Agent to Supervisor Ratio | IT Service Desk Metrics
The Agent to Supervisor Ratio is simply the number of front-line agents divided by the number of supervisors for a service desk. It is a measure of management span of control, and managerial efficiency. The comparable metric for desktop support is the number of technicians divided by the number of supervisors in desktop support. In this article we will use service desk examples and benchmarking data, but the principles discussed apply equally to the ratio of technicians to supervisors in desktop support.
Why it’s Important
Service desk managers and supervisors frequently ask me about the proper ratio of agents to supervisors. Should it be 5 to 1? 10 to 1? 20 to 1? Like most KPIs there are tradeoffs involved with this metric. If the ratio is too high the management span of control is too broad, and agents can be working without the proper level of oversight and supervision. This, in turn, can lead to a multitude of issues ranging from low morale, to inadequate training, coaching, and feedback. By contrast, a ratio that is too low is an indication that a service desk is “top heavy”; it has too many supervisors for the number of agents. This, in turn, leads to higher costs, and specifically higher cost per contact.
There are at least three techniques that are commonly used to determine the proper ratio of agents to supervisors. The first technique is a bottom-up modeling approach that catalogs all of the duties and responsibilities of a supervisor, and then assigns a time value to each responsibility. A typical supervisor, for example, might be responsible for team meetings, agent coaching, handling overflow and/or problematic calls, team meetings, working with vendors, managing or participating in projects such as ITIL training, and numerous other duties. The time commitment required for these activities can be estimated and then summed up to determine the monthly supervisory workload for the desk.
Let’s say, for example, that a particular service desk has 65 agents and an estimated supervisory workload of 1,200 hours per month. Since there are approximately 172 working hours in a month, we can estimate the supervisory headcount to be about seven (1,200 supervisory hours per month ÷ 172 work hours per month = 7 supervisors). The agent to supervisor ratio for this desk would therefore be 9.3 (65 agents ÷ 7 supervisors = 9.3 Agents per Supervisor).