The Benefits of Annualized, Provisional Scheduling
They say variety is the spice of life. And if you’re talking about contact centers, that’s a good thing, because contact centers certainly do involve a lot of variety.
Traffic volumes rise and fall based on factors like campaigns, holidays, and seasons. And contact center agents tend to come and go.
But, rather than viewing variety as a good thing, contact center managers often try to control it by locking agents into set schedules and scripts. That can lead to worker disengagement, and sometimes even churn. And that can result in less than ideal customer service and missed call center targets.
A better way is to provide contact center workers with greater flexibility. That can result in better agent retention, higher engagement, better customer service, and improved use of budget dollars and other resources.
One way to encourage this kind of variety while maintaining control of things is to introduce annualized hours as a contact center incentive. This kind of thing is on the rise, according to the white paper “What Contact Centres Are Doing Right Now.” In fact, the paper, sponsored by NewVoiceMedia (News - Alert), indicates there was a 5 percent increase in this practice last year.
This is a practice through which call center operations contract agents for a set number of hours during a year. But, in the process, they don’t specify the exact hours. Instead, they set up provisional working schedules. And they create and share the rules for how and when schedules can change based on the needs of the organization and of the workers.
That provides contact centers with the ability to better manage peaks and troughs in demand. And it provides agents with the ability to work more when contact center centers need them, and in the process bank time off for later use.
“Once they have banked a sufficient number of hours, advisors may take a flex day, in case they need to attend a wedding, funeral, etc., at short notice,” explains an August 2017 article for callcentrehelper.com.
But for all this to work, contact centers need to be clear on the rules involved. And to set the rules they need to do a bit of research and planning.
That should begin with identifying the busiest periods of the year by looking at their ACD records or other data sources. Then they should estimate the ideal number of staff members needed during peak times, and set upper and lower limits on that ideal.
They should then create provisional schedules. And in supplying these schedules to agents, they should let them know they may call on them to work overtime when needed during peak times, and provide them with future time off during non-peak hours in return. That instruction should include the minimum notice the contact center requires agents to provide when they want to use the time off they have accrued. Contact centers also need to provide in advance company holiday time off schedules.
At any time, both managers and agents should have the tools to see their annualized hours and holiday time. And it’s ideal for managers to be presented with regular updates on this information to make sure everything is on track.
Edited by Mandi Nowitz