Call Center Scheduling Feature Article
December 07, 2009
How Hosted Call Center Scheduling Software Helps Reduce Agent Attrition
By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet
Even though the high unemployment rate has helped many organizations with their recruiting and hiring efforts – in that they have more candidates to choose from and can be more selective about the agents they hire – many of the people they are hiring are only taking the job on a temporary basis until they can find other work.
And as we all know, high turnover in the call center isn’t a good thing: New agents tend to deliver sub-par service – whereas agents who have been on the job for a year more have had time to develop good customer service skills, plus they are more familiar with the software and systems used to do the job. What’s more, they are more intimately familiar with the products and services they are offering, or assisting customers with, as well as the company brand and style of doing business.
In addition, many call center agents work on a part-time basis. They are stay-at-home moms or retirees -- or they are doing call center work as a second job to supplement their income. Therefore many of them routinely run into schedule conflicts.
As such, these part-time call center workers require a certain degree of schedule flexibility in order to arrive at improved employee satisfaction, and hence, retention. The challenge for call center managers, therefore, is to find ways to deliver improved schedule flexibility.
This is where today’s hosted call center scheduling solutions are playing an increasingly important role. Many hosted call center scheduling solutions sport Web-based agent/supervisor portals that not only allow for full visibility of the schedule, they also give agents the option of swapping shifts with other agents, in the event they have a conflict. Very often this can be done without manager approval. This is a key advantage over spreadsheets or other manual scheduling systems.
The improved visibility delivered by these Web-based portals means agents not only have a clearer picture of the schedule and what is expected of them – it also means they can view other agents’ schedules, thus aiding greatly in the decision-making process when it comes time to ask for coverage.
Very often, agents develop relationships with other agents in the center. With a Web-based agent/supervisor portal, an agent can ask a specific co-worker to cover a shift. For example, “Jane,” who has a babysitting conflict for Thursday night, can use the portal to see that her friend “Sue” has that night off from work – so she can ask “Sue” for coverage by way of the portal. “Sue,” who is hungry for extra shifts, can then respond to “Jane,” using the portal, letting her know whether or not she can pick up the shift.
If not, “Jane” also has the option to post a general request -- which all the other agents can see, each time they log into the portal -- asking if anyone else is interested in picking up the shift.
In addition, the call center manager receives an alert each time “Jane” makes a request. This is a much faster and more efficient process than having “Jane” first call the manager to make the request (and what if the manager doesn’t get the message right away?) and, if approved, calling or emailing the other agents individually to request coverage. Not only does this help eliminate “phone tag (News - Alert),” and gets the shift covered faster, it also eliminates the scenario where two or more agents reply, saying they’ll “take the shift,” resulting in a secondary conflict.
As we all know, different agents have different skill sets – very often certain agents are dedicated to handle certain channels, such as email or Web- chat, or certain customers, such as “new,” “regular” or “premium” customers. Interestingly, these agent/supervisor portals can be set up so that when a particular agent has a conflict, they can only send requests to those agents with like skill sets. By the same token, only those agents with the proper level of experience can swap or bid on certain shifts – for example, a “veteran” agent with a certain amount of experience might be limited to swapping shifts with other agents with the same degree of tenure. In this regard, the call center scheduling software helps maintain the proper mix of agents for each shift automatically, regardless of who can’t make it in.
Because the system is fully Web-based, that means agents can request changes to the schedule from any computer with an Internet connection. The manager can then review the impact of the change and approve or decline the request. If approved, the change is immediately reflected in the schedule.
In either case the agent is notified and the request is kept for future reporting. This is a huge advantage for managers and supervisors, in that they have a central repository for all requests for time off, vacation time, sick days and personal days, as well as how many shifts were swapped and/or bid on.
For more information about Monet Software’s hosted call center scheduling software, click here.
Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard