Call Center Management Feature Article
June 08, 2009
Schedule Flexibility: The Key to Happier Call Center Agents
By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet
Want to keep your call center agents happy? Then give them flexibility!
Research shows there is a strong correlation between agent satisfaction and customer service: When your agents are happy in their jobs, they are more enthusiastic, and that is reflected in the quality of the service they provide.
At the same time, labor is the single biggest cost facing any call center, so call center managers are under intense pressure to manage agent time effectively. Increasingly, companies are investing in call center scheduling software, also known as workforce management systems, to help call center managers more efficiently manage agent time and reduce operational costs.
The challenge, though, is that sometimes there can be resistance to these call center scheduling systems – at least initially. Some agents might say it’s “too big brother” – they might feel this software goes “way beyond the time clock” and becomes a form of “micromanagement” of their daily shift. And, depending on how it is presented to them, they may come to resent it.
One way to address this issue is to emphasize the advantages the call center scheduling system will bring.
One major advantage is schedule flexibility. With most of today’s call center scheduling systems, agents can easily add or cancel shifts, just by accessing the schedule through a Web-based interface. They can even swap shifts with other agents, sometimes without manager approval.
The flexibility afforded through today’s call center scheduling solutions helps drive agent satisfaction. Many agents today are part time, and as such need flexible schedules. This is particularly true for home–based agents, many of whom are work-at-home parents. As a result, they often encounter sudden and unexpected events that result in them having to cancel a shift or not be able to show up on time.
This is where today’s call center scheduling solutions can radically improve call center management. Instead of the agent having to call and leave a phone message for his or her supervisor (which might not be received until the next day) they can instead log into the WFM system and post a message to find out if any other agent might be able to pick up the shift.
If so, that means when the manager comes to work the next day, there are no “surprises” – the needed number of agents are on hand. In this regard, today’s call center scheduling systems help ensure that the right number of agents is available for each shift in order to meet service levels. What’s more, it prevents the agent from getting reprimanded, and significantly reduces the number of agent/manager conflicts over the schedule. For this reason, today’s call center scheduling systems are seen as being critical to effective call center management.
But how do you go about implementing a flexible schedule? Obviously, making the switch from a fixed schedule – where each agent shows up at the same time for each shift, taking breaks such as lunch and dinner at set times – to a flexible schedule can be a tricky and sometimes confusing process.
To help reduce the confusion resulting from such a change, workforce management solutions provider Monet Software suggests call center managers take a phased approach to implementing flexible schedules.
Specifically, Monet suggests that companies gradually implement a flexible shift model by introducing it to some of the agents (existing and/or new hires) first, and over time rolling it out to the entire center. This change can increase service levels by 1 to 2 percent, and result in a similar percentage of savings in personnel costs.
Monet WFM Live is a powerful, Web-based call center scheduling solution that automates the process of forecasting call volumes and agent scheduling, improves customer services levels, and reduces operational costs. With this software-as-a-service solution, managers can forecast and schedule agents to handle inbound calls, outbound calls, email, Internet messaging, Web callbacks and other related back office activities. The system can be quickly and affordably deployed, as it is completely Web-based and requires no upfront investment in additional hardware or infrastructure.
Want to learn more about how Monet Software’s call center scheduling solutions? Then visit www.monetsoftware.com.
Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Amy Tierney