When vacation time is right around the corner, are you ready to deal with last minute changes to agent scheduling that wil occur during this time? Ensuring accurate staffing is a problem faced by all call centers during peak agent time-off periods. Vacation scheduling can be especially challenging for centers without an automated solution. Here are a few simple strategies that can help simplify the process.
- Inform agents of vacation scheduling policies – Informing agents in advance of policies that govern vacation scheduling can help prepare them for last minute adjustments to their schedules. Being prepared wil help reduce frustration.
- Prepare schedule reviews during vacation time – Schedules can be affected by many different factors. Implement a regular review process that will detect shortages or surpluses in advance. Ideally, daily schedules should be reviewed a week before and then a day before the live date. During peak seasons, it is advisable to add a third review mid-week. A quick check to ensure accurate staffing is sufficient.
- Establish tipping points – Historical data can reveal what conditions led to previous scheduling problems. This data will help determine thresholds that require adjustments for current scheduling. You must determine the tipping point for key metrics such as percent over forecast. Defining your target numbers in advance will enable you to operate comfortably knowing adjustments wil not be necessary unless you hit them. Most contact centers are capable of absorbing at least 5% more cal s than anticipated and/or agent shrinkage of up to 10% before service levels are affected. Conversely, most can tolerate at least 5% fewer cal s before needing to consider cutbacks in same-day staffing levels.
- Create an intra-day forecast – As soon as you approach your tipping points, use your workforce management intra-day forecasting tools to assess the potential impact on the remainder of the day. Advanced systems will be able to provide forecasts at 15 and 30-minute intervals based on current cal volume, as well as calculate staffing surplus or shortage levels for each interval.
- Determine what changes to make – Start with the simplest options to produce desired results. You will need to decide which shifts to designate for schedule adjustments. Answer these questions: should shifts be lengthened or shortened; can you cancel or add discretionary off-phone activities such as meetings and training sessions; and, can employees who are scheduled later in the day be asked to arrive earlier? It is advisable to first re-optimize staff members who are already in the building.
- Use a what-if scenario – You will need to run a preliminary scenario to see how many changes will be required to align staffing with service objectives. Your workforce management system’s re-optimization utility will be integrated with relevant data such as cal volume and real-time staff attendance. The system can then be pre-configured with rules providing new calculations which address overtime issues, meeting or training schedules, and lunch and break adjustments. The system will generate a new staffing plan to calculate the impact on service levels and deliver the results as the percentage of cal s that will be answered within your target interval. Various scenarios can be run with different sets of parameters to help hit your target numbers.
- Evaluate your options – Evaluate changing the schedule against the results to be obtained. Many times the answer can be found in something as simple as canceling a scheduled meeting in order to free up enough agents to cover a shortfall without making any further adjustments. If the re-optimization process does not yield at least a 2 or 3% improvement in service levels, the end may not justify the means.
- Notify agents of staffing changes – Notify agents of schedule changes as quickly as possible. Some workforce management systems will automatically notify agents by email, pop-up or dashboard messages.
Following these eight steps for dealing with intra-day optimization issues wil reduce agent confusion and frustration, and ensure accurate staffing while meeting desired service levels.
About Pipkins Inc.
Pipkins Inc. is a leading supplier of workforce management software and services to the cal center industry. Its Real-Time Intra-Day Optimization Suite offers an industry-first set of components designed to expedite and optimize current-day schedule adjustments, enabling supervisors to respond to unexpected agent absences and other last-minute problems quickly, efficiently, and without interruption to normal activities while maintaining the best possible service levels. The Intra-Day suite provides tools for automating agent absence reporting, streamlining intra-day forecasting and personnel reassignment, and disseminating new intra-day schedules. For more information, contact www.pipkins.com.