Reduce Contact Center Costs with Agent Scheduling Updates

Agents are both the contact center’s greatest asset and greatest expense. Whether you are a brand-new workforce management (WFM) professional, or an experienced WFM gurum figuring out how to deal with fluctuations in headcount and appropriate staffing can be one of the most challenging parts of the job.

Weekly Scheduling tips:

Optimizing time – Before running any schedule, make sure you understand your shrinkage, which impacts both scheduling and intraday management and inaccurate data will invalidate your plan. What constitutes shrinkage will vary, depending on what WFM application you use.

Consistency – Run a completely new schedule with no major constraints to see what mix of shifts the business actually requires in order to meet the service level. Most WFM tools have a setting to produce a schedule with consistent start time for the duration of the scheduling period.

Flexibility – Start with flexible breaks and lunches to ease into a more flexible schedule. Those small adjustments will fill in some schedule holes. Natural attrition will eventually ensure that there are enough agents working flexible shifts to produce an effective schedule without affecting tenured staff.

Crowdsource – Poll agents to see what types of shifts they would enjoy working and to get their ideas on what works well.

Slant & Slope – Offer alternative shifts to full time employees for an effective headcount boost. 3×12 and 4×10 schedules have been in use for years, but schedulers are getting more creative in order to do more with less. The Slant schedule works well for customers who have declining volume through the week. It would look something like this:

  • Day 1: 10 paid hours
  • Day 2: 9 paid hours
  • Day 3: 8 paid hours
  • Day 4: 7 paid hours
  • Day 5: 6 paid hours

The Slope schedule goes in the opposite direction, from low to high, for centers whose volume increases over the course of the week. There are some drawbacks to offering alternative schedules. If an agent on a 4×10 calls in, it effectively leaves you understaffed for 1.25 headcount rather than 1. Additionally, if the agent wanted to take a vacation day, they would utilize 10 hours of vacation instead of 8, so some thought needs to go into the decision to offer alternative shifts.

Working around some of the artificial restrictions that businesses place on schedules can be a challenge. Management may be resistant to change because, “we’ve always done it that way.” One of the most effective ways to battle that mindset is to attach a dollar value to the schedule. Every restriction has a cost associated with it, and management is not always aware of the financial impact of inflexibility.

This article originally appeared in Contact Center Pipeline.