Showing posts with label call center staffing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label call center staffing. Show all posts

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Six Steps to Improved Call Center Staffing

Of all the factors involved in operating a successful, cost-efficient call center, staffing may be the most significant. Out of every dollar spent in call center costs, about 75 cents is related to labor. That makes these decisions pivotal to the operation of the business.

While different call centers have different priorities and different functions, the challenge of staffing remains relatively consistent regardless of size or specialty. These six steps can help a call center manager successfully traverse the staffing minefield.

1. Gather and Analyze Data


The most accurate and reliable guide to staffing, as anyone who studies workforce management can tell you, is to look back at past performance and call center history. Review the reports generated by the automatic call distributor for data on average handle time, number of incoming calls and other key performance indicators.

To create a staffing schedule for, say, the first week of April, the obvious place to start is with the data for the first week of April of the previous year, and the year before if that information is available. The more historical data used, the better the chance of an accurate forecast. Variations should also be considered – where does Easter fall this year? Will that impact call volume? Will more students be on spring break?

When consulting previous weeks/months/years of information, the two numbers that will most strongly impact forecasts are call volume and average handle time, either calculated per hour or per half-hour.

2. Crunch the Numbers for a Workload Calculation


There are three methods typically employed by call centers to translate historical data into a staffing forecast:

Point Estimate 
With this system the call center relies on a basic apples-to-apples comparison of a future point in time with that same point in the past. For example, forecasting next June 15 based on traffic numbers from June 15 of last year. While this is a good starting point, it will not be precise as it does not account for more recent calling trends or new products or promotions.

Averaging
With this method a manager would average relevant past numbers to predict call volume, preferably while relying more heavily on recent data (by creating a formula that uses these numbers more prominently). However, this may still not take into account some changes or events that would have figured into older data.

Time Series Analysis
With time series analysis, historical data is calculated alongside monthly or seasonal changes, as well as more recent events and other variables. It is a more comprehensive approach that typically results in better forecasts.

3. Staffing Calculations


Steps #1 and #2 are used to create the forecast. Now it’s time to formulate a schedule. The call volume forecast numbers are factored into workload predictions, workload being the number derived from multiplying the amount of forecasted calls and the average call handle time.

Most managers will add additional staff to whatever number of agents is deemed appropriate, both to compensate for unexpected absences and to maintain customer service levels should call volume be higher than anticipated. The unproductive hours designated as “shrinkage” – breaks, training time, tardiness, meetings – must also be considered. At most call centers, shrinkage rates fall somewhere between 20% and 35%, depending on the size of the business. In general, larger call centers can absorb these variables more easily because of a more favorable staff-to-workload ratio.

Another factor is how busy each agent will be during a shift, referred to as agent occupancy. The goal is to achieve an optimum balance between not sitting around for extended periods of time between calls, and not having a long queue of calls waiting that might result in rushing a customer call, to the detriment of that engagement. As a percentage, 85-90% is considered an acceptable occupancy range.

4. Create Assignments


Creating a staff schedule is all about getting the right number of the right people in position to handle the customer service needs of the call center. Once the calculations from the previous step have been completed, the manager should know how many agents would be needed for the shift in question.

As some call centers operate with full-time agents and others use part-time and telecommuting employees, this is when shift lengths and resources must be defined, days off specified and personnel scheduled. Depending on the size of the call center, there may be dozens, if not hundreds, of scheduling possibilities. If skill-based routing is also a priority, this will also affect staffing decisions. Once personnel have been selected, the manager also has the option of staggering start times by 15 or 30 minutes, which can reduce instances of too many agents taking lunch breaks or other diversions at the same time during a shift.

5. Management and Adjustment


There is no way to know if a plan is going to work until it is executed. Even with the preparations and calculations already described, staff schedules will likely still have to be adjusted every day. This ongoing management of staff and schedule is referred to as performance tracking.

The main components of performance tracking are call volume, AHT and staffing levels. Deviations from forecasting predictions may require staffing adjustments, assuming enough flexibility has been built into the schedule to make the necessary changes. If not, call center service goals may be in jeopardy. Tracking the number of a calls in queue may also require some “instant forecasting” to adjust the remainder of the shift accordingly. However, over-reaction should also be avoided, lest a random surge be mistaken for a full-day trend.

6. Review, Analyze, and Adjust


The end of a shift is the beginning of preparation for the next one. The challenge of staffing is ongoing, but each day’s results deliver data to analyze that may result in ways to improve performance, both for each individual agent and the entire team.

Conclusion
Many of the most persistent challenges of staffing can be mitigated when call center managers know what to look for, when they have the information they need, when they need it, and when they can act upon it quickly.

No one every said predicting the future was easy. But an effective, automated workforce management solution can make the necessary calculations, remove much of the guesswork and improve the accuracy of schedules and forecasts. Through real-time measurement of call center metrics, agents and managers gain the data visibility necessary to deliver the service that customers expect, and can react more quickly to issues and resolve them before they impact operations.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Workforce Scheduling Made Easier

It takes both art and science to staff a call center. Next to hiring the right personnel, scheduling plays the key role in maximizing resources and making sure calls are handled in a courteous and efficient manner.

This is important stuff that deserves your attention, but it can’t occupy too much of your time that could also be devoted to improving service levels and achieving the company’s operational and fiscal goals. It must be done, but it needs to be done quickly.

Workforce Management: Say Goodbye to Spreadsheets
The best way to make scheduling easier is to switch from a spreadsheet-based system to once that uses workforce management software. Now you’ll have the flexibility to better (and automatically) manage start times, end times and break times.

Flexibility is also an important element of agent satisfaction – when you can staff a roster with the agents you need, and balance those needs with agents working their preferred shifts and hours, you’ll have happier agents (which always results in happier customers) and lower employee turnover.

What you don’t want, however, are agents at your office door all day with questions about which shifts are available, if they can change their Monday schedule to Wednesday, etc. An automated solution delivered through a Web portal will allow agents to bid on shifts, swap or cancel without taking up a manager’s time. The system will have parameters in place, set by the call center, that will approve or reject such requests automatically.

Of course, the wealth of information provided by WFM isn’t much good if it is not presented in a way that is clear, concise, and accessible to changes as needed. Choose a WFM system that allows for real-time changes to be easily implemented, that shows summaries of all agent statuses, including exceptions. If you can’t find the data you need quickly, look for another system.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

7 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Call Center Agent

Call centers have a high rate of agent turnover, so there is a frequent need to hire new agents. By screening candidates carefully, manager stand a better chance of finding suitable new employees that will stay in their positions longer, thus reducing the turnover rate.

The job interview is the best means to assess the candidate’s skills, experience and personality. Besides the obvious questions meant to gauge these qualities in an applicant, here are seven additional questions that should be part of the interview process.

1.  What software applications are you familiar with?


Different contact centers use different systems for customer relationship management (CRM), quality assurance, call recording and workforce management. If the applicant is already familiar with the systems in place at your call center, that should expedite their acclimation into their new position.

2. Would you characterize yourself as a team player? If so, how?


Call centers work better with teams of agents that get along, and work together when issues pop up regarding scheduling, shift swapping and changes in procedures. Agents should be willing to help each other.

3. What was your most difficult customer encounter at your previous job?


This question assesses the applicant’s skill level, and the manner in which he or she was able to (hopefully) resolve a difficult customer’s issue.

4. Which areas of your job are you best at, and in which areas are you still striving to get better?


An applicant might be hesitant to respond to this, out of concern over acknowledging a limitation in certain specialties. But the ability to self-assess is important for a call center agent, as they will be called upon to review their calls through call recording software and identify the strengths and weaknesses of their performance. Someone who is already aware of these is ahead of the curve.

5. Describe a situation where you had to think quickly to solve a unique or unexpected customer issue.


While it’s important that agents “stick to the script” and follow company guidelines, there will be times when this is not enough. An agent should be able to think outside the box when necessary, and address a customer’s needs in a way that does not violate call center policy.

6. What do you enjoy about working in a call center?


If an agent cannot answer this question, he or she may not be the best hire. Employees who find personal fulfillment in their work always perform at a higher level.

7. Why did you leave your last position?


Sometimes agents are released through no fault of their own – perhaps the call center had to downsize, or moved to a new location. But if the agent was fired because of a personality conflict or job performance, this will require additional explanation to avoid a similar situation in the future.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Creating a Call Center Staffing Roster

Call center staffing roster - Monet Software
Graphical Roster: Required - Scheduled - Assigned
Creating a roster is the last of three staffing decisions that impact workforce optimization.

It’s a process that begins with the forecast, an estimate of the number of calls that will be received, and the number of agents necessary to handle these calls in an efficient manner. Staffing follows the forecast, as management decides how many agents are needed for a given day or shift, and which skill sets should be represented in that shift. Scheduling is the process of matching shift profiles with forecasts to achieve service goals.

Once this data has been obtained it is time to focus on the roster, which matches employee availability to existing schedules or forecast data.  Rosters will be determined by input data measuring:
  • workload
  • work handling units (skill teams)
  • arrival patterns
  • allowable shifts (shift profiles), and 
  • employee availability.
Find a workforce management software solution that includes rostering capabilities and templates. This will expedite data entry, analysis, roster creation, roster distribution and last-minute updates. Rosters should not only track available agents, but those who are unavailable due to vacations or other factors. To learn more about this, please watch this short video about call center staffing roster creation and updating.

Another important consideration is managing resources as they relate to non-call activities, such as emails. A non-call roster can help with scheduling available agents with the right skills at non-peak hours to handle these important tasks.

Finally, rosters, like schedules, are not set in stone. Unexpected changes necessitate swapping agents, and increasing or decreasing the size of a shift based on outside circumstances. Workforce management software should allow for unlimited roster changes, so managers always have the flexibility they need to correctly allocate resources.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Call center staffing models and scheduling tips

Besides the key staffing and scheduling question about how many agent you need at any given time, you also need to think about what agent skills and expertise you need at specific times and types of calls. Here are a few things to consider when planning your call center staffing and schedule:

Ranking of agents
  • Creating a schedule by agent rank can be very effective in reducing costs and increasing sales.
  • Rank according to call completion time, calls per hour, call quality, customer satisfaction or other performance measures.
Match personality and team
  • Studies have shown that a good relationship with colleagues drives motivation and performance.
  • Your schedule should leverage this by teaming up the “right" people.
Multi-skilled agents and routing
  • The productivity gain from giving each agent two skills could easily be 10-15%. 
  • The importance of multi-skilled agents is that they form overlapping groups. For example, having one group that can handle calls type A and B while another group takes calls type C and D, can be substantially improved by adding a group that is able to handle calls type B and C (or one of the other three combinations). 
For more information about this topic, please download the "Seven Tips for more Effective Call Center Scheduling" whitepaper.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

5 Strategies to improve call center schedule adherence

Strategies for improving Schedule adherence
Download whitepaper

One of the biggest challenges of running a call center is making sure that employees adhere to their schedules. Applying a strategic approach to improving adherence is crucial for contact centers struggling with rising costs, low service levels, and low customer satisfaction. This whitepaper summarizes five strategies to help boost agent adherence in your call center.
  1. How to quantify the cost and service implications of missing staff
  2. Learn about options for setting adherence performance goals
  3. How to identify the reasons why staff don't adhere to the schedule plan
  4. How to develop reward and consequence programs that support adherence goals
  5. How to effectively track, monitor and measure adherence
The whitepaper also explains how Workforce Management software helps call centers implement those adherence strategies more effectively. If you want to learn more about real-time schedule adherence, please visit also our main website.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What is schedule adherence and why is it important in the call center?

Schedule adherence is the degree to which agents stick to their schedules, measured as a percentage. Considering that staffing is the single biggest cost facing any call center – and that every minute counts when it comes to meeting customer service levels – it’s easy to see why call center managers are putting an increasing emphasis on improving it and are looking to their workforce management software for solutions.
 
If you run a small call center with 5 to 20 agents, you might think schedule adherence isn’t all that important. But if you take a closer look at all the different junctures throughout the day where agent time is “lost,” you’ll realize that it can add up to a serious loss of revenue over the course of a year.
Call center workforce management schedule adherence strategy whitepaper
Download whitepaper

Schedule adherence is particularly important for ensuring smooth transitions between shifts. Call center schedules tend to be very complex – which means there can be a lot of junctures during a shift where an agent will go out of adherence. For example, an agent might show up for his shift five minutes late; log on to the ACD seven minutes late; show up for a training session eight minutes late; and go over their break time by 10 minutes - resulting in the agent being a total of 30 minutes out of adherence for that one shift. Multiply these “out of adherence” events across a center with dozens if not hundreds of agents - and then multiply that by the total number of shifts - and its easy to see how schedule adherence can quickly become a serious problem.

Keeping track of schedule adherence using manual systems such as spreadsheets can be incredibly time-consuming and challenging. This is where today’s web-based call center scheduling solutions are playing an increasingly crucial role. They track schedule adherence in real-time and and automatically send you alerts.

When implementing a new program for improving schedule adherence in your call center - perhaps through the deployment of a workforce management system - it’s a good idea to discuss those changes with your employees first. The one thing you don’t want is a negative backlash from your valued employees, who might not be all that thrilled to be working under the watchful eye of “Big Brother.”

In order to reduce any negative backlash from your agents when implementing a new program to improve schedule adherence, you must first “inform and educate.” Agents need to understand the relevance of schedule adherence, how a mere 10 minutes here and there impacts other agents and the entire call center performance.

Then you should “measure and manage:” Measure and track adherence using workforce management tools and solutions, tracking adherence in real-time and running reports. Share these adherence reports with your agents and discuss how they are doing. It is important to give regular feedback regarding adherence statistics.

Finally, you can provide “incentives.” Reward agents that adhere to their schedule (95 percent within adherence scores) through recognition within the team and tie bonuses to good scores. It is also critical that all agents are aware of the consequences for out-of-adherence behavior, as this establishes their responsibility towards the success of the call center.

For more information, please read our 5 Strategies for improved Schedule Adherence whitepaper.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Call Center Scheduling Tips - Part 2

This is part 2 of our list of call center scheduling tips (here is part 1 in case you missed it):

5. Compare ACD logon time to time-clock entries


Make sure agents are logged in and ready for calls coordinating with the clock time.
Consider using the ACD agent log-in and log-out times for payroll – dependent on the culture and procedures you have established


6. Include all activities in schedule

When developing your forecast and schedule make sure to include
  • Breaks and lunches
  • Multiple tasks (calls, email, etc.)
  • Training
  • Time-off
  • Realistic buffer for shrinkage

7. Rank agents and match teams by personality

Rank your agents
  • Creating a schedule by agent rank can be very effective in reducing costs and increasing sales
  • Rank according to call completion time, calls per hour or other performance measures including sales and order size
Match personality and team
  • Studies have shown that a good relationship with colleagues drives motivation and performance
  • Your schedule should leverage this by teaming up the “right people
For more information about call center scheduling, please also see our new and updated corporate website.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How to improve call center forecasting with simulation tools

One of the most critical steps in the workforce management process is forecasting. Based on the work history you need to forecast call volume and agent requirements for desired time frames in the future - a forecast for future call volume, average handling time, and agent requirements for each 15-minute period of the day based on service level objectives.

How can you use forecasting simulation to improve forecast accuracy? A simulator forecasting engine analyzes all call types and routing policies when creating forecasts. This lets you accurately forecast staffing levels to manage all call types within your center, and build scenarios for budgeting and planning purposes. You can even use simulators to produce center budgets by running a costing of all forecasted agent shifts and agent schedules. Here are some tips on how you can benefit from using forecasting simulation:
  • You can quickly generate automatic forecasts for multiple sites, complex routing strategies, and multi-skilled agents.
  • You can accurately forecast staffing levels to manage all call types, as well as build scenarios for planning and budgeting purposes.
  • You get regular intra-day forecast updates, automatically calculating a new forecast based on what has already occurred to establish trends that will aid in proactive decision making.
  • It helps you evaluate and plan current and future workforce requirements.
  • You can develop "what if" scenarios to explore how a change in call volume or service level goals during a specific day or week would affect your center.
  • You are able to simulate routing rules, agent skill assignments, and schedules by date range and see the impact on staffing and scheduling.
For more information about this topic, please watch the call center forecasting video.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Call center shrinkage - why does it get more difficult to manage?

The increasing complexity of call center configurations with multiple locations, many time zones, more demanding customer interactions, and new communication channels make it more difficult to manage shrinkage. You cannot any longer manage the shrinkage in today’s complex centers just by standing up and looking out across your center or using a manual/spreadsheet based approach. Here are some of the challenges centers need to overcome:
  • Distributed call centers and home agents make it more difficult to manage and track breaks, attendance, exceptions, etc.
  • Multiple communication channels (phone, email, chat, social media, etc.) make it more difficult to manage shrinkage without appropriate tools to forecast, schedule and track adherence for each channel.
  • Some call centers have no effective way to forecast and schedule non-call activities such as breaks, meetings, unplanned discussions – resulting in shrinkage.
Therefore, shrinkage becomes more of an issue for call centers that don’t leverage WFM solutions. Usually, they don’t have the necessary visibility into what happens at any moment in time and what is supposed to happen based on the published schedule. Learn more about how to reduce shrinkage by watching the on demand webinar "Strategies for improved call center schedule adherence". In this educational webinar, industry expert Penny Reynolds from the The Call Center School, shares proven practices on schedule adherence that have resulted in increased availability and reduced shrinkage.

Monday, February 21, 2011

How to make a call center schedule work for your staff

An optimized call center schedule becomes even better when your team is satisfied or even really happy with their assigned shifts. Of course, that is not an easy task, but here are some tips that might be of help for call center managers and supervisors:
  • Shift bidding: This can be done in different ways. You can either open up for bidding every 6 months, or you can facilitate bidding on a more regular basis and make it part of the scheduling process. This frequent bidding becomes easier when you use a web-based tool that allows agents and supervisor to collaborate on shift bidding and trading.
  • Shift trading: This can be done even without lots of administrative work. Agents can trade their shifts on a day-by-day basis, assuming it only happens a few times per month for each agent. Otherwise, it might get difficult to keep track of who is scheduled.
  • Flexible start- and end-times: Allow agents to come in later (an hour or two) or to work longer hours on certain days (based on the needs of the call center and based on their personal needs). However, this needs to get administered properly to make sure hours don't "get lost". In addition, as posted to this blog, there are other ways to provide more flexibility.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Motivation of call center agents, employees and workforce

Employee motivation is the most important and probably most challenging management task in a call center - and it has the biggest impact on the overall call center performance and success. There are no simple recipes or easy answers for this. Dependent on your industry, the size of your center, the culture of your company and the people in your company, you need to develop your own plan of action. Here are a few things to consider:
  • Practice clear communication: What do you expect from agents, how is performance measured, etc.
  • Include agents into problem solving: Share reports and metrics with employees and discuss issues/improvements
  • Recognition of employees: Publicly and individually recognize employees as a valued member of the organization
  • Make employees more knowledgeable: Develop your employees' skills through training and coaching
  • Build confidence: Provide necessary training and coaching, give feedback that helps them grow
  • Teams: Create teams that work "well" together
  • Good infrastructure: Make sure that office, chairs, headsets, and other infrastructure etc. are functional and provide a positive experience
  • Flexible schedules: Start- and end-time flexibility can be a win-win for the employees and the call center performance
  • Good resource planning: Accurate forecasting and scheduling helps reduce stress
  • Lead by example: Actions instead of words and mission statements
But how do you find out what's important for your call center? Just listen do your agents, ask specific questions, and listen again.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tips for improved contact center agent scheduling

We have published several tips for more effective call center scheduling on this blog over the last year. We have summarized those tips in a short Call center scheduling whitepaper. If you didn't have the chance to download it, please do. You will learn about:
  • Shrinkage
  • Flexible shift-models
  • Schedule adherence
  • Multi-skilled agents
  • Activities to include into schedule
  • and more

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The importance of accurate call center forecasting

Accurate forecasting is critical to successfully managing your workforce. In order to meet call demand without under-staffing or over-staffing, you need methods that precisely predicts how many agents are needed to handle the center's contact volume. However, predicting the “future” is challenging. Based on a DMG report in 2010, survey participants listed the following five forecasting challenges:
  • Need to forecast for multiple skill sets
  • Changing business needs negate usefulness of historical volume data
  • Volume driven by external events, not controlled by company
  • Volume is seasonal varies greatly
  • Volume patterns change frequently, making projections difficult
Here are some tips and best practices that might help you:

Develop "what if" scenarios to explore how a change in call volume or service level goals during a specific day or week would affect your center. Read more about “How to forecast special days

Create regular intra-day forecast updates throughout the day, and calculate a new forecast based on what has already occurred to establish trends that will help you in future decisions. Read more about “Intra-day forecasting

Forecast and schedule based on response time and "urgency” of the various channels, such as calls, emails and chat. Read more about “Forecasting for multiple channels

Friday, January 21, 2011

What is real-time schedule adherence, and why is it important?

What is real-time adherence?
Real-time agent adherence compares planned agent activity to actual activities throughout the day, as well as real-time views of forecasted and actual call volumes, handle times and other key performance indicators. Managers and supervisors can compare agents' actual activities against their schedules, review a breakdown of adherence by activity, and manage exceptions. The also see when agents are available for calls and when they take their lunches and breaks based on predetermined schedules.

Why is real-time adherence important?
A key component to managing adherence is shrinkage, which is the time for which agents are paid during times when they are not available to handle calls. Shrinkage can dramatically affect your center's ability to meet service levels. Real-time adherence provides you the capabilities and tools to manage and reduce shrinkage.
  • Monitor agent status in real-time
  • Receive instant alerts for out-of-adherence states
  • View agent exceptions in real-time and approve or deny right away
  • Monitor and analyze key performance indicators and trends to reforecast, reschedule, and adjust staffing
  • Track and compare forecasted and actual center statistics
  • Schedule overtime or time off during high and low call volume situations
  • Evaluate adherence and take action to improve performance
To learn more about this topic, please read this whitepaper "Strategies for Improving Schedule Adherence".

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Call Center Scheduling Tip #5: Include all activities into the schedule

A schedule driven by forecast and basic agent requirements might work, but won’t boost performance and productivity. When trying to determine agent requirements to meet a desired service level, if not all agent activities are being factored in, it will lead to under-staffing and lower service levels including abandoned calls. When developing your forecast and schedule make sure to include breaks, multiple skills of agents, training, time-off and a realistic buffer for shrinkage.

It might help if you categorize all activities based on your unique situation. Here is an example:

1. Work related to incoming “call” load
  • Call time and after work related to calls
  • Outbound if triggered by inbound calls
  • Chat (if important to your business)
2. Other activities that are related to calls
  • Breaks, lunch
  • Training
  • Absenteeism
3. Measurable activities, not part of core staffing
  • Meetings
  • Admin or research work
  • Correspondence
  • Emails
  • Outbound calls
4. Unproductive time
  • Smoking, etc.
  • Getting supplies
  • Other

Monday, November 29, 2010

Call Center Scheduling Tip #4: Cross-training & multi-skilled agents

And here is our call center scheduling tip #4: If you have agents trained to handle multiple skills and you use skill-based routing, you can reduce the number of agents needed to handle your call volume. The productivity gain from giving each agent two skills could easily be 10-15%. The importance of multi-skilled agents is that they form overlapping groups. For example, having one group that can handle calls type A and B while another group takes calls type C and D, can be substantially improved by adding a group that is able to handle calls type B and C (or one of the other three combinations). This model provides a lot of flexibility that is especially useful in times of fewer resources and changing call volumes and patterns.

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.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How to schedule call and non-call activities

In a recent survey by a research firm, over half of the respondents said that scheduling of call and non-call activities is their biggest challenge. Here is some advice on how to overcome this challenge. First, you need to categorize all activities based on the impact on your service level, and then in a second step, you need to build a schedule based on these categories. Let's get started with the categories.

Priority 1 activities - all activities that directly impact service levels need to get scheduled first:
  • Work related to incoming “call” load such as calls and after work related to calls, outbound if triggered by inbound calls and chat (if important to your business)
  • Other activities that can be directly related to inbound calls such as breaks, lunch, training, absenteeism, etc.
Flexible activities: The following activities are more flexible in nature and are not directly impacting your service level. They can be scheduled based on agent availability (“pockets of time”):
  • Measurable activities, not part of core staffing such as meetings, admin or research work, correspondence, email, outbound calls, etc.
“Unproductive” activities: These are all activities that a not related to productive work. They get added to the schedule as a buffer at a certain percentage.
  • Unproductive time such as smoking, bathroom, getting supplies, etc.
In our next blog post we will illustrate in more detail how we will build a schedule based on those categories – stay tuned.