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How to Make Creative Scheduling Work at Your Contact Center

older clocksIf you have been in the world of contact centers long enough, you probably have heard the term schedule flexibility or creative scheduling. These terms might make most schedulers or workforce managers cringe at the thought of managing schedules that are unusual in one way or another. But the true challenge with these common scheduling terms has always been the interpretation and how something creative or flexible for one person may not be such for the next person, or beneficial for the business. Finding ways to help your associates manage their daily lives can be achievable if you have an open mindset.

Traditionally, contact centers issued schedules that were solely based on the business demands and start times that could change week by week and even day by day. There was a clear understanding by employees that they had to adapt to the schedule variety to ensure the business was supported effectively, regardless of their personal needs. Contrast that to today, when employees are dictating what they need, and companies are having to find ways to adapt in order to maintain morale and attract the right resources to do a very taxing job.

So how can you effectively retain employees that are asking for more flexible schedule options while balancing the needs of your customers?

Be realistic, be open, and be willing to negotiate.

Think about a concept of being open to agents requesting schedule changes based on their personal needs. It might sound difficult, but you may be able to find a way to make it work and show your employees that you understand their needs for changes.

During one town hall meeting, we dedicated time for associates to complain about the schedule process. They voiced concerns about never getting a schedule they truly needed, and how it takes forever to move up to an earlier schedule. Aside from seasonal periods, our staffing needs didn’t change much day to day, so it made us sit back and really think – how could we adjust the scheduling process differently to satisfy the needs of the employees?

So along came the schedule request process. We just started allowing the agents to request a schedule change if they met the following criteria:

  • They were in their schedule for at least six months.
  • They could not ask for a Monday-Friday only schedule (they had to be open to one weekend day).
  • They were not on any corrective action for performance/attendance.
  • They were open to the process, recognizing they may not get exactly what they are asking for.
  • If they accepted a new schedule, they would be locked into that new schedule for six months.
  • This evolved into an interactive scheduling process where we would offer solutions based on the request that would satisfy the agent and business need. We didn’t care about the reason someone needed a change - in fact we encouraged people not to share why they were asking for a change. It was decided that we would just take requests as they came in and evaluate them one by one.

    Shockingly, only a small percentage of our population asked for changes and many were receptive to adjusting their requests to get a schedule more in line with what they were needed. You will find that most people are open to negotiating, as they get there is a business to be run. An agent may have asked for an 8am-5pm schedule, but our solution back may have been to allow her to work that shift 2 days out of the week instead of all 5 days. If that didn’t work for her that was ok, but we can say that we had an interactive conversation and considered her need along with the business need.

    Here are a few additional factors to consider to make this approach successful:

  • Be candid. Agents must understand the needs of the business, and it is ok to tell them such during discussions
  • You will never satisfy everyone’s needs and that is ok. Do what you can to help where you have capacity to do so.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Get creative with alternate offerings and probe the agent for exactly what they need. This may lead you down a path for an alternate solution you may have not even considered previously!
  • I would encourage you to think about how you can empower your agents and your WFM team to come up with solutions that encourage balance in your environment. You may be surprised at the outcome and positive effects it can have on your contact center!