HCBE Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

Department

H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship

Advisor

Mike Bendixen

Committee Member

Cynthia Ruppel

Committee Member

Yuliya Yurova

Abstract

Thousands of call centers operate in the United States employing millions of people. Since personnel costs represent as much as 80% of the total operating expense of these centers, it is important for call center managers to determine an appropriate staffing level required to maintain the desired operating performance. Historically, queueing models serve an important role in this regard. The one most commonly used is the Erlang-C model.

The Erlang-C model has several assumptions, however, which are required for the predicted performance measures to be valid. One assumption that has received significant attention from researchers is that callers have infinite patience and will not terminate a call until the service is complete regardless of the wait time. Since this assumption is not likely to occur in reality, researchers have suggested using Erlang-A instead.

Erlang-A does consider caller patience and allows for calls to be abandoned prior to receiving service. However, the use of Erlang-A still requires an assumption that is very unlikely to occur in practice - the assumption that all agents provide service at the same rate. Discrete event simulation is used to examine the effects of agent heterogeneity on the operating performance of a call center compared to the theoretical performance measures obtained from Erlang-A.

Based on the simulation results, it is concluded that variability in agent service rate does not materially affect call center performance except to the extent that the variability changes the average handle time of the call center weighted by the number of calls handled and not weighted by agent. This is true regardless of call center size, the degree of agent heterogeneity, and the distribution shape of agent variability.

The implication for researchers is that it is unnecessary to search for an analytic solution to relax the Erlang-A assumption that agents provide service at the same rate. Several implications for managers are discussed including the reliability of using Erlang-A to determine staffing levels, the importance of considering the service rates of the agents rather than the average handle time, and the unintended consequence of call routing schemes which route calls to faster rather than slower agents.

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