Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Call center scheduling spreadsheets - yes or no?

There are free call center scheduling spreadsheets available, but are they really "free"? Yes and no, you don't have to pay for those spreadsheets, but you might pay for sub-optimal call center performance later. Of course, it depends on the size and needs of your call center, so spreadsheets might just work fine for you. But for mid-size and large centers (25 agents and more) with fluctuating call volume and other conditions that impact call patterns, the use of scheduling spreadsheets might "cost" you money in lower services levels and lower productivity. Here are some points to consider when thinking about using scheduling spreadsheets versus workforce management software:
  • Flexible schedule: Spreadsheets are limited to fixed schedules. You might not be able to take take advantage of schedule with flexible start-time, end-time and breaks to boost service levels.
  • Use of call history: Spreadsheets don't support real-time or automated data import of large amounts of data, potentially resulting in lower forecast accuracy.
  • Skill-based routing and scheduling: Very complicated to manage with spreadsheets, therefore, call centers often can't realize productivity advantages of skill-based scheduling.
  • Tracking schedule adherence: Spreadsheets don't support this. Studies have shown that tracking and monitoring agent adherence in real-time has a tremendous impact on call center performance.
  • Exception handling: Manual and complicated with spreadsheets. Automated exception handling of modern WFM solution keeps agents happy and results in higher productivity.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How to schedule full/part time and flex workers in your call center?

As a follow up to our last post about "schedule flexibility", we would like to talk more about how to leverage this new gained flexibility to optimize your schedule.
Let's assume you have agents assigned to full- and part-time shifts and also some flex-workers. Now, you layer these "shift types" and the associated resources to optimize your schedule. The image below illustrates the principle. In our example, for each time slot (8 to 9, 9 to 10...) there is a certain number of agents required (5, 6, 8...). Based on these required number of agents you start layering the various shifts.

The first layer is the full-time shift (yellow bar), then you layer part-time shift agents (gray bar), and finally you add agents with flexible start and end time (green bar) to optimize the time slots that are often most challenging (resulting often in over- or understaffing). With this method, you can minimize over- and understaffing (+/- row) while maintaining an easy to manage shift model.

How to make your call center schedule more flexible?

We often get the question: How to schedule full/part time and flex workers and how to make the call center more flexible? Here are some thoughts and ideas:

1. Ask your agents about their needs and inform them about the call center needs
In larger centers you can use surveys to find out about preferences and personal needs, in smaller centers you can use a less formal method. With this information, you can better match agent needs with the needs of the whole call center.

2. Find ways to create some more flexibility in your center
Based on the center needs you might need to have some more flexibility, especially in the early hours and late hours. There are different ways to accomplish this. Here are a few ideas:
  • Offer a bonus program for being flexible
  • Provide financial incentives (higher hourly rate) to agents for "start-time" flexibility
  • Gradually add new agents that are more flexible
In our next post we will talk about how to effectively build a schedule using full/part-time and flex workers.