Call Center Management Feature Article
June 05, 2009
Effective Call Center Management Requires 'Smart Scheduling' of Agents
By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet
Its one thing to make sure agents are arriving for work on time, taking appropriate breaks and not clocking out early – managers also have to ensure that agent time is being used efficiently while agents are “on the clock.” That means making sure they’re on the phone, serving customers, instead of wasting time with things like taking frequent water or bathroom breaks, chatting with colleagues or talking on their mobile devices.
Getting these “slower” agents to the phones sooner, and keeping track of their performance, is critical to effectively handling volume and delivering good customer service. In fact, this is one of the greatest call center management challenges.
As we discussed last week, comparing ACD logon times with the time clock is an effective way to ensure that agent productivity is being maximized. This is where a workforce management solution can play a critical role.
With a workforce management system integrated with the ACD, call center managers can generate reports showing ACD logon times and compare those directly to the time clock. This way, call center managers can get a more accurate picture of agent productivity and identify “problem agents” whose behavior could be impacting overall call center performance. This is many times more difficult to achieve using spreadsheets or manual systems.
Comparing ACD logon times against the time clock is an excellent way to reduce shrinkage. Related to schedule adherence, this is the amount of time agents spend on the clock, but not on the phones.
A schedule driven by forecast and basic agent requirement will work, but it won’t necessarily boost performance and productivity. When developing a schedule using a workforce management system, call center managers should include the following elements:
Include all agent activities: 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 understaffing 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.
Rank your agents: Creating a schedule by agent rank can be very effective in reducing costs and increasing sales. You can rank agents according to call completion time, call 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 in call centers. Your schedule should leverage this by teaming up the “right people.”
While this might sound difficult and time consuming, it’s important to realize that once you start entering information into the WFM system, and establishing parameters, based on these elements it becomes many times faster and easier to schedule. The real strength of workforce management software is that it schedules agents on an automated basis – based on the business rules and other criteria that you enter.
In this regard, today’s workforce management solutions go far beyond just the simple scheduling of agent time: They can be used to accurately schedule a tailored team of call center agents, based on the forecasted call volume as well as what specific skill sets are needed for each shift, while at the same time delivering the degree of schedule flexibility that you want to permit.
With workforce management software, call center managers can build agent teams which are specifically tailored for each shift, which in turn drives efficiency and higher productivity. That’s why workforce management today is widely regarded as an essential call center management tool.
Monet Software offers cost-effective WFM solutions geared for small and medium-size call centers. Its Monet WFM Live on-demand offering, which is currently available on a trial basis, requires no upfront investment in new equipment or architecture, yet it offers full functionality, including the ability to accurately forecast call volumes and effectively schedule, and manage the performance of, call center agents. Deploy it today and you’ll not only see increased service levels and reduced payroll costs, the ease with which your managers will be able to schedule agents means they can focus their attention on other call center management challenges.
Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard