Agent empowerment has been directly linked to agent retention. Research has shown that agents who feel they have more control over their job express more job satisfaction and are less likely to leave. Agent retention can have a serious impact on a company’s bottom line. The cost of recruiting and training agents is significant and places an additional burden on supervisors. The best strategy for empowering agents, improving morale, and increasing retention is to give agents the ability to have more control over their work schedules. This is accomplished by providing an online, do-it-yourself (DIY) agent scheduling system.
Four critical features of DIY scheduling systems
Before purchasing an agent scheduling system, ensure it includes these features:
- Overtime scheduling – Instead of soliciting overtime work manually, managers can import available overtime slots and post them online for agent sign-up. The agent scheduling system system can assign slots either on a first-come-first-served or seniority basis; and, supervisors can define other overtime-related business rules to ensure that company policies are followed.
- Availability planning – The system allows agents to submit and change their available work hours online, even if they have multiple sets of availabilities. This dramatically simplifies scheduling for home-based agents who may have several short time slots in a given day or require temporary schedule changes based on school calendars. Supervisors have complete control over slot assignment.
- Pickup hours assignment – Part-time agents can request additional time slots as they are posted online. The system will accept or deny the request based on pre-defined business rules, including the maximum allowable hours for each agent. As with overtime scheduling, slots can be assigned either on a first-come-first-served or seniority basis.
- Shift bidding – Agents can bid on new shifts electronically whenever supervisors make them available online. The system will automatically allocate the available shifts according to policies created by the supervisor. This eliminates the need to post new shifts on a bulletin board, walk around the cal center with the information, or process requests manually.
Benefits for agents
An agent scheduling system should enable agents to:
- view their work schedules
- request modifications or vacations
- sign-up for overtime
- exchange schedules with other agents
- report absences over the corporate network or the Internet through a Web browser
Agents should be able to: view their schedules by the day, week or month; request schedule modifications for partial days, full days or weeks; swap days or entire schedules with other agents; use the module’s vacation planner to check accrued and used time-off, view available vacation slots, submit vacation requests; and, add their names to wait lists. Built-in electronic bulletin board and messaging systems can be used to post trade requests and facilitate agent-to-agent and agent-to-supervisor communication.
Benefits for supervisors
Supervisors can approve or deny requests, make schedule changes, and record exceptions with a click. They can also manage the entire vacation planning process online, including establishing and managing vacation limits, wait lists, and blackout and non-operational days. Vacation limits and accrual hours information can be imported from Excel files.
The vacation planner should interface with the contact center’s payrol system, eliminating the need to re-enter the agent’s vacation accrual information and ensuring that accurate time-off information is used in calculating paychecks.
Cost cutting benefits
A DIY agent scheduling system dramatically reduces schedule-related overhead for contact centers and frees supervisors of the need to print and distribute agent work schedules. The system eliminates hours of administrative phone calls every week, and increases agent satisfaction by giving them control over routine scheduling tasks.
The agent scheduling system optimizes agent scheduling in single or multi-site contact centers in order to minimize headcount, over-staffing, under-staffing, overtime, cal waiting time and other problems that can cause wasted expense and/or lost business.
Cost savings tools are critical for companies in today’s economy. The adage “don’t jump over dollars to save pennies” is applicable when evaluating cost-saving software. It is wiser to invest dollars in long-term ROI than to continue saving only pennies with outdated or ineffective tools. An agent scheduling system is a good investment that provides multiple benefits.
Pipkins, Inc. is a leading supplier of workforce management software and services to the cal center industry. For the past twenty-seven years, Pipkins has consistently created and delivered superior workforce management products for cal centers of all sizes. Pipkins maintains its reputation as an industry leader with thirteen industry-first applications. Pipkins’ premier product, Vantage Point, is the most accurate forecasting and scheduling tool on the market. Pipkins’ systems forecast and schedule more than 300,000 agents in over 500 locations across all industries worldwide.