Managing Peak Seasons in the Call Center
One of the biggest challenges to call center scheduling practices is peak seasons. Peak seasons are the most popular times of the year in the call center. The summer as a whole is a peak season, but there are also shorter periods of time around Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day and so on that are popular as well. Although the times of year that are most popular remain the same, call centers never cease to struggle due to lack of preparation. So how can managers schedule agents strategically in order to cover these high-PTO times?
It all comes down to workforce management (WFM). Mary Paige Forrester, AS Project Manager at Cisco (News - Alert), explained the importance of WFM and call center scheduling by saying, “The process of ensuring enough agents are available to receive contacts and respond to them with minimal delay is called ‘workforce management.’ It can be defined as having just the right number of staff available within each interval of the day to meet established service levels while minimizing costs. Having too few can be as costly as having too many agents staffed.”
This essentially sums up the struggle of peak seasons in the call center. Managers need to make sure that there are enough agents scheduled at all times in order to cover the predicted call volumes. This needs to be accomplished no matter how many agents are on vacation at any given time.
To make sure that agents are scheduled efficiently, Sean Hawkins, editor of Call Center Weekly, offers some advice by saying, “Planning should occur well before peak seasons.” He was also quick to point out that peak seasons not only result in more calls, but are often the times when regular staff want to take time off, too. He suggests preparing for these seasons by over-staffing and then trimming agents as needed.
Essentially, peak seasons are unavoidable. However, call centers can get through them by preparing in advance. If management knows that several agents will be out around Christmas, then they need to hire more agents for that time period. When things start to slow down again, management can reevaluate and trim where needed. Whatever they decide to do, the trick to beating peak seasons is staying ahead of them.