Build Call Center Schedules in Real Time, Not Clock Time
Time flies when you’re having fun, and drags when you’re waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is a truism that everybody knows, but nobody’s really sure why. Joe Mathews, Don Debolt and Deb Percival writing for Entrepreneur say that it’s because there’s a difference between “clock time” and “real time.” “Clock” time is the seconds, minutes and hours that pass on the clock. “Real time” is relative to human behavior, and trying to conflate the two will lead to confusion.
“The reason time management gadgets and systems don't work is that these systems are designed to manage clock time,” wrote the authors. “Clock time is irrelevant. You don't live in or even have access to clock time. You live in real time. The good news is that real time is mental. It exists between your ears. You create it. Anything you create, you can manage.”
This is an important message in call center scheduling when determining why agents always seem to be out of adherence. Work begins at clock time, but workers usually defer to “real time.” (“I just need two minutes to go to the bathroom” often turns into “I’m 20 minutes late logging in.”)
Experts say that it’s vital to manage time in “real time.” In reality, you can’t end one meeting at 2:00 p.m. and start another meeting at 2:00 p.m. The first meeting may break into small talk and hand-shaking. The room needs to be cleared. Participants need a moment to themselves to look at their phones, visit the restroom, get coffee, pull their materials together. In the contact center, agents allotted five minutes per call will have after-call wrap-up work to do, or require 120 seconds to pull their thoughts together, scratch their nose, look out the window, acknowledge the existence of coworkers and take a sip of water. Even taking into account after-call wrap-up and before-call research, interruptions frequently occur.
To build better contact center schedules that have better adherence, schedule time for the expected delays. Acknowledge that agents may need a few moments to think about one call before the next call. Include this time in the schedule.
“Any activity or conversation that's important to your success should have a time assigned to it,” wrote Mathews, Debolt and Percival. “To-do lists get longer and longer to the point where they're unworkable. Appointment books work. Schedule appointments with yourself and create time blocks for high-priority thoughts, conversations, and actions.”
In a call center scheduling product, look for a solution that allows planning down to 15 minute intervals or less, so you can build the real world into “clock time.” No matter how high your expectations are for a planned schedule every morning, if you don’t build one that includes “real time,” you’ll never get close to meeting it.
Edited by Alicia Young