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How to Optimize Your Call Center Scheduling

Here at Hiya, we recognize the unique challenges call centers face today. Let’s be real, few kindergarteners dream of becoming a call center agent when they grow up. Most agents who currently work in call centers view their job as something entry-level and therefore temporary.

Due to this view, call center managers have the unique challenge of motivating their agents to care enough about a job that ‘just pays the rent’ and give it their best effort. As a result, managers spend most of their time either hiring new agents or handling under-performing agents. These issues lead to scheduling headaches, which can be enough of a puzzle and pain point for managers and employees without constantly hiring new employees. 

These pain points for call center managers should be the least of their worries. Since this isn’t the case, managers spend all their time hiring, scheduling, or motivating agents. This in turn prevents managers from having the time to inspire their agents to stay and improve. Call centers have the potential to be twice as effective if, instead, they could spend this time focusing on customer experience. 

Luckily, there are a few scheduling tips that can take away most call center’s industry-old pain points. Call center scheduling helps to remove the monotony of scheduling from the workplace. This frees up agents and managers to focus on customer conversion and satisfaction instead. 

In this article, we’re taking a second to dive deeper into what tools you’ll need and the best scheduling practices you can implement. We’ll discuss how to use scheduling to optimize your call center productivity and increase employee satisfaction.

What Is Call Center Scheduling?

One of the biggest complaints of call center agents is the stress of a high number of callers with low availability of agents to answer those calls. Most agents feel that they can’t even take a three-minute break between calls to run to the bathroom or grab a drink of water. 

If this is the case, it means call centers are understaffed to match the incoming number of callers at a given time. The best way to fix this pain point among agents is with optimized call center scheduling. Call center scheduling is when agent work schedules are created based on the expected contact volume, availability, and skills. It’s often difficult to balance all of these factors when creating a schedule. Whatever system you use for scheduling, whether it’s a software or a spreadsheet, it needs to allow agents to enter their availability, organize information, and keep track of the number of agents who are scheduled at any given time.

Call Center Scheduling For Optimal Performance

When it comes to creating the perfect schedule to handle the volume of calls, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Note Times With High Volume

Even as an outbound call center, there are likely times of day or days of the week when you get people calling you back after listening to your voicemails. Make sure the right number of agents are scheduled for the number of calls your contact center is experiencing. Scheduling software can help with this by keeping track of what days of the week, weeks of the month, or months of the year experience the highest number of calls. Scheduling will then do as much forecasting as possible to make sure there are the right number of agents at any given time to realistically handle the number of calls coming in.

This type of scheduling ensures there are enough employees at a given time to handle the number of calls, which increases customer satisfaction. This also enables fewer agents to be scheduled at lower call volume times to help save the company money. Further, employee satisfaction increases when they feel productive at their jobs, but also helps avoid having employees who feel overwhelmed.

Cross Train Agents

Cross training is extremely valuable for times when some agents are absent and you need a particular skill set for your calls. When agents are trained on a variety of different skills, this also eliminates a challenging factor in scheduling. When your agents become more skilled, it is easier to find an available agent with the qualifications necessary for a particular shift. You can also implement skill-based routing to decrease the number of agents needed at any one time.

Track Call Metrics

Call center metrics provide valuable data to optimize countless areas of performance, and scheduling is no different. For the most accurate forecasting and scheduling, metrics need to be recorded and analyzed frequently. Some metrics specific to scheduling include annual agent turnover and agent occupancy. However, even more traditional metrics like answer rate and call duration should be measured to get an estimate of how many agents you’ll need to have scheduled at specific times.

Best Practices for Employee Satisfaction

Above we discussed how to optimize your call center for performance, but being able to adequately handle the number of incoming calls is crucial for employee satisfaction. Studies show that increased employee satisfaction in call centers also increases the quality of experience for the customer. In addition to optimizing scheduling for the right number of callers at a given time, call center scheduling can also enhance the workplace, and your employee’s experience, in many other ways.

Schedule Optimization For Hiring New Employees

As discussed earlier, one of the biggest pains for call center managers is the high turnover rate of call center employees. Then, figuring scheduling around hiring a new agent, and then readjusting schedules of current employees to match the new employee can become a nightmare.

One of the best ways to use scheduling to optimize the experience of hiring a new employee is to first determine what schedule you would like your new employee to have. This can be a strict schedule or a schedule that is more flexible depending on the needs of your agency. Then, make sure that the person you hire has the time available when you need them to have the time available. This will ensure a smoother transition when hiring new employees and can help keep stability in the workplace among current employees.

Avoid Spreadsheets And Get The Software

Many call centers will read an article like this and think to themselves ‘that’s a great idea, I can easily recreate track that myself with a spreadsheet.’ Though we love spreadsheets, we promise that not even your best tech guy has the time or the patience to configure a spreadsheet as good as scheduling software. There will be holes, headaches and hernias if you try to do this yourself.

In order to get the most desired results to optimize your productivity through call center scheduling, we recommend investing in software. The good news is that even the best scheduling software agencies have free trial periods. So you can try out the software for 30 to 60 days and make your decision based on your experience. We promise your employees will have increased satisfaction, and you won’t regret it.

Set Agents Up for Success

For all types of employees, job satisfaction is closely tied to the feeling of being effective in their role. This is especially true for contact center agents, which is why they feel discouraged when none of the calls they’re making are being answered. One proven way you can set your agents up for success is by enhancing your caller ID with Hiya Connect. When customers know who is calling, they’re more likely to pick up the phone. Being able to reach a customer dramatically improves the job satisfaction of your agents.

Allow Increased Flexibility For Your Agents

Allowing your agents to fill in their available time and request time off makes things easy for both them and you. You can allow availability to be as flexible as possible, depending on your agency and the needs of your employees. 

You can give your employees the option to put in availability on more of a weekly or monthly basis. So if an agent knows ahead of time about a dentist or doctor's appointment, they can move their availability around accordingly and adjust their time in the office without having to ask for time off. These apps can also allow agents to be more accountable with knowing their schedules and can warn them of when they are on call vs in the office so they stay more on top of their hours.

You can also incentivize agents to work during peak hours where more calls will come in. Agents will be more productive and satisfied to work during a high call time if they are aware of the fact before and receive some sort of reward for working those tough hours.

Continue To Monitor And Test

After implementing your call center scheduling techniques, make sure to continually monitor its effectiveness in optimizing the performance of your call center. Be sure to take into account your employee’s satisfaction and performance and to make sure the type of scheduling you are using is most effective for your workplace. Additionally, continue to analyze your metrics and data to make sure you gather adequate data to forecast the most effective number of agents needed for a given day and time. Be willing to make adjustments as necessary, and prep your agents to be willing to do the same. 

Hiya For Call Center Optimization

Here at Hiya, we aim to ensure that call centers are aware of all the best metrics to optimize their performance. To ensure smooth call center scheduling, there are multiple metrics that call centers can optimize to turn the center’s focus from employee retention and performance to customer satisfaction and conversion. This becomes possible as employees naturally feel more successful, productive and happy in the workplace by removing unnecessary tasks and instead improving agent’s satisfaction by helping them get the most out of their interactions with customers.

Sound overwhelming? We put together an ebook to make optimizing your metrics as simple as possible. Download our Contact Center Metrics Ebook and get started today.

Call Center Metrics eBook

 

Author Laleh Hassibi

Hiya's Director of Content Marketing and Growth

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