Juggling laws, regulations, union contracts, time zones, overtime pay, and phone coverage for call centers adds to the complications of anyone trying to develop a workload forecast and staff schedule. The complications multiple in a multi-channel contact center that also includes chat, email, text and social media channels. Let’s examine how just one day, election day, can greatly complicate your forecasts and schedules.
We chose election day because it represents much diversity in state law, and in most locations in the U.S., election days happen two or more times each year. Regulations inform companies of how much time off should be allotted to employees in a particular state in order for them to vote. Some state laws require employees to petition for the time off and others leave it entirely up to the company to make sure ample time exists for the employee to reach the polling location before it closes. Companies that violate New York or Colorado’s laws could lose their corporate charter. Supervisors in Missouri and Kansas could be fined as much as $2,500, if the employees they are managing are not given the time off the law requires. Arizona can fine the owner of the company $20,000. The consequences of not taking these regulations seriously can be quite costly – not only in fines, but in lost productivity and wages.
As an example, here are some of the complexities facing Peter Piper’s Pickled Pepper Company on election day:
Peter Piper operates contact centers in four different states and election day is coming around. He knows the following facts: most of the states in which he operates require him to pay employees if they are not given ample time off to vote per the individual state law. He has 300 employees in Missouri which require three consecutive hours off to vote. The polls in Missouri open at 6:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m. (Central Standard Time). He has 275 employees in Colorado which requires at least three consecutive hours off and their poll hours are 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Mountain Standard Time). His small 130-agent contact center in Kentucky must abide by both union rules and state laws concerning voting. Employees must have four consecutive hours off to vote, the company can tell them what those hours will be, but the union requires each employee still receive 40 hours paid for that week. The polls in Kentucky are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). Washington requires two consecutive hours to vote and poll hours are 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time). He has 560 employees in Washington. Only three of Pipers’ contact centers are open 24 hours a day, Missouri’s center is open from 8:00 a.m. to midnight.
Piper knows that pickled pepper sales peak on election day. He wants the appropriate number of people to be scheduled – and he wants them all to have the correct number of consecutive hours off so he will not be obligated to pay them for time off to vote. His workload forecast reveals a total of 900-1,000 calls, chat messages and emails will come in by 9:00 a.m. EST time and remain steady until 3:00 p.m. MST, a lesser spike will come at 7:00 MST, and there will be spikes at 4:00 EST and 8:00 PST.
What should Piper do?
- Peter screams a lot
- Peter loses $$$$
- Peter goes to jail
- Peter invests in an enterprise workforce management solution
The truth is that Peter Piper’s problems are not that different from ones faced by many other companies and organizations. Businesses are designed to make money, and wasteful spending effects the bottom line.
Can spreadsheets handle such complexity? We are not sure Peter Piper would want to find out. The cost of figuring out these issues manually might cost him more in wages than a good WFM solution would cost in a month.
Does it take multiple programs to work together to solve these issues? It is possible to use one software program to monitor clock in and clock out data, another program to schedule employees, another software program to forecast, and so on – but why pay multiple WFM vendors? It is time to ask: Can your current workforce management solution handle the problem faced by Piper?
If your current workforce scheduling tool cannot handle the complications of governmental laws, union rules, human resources requests, time clock details, peaks and spikes of volume – then it is time to start investigating WFM solutions that can.
You need a fully integrated WFM suite that can take into account all the regulations that effect your back office work, as well as all the nuances of your organization’s specific operations.
The moral of the story: By picking a perfectly modern enterprise WFM product, Peter Piper’s Pickled Peppers Company was properly prepared for the workload spike on election day, while meeting all applicable voting laws and rules. The firm celebrated a record-breaking peak in pickled pepper purchases, and Mr. Piper did not have to proceed directly to prison or pay any pernicious fines (Pardon the alliteration in this last paragraph, we couldn’t help ourselves – Blame it on Mother Goose).
ABOUT PIPKINS, INC.: Founded in 1983 and based in St. Louis, Missouri, Pipkins is a leading provider of WFM solutions for the contact center industry. Today, Pipkins’ systems forecast, plan and schedule more than 300,000 agents in over 500 locations across all industries worldwide. For more information, visit Pipkins.com.
by: Martha Heltsley, PhD