WFM's Pitfalls in Call Center Scheduling
Ah, summer. That time of year when you can barely get anything done because somewhere in the organization, someone's on vacation. There are ways to prevent such problems, even in an environment like the call center. Some think that workforce management (WFM) tools are the key to preventing the “he / she's on vacation” productivity trap, but even with WFM, there are points to watch for in terms of call center scheduling.
First, start by including employees in the overall design of shifts. Some organizations will actually hand off scheduling to the employees, as these are people who will work hard to accommodate everyone's needs and desires. Employees are also the ones most likely to know what times need more people and which need less.
Second, consider if the schedules actually still mesh with reality; a schedule drawn up in December won't have much validity for August, and vice versa. So in order to actually find out if your call center scheduling process is still valid, be sure to test it out using some common WFM tools for things like skill availability, opening hours, and how the call center relates to marketing projects.
Third, consider the normal ebb and flow of employees. Employees leave a business all the time, and not just for vacation. If the schedule will just barely hold up with vacation patterns, and someone quits because he or she's offered a better job, that's it for the schedule. It's even worse if someone's sick or needs to attend a training session, so having some slack in the schedule will always be important.
Finally, ignore the temptation to just “replicate the spreadsheet.” This may work for smaller firms, but for larger companies it's a recipe for disaster in call center scheduling. Automated allocation and creation tools are there for a reason, so give these tools the chance to work.
These are all excellent points when it comes to call center scheduling, and many of these can be boiled down to one key point: practice redundancy. Too often, we think of redundancy as a prettied-up word for “waste,” but it's much more than that. Redundancy is the active building of a safety net for scheduling, and call center scheduling particularly. By having just a little more than is strictly needed in place, any surprise surge in operations can be met.
There's a very fine line between redundancy and excessive redundancy—this is where “waste” comes in—but by having a little extra cushion in the schedule, a lot of problems can be prevented.
Edited by Alicia Young