Published: October 12, 2021 | Comments
As we say at ICMI, contact center management is “the art of having the right number of properly skilled people and supporting resources in place at the right times to handle an accurately forecasted workload, at service level and with quality.” In this next in our troubleshooting article series, we will focus on the “in the right places at the right times” aka the scheduling process.
Schedules are forecasts of who needs to be where and when. They are essentially “game plans” for both agents and supervisors. One of the main goals when creating schedules is to match our agents’ schedules to meet the demands of the workload and ensure we are available when our customers need us to be. At the same time, we also need to use our resources in an efficient, effective manner.
The main goal of scheduling – matching the resources to demand - sounds straightforward, but can be very complex and challenging in a contact center environment for several reasons. One of the greatest challenges of scheduling in contact centers is that, because much of the workload must be handled as it arrives, staffing needs tend to fluctuate significantly throughout the day, month, and year. Consequently, it’s important to explore scheduling alternatives that provide flexibility and the ability to match staff closely to evolving customer demands.
The following quiz is designed to allow you to identify the strengths of your current scheduling processes as well as areas of potential opportunity.
Ask yourself the following about your current scheduling process(es):
1. Do you have a schedule process that is designed to balance the needs of the workload (customers) and agents?
a. Yes, we have a scheduling process that is collaborative and flexible. Agents and supervisors are involved in the design process, and avenues for two-way communication between the floor and WFM exist to allow for continuous improvement.
b. Yes, a process for agents and supervisors to communicate with WFM exists but changes to the process are rare.
c. No, agents and supervisors aren’t involved in developing the scheduling process.
2. Do you have a schedule horizon (how far in advance you schedule) that allows you to adjust schedules should the demands of the workload change
a. Yes, we produce schedules based on current forecasts. We typically schedule 1 to 3 weeks in advance to ensure we meet the current demands of the workload.
b. Yes, we produce schedules 1 to 3 weeks in advance, but we don’t often adjust the schedules if the workload has changed
c. No, most of our schedules are determined 3 or more months in advance and rarely or never change, even if the demands of the workload change.
3. Do you offer a variety of schedule alternatives (i.e., part-time, consolidated shifts, conventional shifts, etc.)?
a. Yes, we understand that we need a scheduling process that offers alternatives that allow us to meet the needs of our customers (workload demand) and the needs of our agents. We involve the agents in generating schedule alternatives and have a process in place to consistently review, add, delete alternatives as the needs of the workload and agents change and evolve.
b. Yes, we have a variety of schedule alternatives, but they are often generated by the software and/or WFM and don’t always involve agents in the process. We do not have a process to consistently review and revise alternatives.
c. No, we only offer a few schedule alternatives, and don’t believe we have many alternatives we could offer.
4. Do you measure schedule adherence?
a. Yes, we schedule all activities, train our agents on the Power of One, measure adherence, and hold our agents accountable to meet the target range. We have a well-documented process on what can be submitted as a schedule exception to ensure we don’t “alter reality” and expend unnecessary resources on an exception process.
b. Yes, we measure adherence and hold agents accountable, but we do not have a documented exception process, and both supervisors and WFM spend a great deal of time submitting and processing schedule exceptions.
c. No, we do not measure schedule adherence.
5. Do you have the right tools to ensure an effective, efficient, and flexible scheduling process?
a. Yes, we have the scheduling tools that are appropriate for our environment, and the expertise to use the functionality our center(s) require.
b. Yes, we have a scheduling tool, but we don’t utilize all the functionality and lack the internal expertise to do so.
c. No, we don’t have the right scheduling tools and we are unsure what we need and/or do not have the budget to acquire it.
7 - 10: Shipshape schedule process
You have solid scheduling processes. Your contact center understands that one of the major scheduling challenges in contact centers is that, because much of the workload must be handled as it arrives, staffing needs tend to fluctuate significantly throughout the day, month, and year.
As a result, the contact center offers and explores a variety of scheduling alternatives that enable it to match staff closely to evolving customer demands. In addition, you realize that the right balance of alternatives must be offered to meet the needs of agents. You recognize the need to involve agents in the scheduling process and the result is often a broader range of scheduling alternatives. You measure schedule adherence because you realize that the best schedules are meaningless if individuals aren’t held accountable to follow them. You also realize scheduling is an iterative process, and one that should involve a process for continuous improvement.
4 - 6: Heading in the right direction
You have scheduling processes that deliver variable results. While your contact center understands that one of the major scheduling challenges in contact centers is that, because much of the workload must be handled as it arrives, staffing needs tend to fluctuate significantly throughout the day, month, and year, you don’t always adjust schedules to match these fluctuations.
This is an opportunity to explore a wider variety of scheduling alternatives and involve your agents in the process. And while it is understood that the best schedules are meaningless if individuals aren’t held accountable to follow them, the fact that so many exceptions are made often negates the effectiveness and efficiency of the scheduling process. Improvement of the exception process and exploration of all of your scheduling tool functionality should also be addressed.
0 - 3: In need of a course correction
Scheduling processes and tools need to be developed and implemented. Currently, getting the right number of agents in the right places at the right time to deliver consistent customer and employee experiences is not a reality. You have a limited number of scheduling alternatives and therefore your results are highly variable. A review of scheduling alternatives, tools, dedicated scheduling resources, metrics and ROI should be explored and addressed.
Bottom line: The bottom line is that every contact center needs solid staffing processes that ensure we have the right number of agents to meet our service level and response time objectives and deliver high-quality customer and employee experiences in the most cost-effective manner.
For more information on scheduling, read:
Schedule Adherence and Real-Time Monitoring Respond to Kindness
Getting Agents to Buy into Adherence ·
Or take a look at the courses we offer that include instruction on how to calculate staffing and shrinkage:
Contact Center Management Boot Camp
The Workforce Management Boot Camp