Contact center managers are under a lot of pressure to deliver better results with less resources. Staff want more flexibility, with 35% of employees citing a flexible work environment as important. Diminishing corporate budgets are forcing organizations to think of more creative ways to pay for staff. These include pay-as-you-go arrangements in the form of zero-hour contracts, reduced and annualized working hours and time off without pay.
These budgetary concerns are also causing some businesses to find methods for reducing spending on expensive office space and IT overhead, such as moving to virtual teams or introducing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs.
All these factors have a massive direct impact on contact center operations, especially agent scheduling. From fixed, split and micro-shifts to the rise of “reserve working” – the scheduling technique that keeps up to 25% of the team on fluid shifts – bringing a team of full-time, part-time, contract and virtual agents together is a major challenge.
How then can organizations achieve all-around contact center flexibility and cost savings in a way that satisfies staff, customers and the business?
7 steps to smarter scheduling
Contact center leaders should first establish the payment structures and types of shifts that will motivate agents to meet targets while lowering attrition rates and minimizing recruitment costs. After that, it comes down to leveraging the top seven capabilities and benefits of today’s automated workforce management technology:
1. All-in-one, easy to use package – The biggest barrier to embracing new technology is ease of use, or rather the lack of it. Fortunately, today’s fully automated solutions make light work of managing staff effectively, forecasting demand, creating schedules, developing accurate and insightful reports and improving overall customer satisfaction.
For example, when it comes to reserve working, there’s no need to re-design entire shifts every week. The flexibility of modern workforce optimization systems means you can schedule, in advance, the right number of reserve staff to match call demand and factor in sickness and training accurately.
And transparency is an added bonus. At a glance, agents can ensure everyone is taking turns covering the most unpopular shifts. Then, managers can add in an extra column to group people with the same start and finish times to help organize and communicate car-sharing opportunities in a timely manner.
2. Easy access, anytime, anywhere – Agents can log in from home or on the go to check their schedules, see who they are working with and let their manager know when they are available. Managers and resource teams are able to build efficient schedules at any time and from anywhere for complete control of their contact center operations.
3. Intelligent resourcing – Using historical data, resource teams have the power to predict at the click of a button how many agents they will need, the skills they require and who the right people are to fill those roles. They can even support a number of different shift patterns, including short shifts or split shifts, rather than employ a set number of people at set times of the day.
4. Flexible planning on the go – Key features provide much-needed flexibility. Real-time adherence monitors agent adherence to schedules. Automated alarms flag when schedules are in danger of being breached, and a real-time data feed – updated in seconds – enables fast decision-making.
Crucially, intra-day scheduling allows small changes during the day while considering unplanned agent absences and changes in customer demand. For example, managers can flexibly change break times and lunches or move people between skill groups, front office and back office work. The changes are often only by a few minutes, but those small changes can make the difference between meeting service levels during peak times and losing valuable calls.
5. Fit for the future – The latest forecasting technology helps to right-size your contact center for the future. Running a series of “what if?” scenarios can predict staffing needs for regular seasonal fluctuations, upcoming marketing campaigns and even the organization’s long-term business plan.
6. Self-service – Self-service capabilities empower agents to trade shifts, voice their preferences for overtime shifts and request time off, increasing contact center flexibility and agent satisfaction. Plus, setting up auto-approvals means staff don’t have to wait until the next day for an answer if management is not available.
7. Time and cost efficiencies – The automation provided by workforce optimization technology combines strategic planning with instant fine-tuning throughout the day to create a highly flexible contact center framework that keeps agents motivated, customers satisfied and CEOs happy.
Your countdown to flexible, smarter scheduling starts here. What are you waiting for?