Step 3: Determine your staffing requirements Follow

In the previous section, we discussed the user experience factors that can impact chat volume. While you are designing your chat experience, you’ll also want to consider how many chat agents are needed for your support team.

Calculating the Number of Agents

Each organization has its own set of support requirements and will consequently have different staffing needs. To make things easier, we’ve outlined some of the issues you must consider when determining the number of agents required by your support team.

How many website visitors do you expect during the period that chat is available?

[Number of website visitors]

Will chat be reactive or proactive?

[Chat type]

How many hours in the day will chat be available on your website?

[Chat availability period]

How long would you like agents to spend on a single chat (in mins)?

[Average chat duration]

How many chats will an agent serve simultaneously?

[Concurrent chats]

Answering the questions above, you can determine how many agents your website needs. Let’s take a look at how to apply this criteria for a sample company, Omni Wear, for instance:

  • Number of website visitors: 10,000
  • Chat type: Reactive
  • Chat availability period: 8 hours
  • Average chat duration: 12 mins
  • Concurrent chats: 4

Based on this, we can estimate that:

  • Omni Wear will get 1,000 chats a day (10% of website visitors, which is a conservative estimate for reactive chat)
  • They will have 125 chats per hour (1000 chats per day divided by the 8 hour chat availability period)
  • So Omni Wear will need 6.25 agents (25 agents can solve 125 chats per hour at 12 minutes a chat. 6.25 agents can solve that number if they serve 4 chats at a time)

Keep in mind that the above formula is merely a guide and ignores things like breaks for your agents, multiple shifts, and vastly different customer requirements.

To determine how many agents your website needs, input your own answers into our staffing calculator.

Once you’ve settled on your staffing needs, keep monitoring your wait times and CSAT to ensure it’s the optimal number. There’s a tendency for live chat CSAT to fall as the number of chats per agent rises and wait times increase.

Building an advanced  staffing model

Our staffing calculator and formula above will help you approximate how many agents are required, but the final number depends on your organization and business objectives. Here are some other considerations to keep in mind when deciding on the number of agents:

What is your chat goal?
If your goal is to reduce your overall support costs you would naturally want fewer agents. Alternatively, if your goal is to increase CSAT, having a lower agent-to-customer ratio is advisable.

How complex is your product and the expected queries?
Complex products will require more support for the customer. Agents might need to spend more time with customers, thus driving up the average chat duration. To ensure customers don’t have to wait too long to be served, you should consider adding more agents. 

When do you get the most chats?
To get a better idea of the number of chat agents needed during the peak and low volume periods, break down traffic by hour for the busiest day, and estimate the number of chats that will come in across the day. Divide this based on the number of chats that each agent in these shifts can handle.

How experienced are your agents?
An agent without prior chat experience can take only 1-2 active chats simultaneously, while an experienced agent can easily take 4-6 chats. If all your agents are new to chat you may need to lower the number of simultaneous chats they are expected to take. This can impact your staffing considerations.

How long does it take to resolve tickets?
If the majority of your tickets can be solved in one touch – within 15 minutes via email– these tickets could be easily resolved on chat in a shorter period of time. Assuming you have 10 agents clearing Tier 1 tickets via email, you can clear these queries with fewer than 10 dedicated chat agents.

Are the agents going to be supporting more than one channel?
If agents are switching between supporting chat and other channels, they might not be able to handle as many chats as a dedicated agent. 

Will you be using chat routing?

When chat routing is enabled, all incoming chat requests automatically get routed to an agent. This ensures that all agents get the same number of chats. With this feature enabled, it's much easier to estimate how many chats each agent will serve.

Next: Step 4: Train your agents

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