Schedules Are Just a Part of Scheduling

Time for a quick contact center free association challenge.

I say “call center scheduling.”

You say . . . . “agent work hours”? It’s a trick question, because that answer is correct and incorrect. Or, more precisely, it’s just a part of the right response. Call Center scheduling is a lot more complex and a lot more comprehensive than “just” setting work hours. I thought I’d cast a quick spotlight on some of the ways advanced scheduling systems go far beyond the time clock.

  1. Work Schedules

When it comes to the schedule, a strong WFM system broadens your options. What is simply too difficult to manage through spreadsheets becomes just simple with WFM for both individual and team scheduling. That includes the flexible schedules—including shift swapping—that allow staff to better integrate work with their lifestyle (that’s going to improve agent motivation and retention).

  1. Multiple Skills

Flexible scheduling lets you take skill levels into account in ways you may not have before. As you develop and expand a cross training program (a USAN best practice), you can begin to move your team members into different roles within the same shift, as your analytics or the events of the moment dictate.

  1. Shrinkage

Cross training will help with shrinkage as well. Your schedule can take into consideration those team members that can be shifted from one task to another—or even handle both at the same time. That way you keep one agent working steadily, instead of two agents working intermittently.

  1. Special Events

Scheduling has to include special events. Holidays are the easiest to manage. Less predictable are promotions and other types of offers (which can be selective, unplanned and spontaneous). Beyond that you’ve got the completely unpredictable: illness, bereavement, natural disasters. All can be well managed and quickly handled by your WFM system.

  1. Training

Accurate scheduling includes scheduling training time. This, too, minimizes shrinkage and overstaffing by scheduling both formal and informal training and coaching programs during periods of historically low call volume.

  1. Forecasting

Comprehensive schedule analytics are the basis for accurate forecasting (which in turn is the basis for best-practice scheduling). Here, it’s important that you run intraday analyses of your staff to ensure that agents are neither overused nor underused at every half hour window. (You can read more about forecasting here.)

  1. Tracking and Alerts

WFM opens the door for highly accurate tracking, reporting and monitoring capabilities. That definitely helps with forecasting, but it’s also a critical part of problem resolution when events trump forecasts. With advanced alerts, you’re aware of problems as they’re developing—which means you can stop them before they become a crisis.

This really only scratches the surface of what a strong WFM system can do for you. With luck, it opens the door to a broader understanding of how Workforce Management systems can drive value to your center.