much staff you need, depending on which of these activities your agents are providing.
Sales: A call center activity that engages your customer and provides an outcome directly related to your organization’s bottom line is a priority. When a customer initiates contact and there’s an opportunity to make a sale, you don’t want them waiting too long – you’ll risk having them abandon the call and potentially losing the customer to a competitor. For that reason, sales interactions often require additional resources to ensure agents are available to immediately service a contact. Sales engagements are often rated the highest priority.
Customer Service: Customer service activities usually involve a customer with a pre-existing relationship with your company calling for a specific purpose. Current customers may be more willing to wait a little longer to connect with an agent than new customers. These interactions typically require less idle resource and, as a result, less staff to fulfill the service level obligation.
Pre-Default Activity: Similar to the sales core service priority, pre-default activity hinges on your agents’ ability to connect quickly with a customer and have an immediate impact in terms of collecting payment. These interactions often require having staff standing by to minimize wait time (and abandons) in order to successfully navigate remediation strategies and resolve payment collection issues.
Determining call center efficiency is not easy because almost nothing occurs in a vacuum. The factors impacting service are connected, which means that improving one metric can directly impact efficiencies in other areas. The same can happen with an erosion of service quality.
Here are some factors that can affect your operations, strengthen customer relationships, and protect your bottom line:
- Abandonment rate is the percentage of unanswered incoming calls as a percentage of the total number of incoming calls. This is typically because callers become frustrated or impatient waiting and hang up, which leads to a poor customer experience. A high abandonment rate can be an indication that your call center is understaffed.
- Average handle time is measure of how long it takes an agent to handle a call, from the time it is received until the agent is available for another call or a break. It can include post-call activity, such as updating a file or escalating it to a supervisor to handle.
- First call resolution rate is the percentage of customers who had their issues resolved on the first call. When calls are resolved the first time, everyone is happy. A low first call resolution rate can lead to frustration – and the loss of both customers and employees.
- Occupancy rate is the percentage of time your agents spend with callers. The higher the rate, the greater the odds your agents are operating at maximum efficiency. If it’s too high, you want to be wary of agent burnout. Conversely, if your occupancy rate is low, it could mean your call center is overstaffed relative to the incoming call volume.
- Service level is the percentage of calls answered within a targeted time frame. For example, an 85/15 service means that 85% of incoming calls are answered within 15 seconds. The less time customers are forced to wait, the higher the service level – and this can help strengthen their satisfaction with your company.
Before we delve into the differences between the three options, it’s important that we define them.
- Onshore means contact center operations are hosted exclusively within the U.S.
- Nearshore means operations are located outside the U.S. but in nearby countries, such as Mexico or Jamaica.
- Offshore operations are hosted overseas in countries with vastly different time zones than those in the U.S. (e.g., India or the Philippines).
Onshore Nearshore/Offshore Advantages
- Generally, there are fewer concerns about language or cultural barriers, which typically results in a higher quality customer service experience and outcome.
- Because English is more likely to be the agent’s native language, customers are more likely to believe from the outset they are talking to an employee of the company. Agents are often empowered to make decisions.
- Easier travel for face-to-face meetings.
- Better access and more responsive communication due to being in similar time zones.
- Security is more likely to be compliant with U.S. laws and regulations.
- Best training, quality control, and analytics reporting and transparency.
- Customer expectations are more easily aligned and met.
- Agents are more likely to be equipped and able to securely access systems while working remotely. As technology has evolved in recent years to allow more US workers to work remotely, call center jobs have been returning to the US in what is called “homeshoring” – and reducing the previous cost of onshoring.
- Inexpensive labor is generally readily available for large call center operations.
- Beneficial when proficiency in languages other than English is prioritized (e.g., agents in Spanish-speaking countries).
- U.S. call center operations are generally more expensive than nearshore or offshore. Americans are generally paid higher wages than people in India, the Philippines, Jamaica or other countries where labor is less expensive. However, the lines of communication tend to be more fluid than in nearshore or offshore centers, where customers and agents may struggle to understand each other. Saving money on wages could easily lead to losing revenue.
- Agents who lack familiarity with U.S. culture, customs, and expressions and who may be less fluent in English may present communication challenges, especially for customers who are already upset. Due to the language barriers, agents may need to consult more often with supervisors.
- Concerns by callers about privacy and security, especially when dealing with confidential personally identifiable information – even if the center is compliant with U.S. security laws and regulations (and some centers may not comply).
- Depending on a call center’s location, many agents may not be equipped or able to work or access systems remotely. This drawback became a major customer service breakdown for many U.S. businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Particularly for call centers operating offshore, time zone differences could mean agents working the call center’s graveyard shift are taking calls during peak business hours in the U.S. For example, if a customer in New York calls at noon, it’s midnight in India. This could result in subpar service or paying the most English-proficient agents to work the least desirable but busiest shift.
- Concerns over training, quality control, and transparency into call center operations and customer service analytics.
- Average handle time (AHT) can run longer as agents consult with supervisors for clarity and direction.
There are multiple ways you can increase the efficiency of your contact center operations, including:
- Tracking and monitoring your volume and how your agents handle calls to identify inefficiencies.
- Improving first call resolution.
- Implementing proper call routing, whether it’s an automated prompt system or agents knowing when they need to escalate the call to a supervisor.
- Adopting technologies such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR).
- Properly estimating and scheduling your agents to handle the demand, effectively reducing agents’ idle time.
- Outsourcing to help reduce call center management expenses such as overhead and equipment.
- Knowing your core service priorities so that you can ensure your staff is prepared to satisfy your customers’ needs.
- Properly training agents – this is an investment in success.
Estimating your call center staffing with our calculator is just a start. We can manage your entire customer service operation. Outsourcing your call center operations with Nelnet can positively impact your bottom line by reducing overhead and equipment and software expenses. We also reduce the stress that comes with operating an in-house call center from seasonal fluctuations, training, supervision, and agent hiring and turnover. Our white-label customer service and support deliver outstanding customer interactions and outcomes, leveraging your technologies or ours. We’ll recruit and train staff, oversee quality, maintain compliance, and quickly scale to your needs.
Our technology ranks in the top right quadrant of the Gartner matrix, which provides a graphical comparison of technology providers. As a leader, we’re able to execute on a full vision and are well positioned for tomorrow. We also:
- Leverage Nelnet’s corporate mission “to serve” by partnering with our clients and aligning with our clients’ goals and values.
- Find, hire, and retain associates who embrace their role as our clients’ frontline brand ambassadors.
- Fully integrate our technology, security systems, and compliance oversight into our clients’ to create a safe, seamless, and satisfying customer experience.
- Ensure your customers experience the same personal support your team provides with 100% onshore contact centers.
This holistic service approach to people, process, technology – and leveraging Nelnet’s core values and mission – ensures we’re elevating consumers’ feelings about our clients, building trust, and driving lifetime value through positive and productive personal engagement.
Nelnet’s calculator is designed to provide flexible workforce management. We like to start with estimating contact center staffing, but we know every business is different and don’t believe in cookie cutter solutions.
We invite you to fill out our contact form so that we can develop an even more accurate estimate based on what makes your business or government agency unique. There’s no pressure or obligation, but you might be surprised to learn that outsourcing your call center operations with Nelnet will protect your bottom line without sacrificing your commitment to service; in fact, we’re confident we can enhance it.
Let’s get started developing a custom-built staffing solution for you. Reach out to our team today.
While inbound contact services tend to be reactive and volume is typically based on historical data, outbound contact is proactive and staffing is calculated differently. Successful outbound campaigns use your customers’ preferred channels to reach them with timely messages. More information is needed to accurately estimate your outbound staffing needs. A conversation can help us understand your needs and goals. Interested in learning more about outbound staffing? Explore key variables for outbound contact, components of outbound campaigns, and how Nelnet can help you achieve your goals.
If you need to scale quickly, filling gaps with systems, people, and processes that are proven to deliver positive customer experiences and success for your organization, contact us today. We look forward to offering flexible services to fit your unique needs.
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