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Achieving Work-Life Balance in the Contact Center

Gen Z and millennials’ expectations for their employers are changing. As companies like Uber, Postmates, and Fiverr have grown, it’s created a dramatic shift in the appeal of gig work. About 84% of millennials and 81% of Gen Z would now consider joining the gig economy. In the minds of millennials and members of Gen Z, these positions offer an opportunity for career advancement, increased income, flexible hours, and better work-life balance. As these younger generations now make up the bulk of the U.S. labor force, contact centers must provide similar flexibility benefits in order to attract and retain agents.

But schedule flexibility must align with day-to-day business needs. Contact centers need to fill less popular shifts, provide customer support on holidays, and have a certain number of agents onsite to deliver quality customer experiences. In this new environment, contact centers must balance agent desires for work-life balance with business demands. Here are a few ways workforce managers can tap into the flexibility that makes the gig economy so attractive, and create a win-win situation for agents and the organization.

Incorporate Agent Preference

The reason the gig economy has taken off is simple: workers only have to work when they want to. Contact centers can tap into the appeal of those positions by giving agents the reins on scheduling and enabling agent preference. It makes agents more engaged with their positions, which in turn increases productivity and satisfaction, drives them to provide better service, and makes them less likely to miss work.

By utilizing additional preference types in the scheduling process, contact center leaders can achieve the workplace flexibility that makes Gen Z and millennials love gig work. Look for a solution that offers these preference types to enable flexibility:

  • Custom priorities, daily rules, and days off
  • Days and hours per week
  • Fairness
  • Lunch lengths and times
  • Start and stop times

Offering agents the ability to prioritize each preference type is also key. For example, an agent might need a particular shift free to attend classes and would be willing to come in during a shift that has higher call volume. Another agent might prefer a longer lunch break to run errands over having weekends off. Solutions that include this type of functionality enable workers to select the preference types that are most important to them, creating a schedule that’s aligned with their ideal working hours.

Utilize Multiple Preferences

In the past, contact centers have largely only been able to utilize one type of preference due to the complexity involved. New workforce management solutions solve this challenge by comparing an agent’s ranked preferences against a generated schedule. Contact center leaders can then utilize numerous options to implement agent preferences, such as:

  • Choosing to implement only a few preference types
  • Utilizing only certain preference types for specific groups at a contact center
  • Awarding preferences based on seniority or rank. To ensure fairness and reward the most loyal employees, contact centers can implement a composite scoring methodology that weighs seniority as a factor.

This evaluation process streamlines the full breadth of agent preference, gives them a voice in the scheduling process, and mitigates one of the biggest sources of agents’ frustration: lack of control over their schedules.

Solve for Business Scheduling Needs

Empowering agents to share the entirety of their preferences is just a start -- it has a huge potential to solve agent engagement challenges but doesn’t take into account contact center work priorities. Consider the following scenario:

Joe wants to work weekends to free up time to spend with his family during the week. But the contact center where he works has rules that cover weekdays only. He isn’t able to provide a preference to work weekends. As a result, he can never get the shifts he wants.

Over time, Joe becomes disgruntled about his schedule and has lower job satisfaction. He isn’t engaged in his position, so he isn’t motivated to go the extra mile when interacting with customers. As a result, the contact center misses out on opportunities to provide better service. And when you multiply this agent disengagement problem across an organization, it creates large-scale issues with schedule adherence, productivity, and attrition.

For contact centers that experience this, it can seem like enabling agent preferences doesn’t work, causes more harm than good, or is a waste of everyone’s time. That’s because agent preference is only one part of the equation.

Why You Need Availability Points

What’s missing is a method for agents to communicate when they’re available to work. One way to provide this is known as Availability Points. They enable supervisors to define each interval of a day with a unique numeric value and set associated rules (e.g. the minimum amount of available time or minimum number of hours per day) that agents must meet in order to complete their availability.

When paired with enabling agent preferences, Availability Points drive agents to make compromises with their availability based on business needs. They ensure that both business and agent needs are met and empower contact centers to avoid the pitfalls of using agent preference in scheduling.

Remember the scheduling situation with Joe? Here’s how the process would look with Availability Points:

Joe can now indicate his preference to work on weekends and his availability to work during the weekend. After seeing Joe’s preferences in the workforce management tool, the solution should automatically consider both Joe’s preferences and availability . If Joe’s preference to work weekends meets business needs for fairness, and if the contact center can fill open shifts, Joe will soon be spending more time with his family during the week. Joe understands the rules that guide creation of the schedule, feels that his voice is heard and knows that he will get his preferred weekend shifts whenever possible. He’s more productive at work and misses fewer shifts.

Leverage the Power of Agent Preference

It’s projected that nearly 40% of American workers will take part in the gig economy by 2020, proving that scheduling preferences are essential for Gen Z and millennials to thrive. As a result, contact centers must adapt to employee demands for greater work-life balance – balance that is now an imperative in this environment. Additional agent preference categories and Availability Points empower contact centers to make schedule flexibility a reality while meeting business scheduling demands. Leaders who take this approach will tap into new levels of agent engagement needed to drive growth and market leadership.