Call centers play a vital role in providing customer service support to companies of all sizes. However, with high turnover rates and tough shifts to fill, call center scheduling can be a challenge. In this post, we’ll examine the benefits of workforce management and how it can make scheduling for call centers seamless.
Call centers are tasked with working through unpredictable conditions to provide dependable customer service. Doing so without a system for managing the call center workforce can be challenging.
A reliable workforce management system will help you proactively prepare for the long-term by anticipating seasonal turnover, forecasting hiring needs and tracking key metrics. With a secure system in place and the right amount of staff on hand, managing call centers can be made more seamless.
4 Tips to Better Workforce Management
#1 Implement Continuous Training
The heart of a well-functioning call center is its high-performing employees and their ability to be present and communicate well with callers. Because employee competency is so linked to metrics such as customer satisfaction and customer churn, having a comprehensive plan for professional development is essential.
But, this can be challenging. Call centers are a fast-paced environment and regularly finding windows of time for scheduling large scale training is unlikely.
A great way to get around this is to create professional development modules for employees to have on hand for slow stretches. The smaller and more broken up the increments are, the better. An agent is far more likely to complete a five-minute module than an hour-long one.
Examples of training modules include how to best phrase a question to a caller, how to diffuse tense situations and learning about key product features and industry knowledge.
#2 Create Dynamic Schedules
The goal of workforce management in call centers is to have a minimal staff level that can still maintain service volumes and a low speed of answer. However, maintaining this staff level in such a dynamic environment can be challenging. One way of getting around this is by adopting a flexible approach to scheduling.
Shift bidding is a great tactic for adding flexibility to a schedule. By allowing managers to create open shifts with specific skill sets that qualified employees can sign up for, shift scheduling can lighten management’s responsibility while making scheduling dynamic.
For some centers, getting agents to bid for less desirable shifts like a graveyard or holiday hours can be challenging, so a hybrid approach may be ideal. With this method, centers can assign overnight shifts directly while having agents bid for which day of the week they want their day time hours.
Another way some call centers are adding flexibility to their scheduling approach is allowing agents to work-from-home. By using a work-from-home method to complement their desk agents, call centers can make staffing holidays and graveyard shifts more manageable. Their flexibility also makes it easier to fill shifts on short notice, which is great for crisis management. (More on that later.)
Additionally, call centers can use workforce management systems to track historic data schedules, call volumes and agent performance metrics. This makes it possible to optimize performance management and to leverage data to forecast demand, annual leave, and turnover rates.
#3 Create A Plan For Dealing With Turnover
While turnover is a part of any business, for call centers, employee turnover is a critical metric to handle. The national average for turnover is 17.8%, but for many call centers, turnover rates between 30 and 45 percent are the norm.
Because of this, having a clearly defined system for tracking turnover is critical to keep centers staffed and callers happy. However, tracking the type of turnover can provide insight into how to address and manage turnover.
The first metric for tracking turnover analyzes where the exiting employees are departing to. External turnover tracks the number of employees leaving the company altogether. This method is what most people think of when they hear turnover. In contrast, internal turnover tracks the number of employees moving to other parts of the company.
Interpreting internal turnover can be more complex, as it is not inherently good or bad. For a call center that is hemorrhaging so many agents it can’t meet its own needs, it can be a serious challenge that should be addressed at a broader organizational level. However, some call centers have started embracing high internal turnover. By pivoting to viewing it as a good thing, some call centers can be used as a training ground for the rest of the company. Interpreting internal and external can be complicated. A workforce management system that can track statistics for both fields and qualitative notes for each departure can provide crucial insight into this type of turnover.
The second metric for tracking turnover examines the way someone exits. Put simply: did you fire them or did they quit? Tracking voluntary vs. involuntary turnover can provide insight into how to respond to turnover. Each type is indicative of different factors. For example, very high involuntary turnover can be improved by investing more time and resources in the hiring, screening and training process. In contrast, a high volume of voluntary departures can be addressed by making paid leave and compensation more competitive.
#4 Prepare For The Unexpected
While long term planning and management are great for maximizing center performance and numbers, not everything can be anticipated. Enter intraday management, the managing of operations on a daily basis.
While this approach can include everyday tasks, such as employee coaching, intraday management also deals with addressing and correcting challenges that can arrive on a moment’s notice.
Having management staff on hand with resources to manage things like unexpected absenteeism and unusual surges in calls is key to keeping response times on track. Additionally, things like a product recall or company shut down will result in a spike of calls and place a significant demand on call centers.
This duty is also critical for preparing for larger-scale crises, like disasters, widespread sicknesses, power outages and more. Handling these situations requires managing spikes and calls and increased demand for call center resources while prioritizing employee safety.
Whatever the crisis or challenge, this style of management needs to be agile and have the resources and system in place to adapt to a new trial without warning.
Scheduling call centers can be challenging, but by prioritizing agent training, dynamic scheduling and preparing for the unexpected, it can be much easier. For many call centers, a robust workforce management system is a great way to get the task done.