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4 scheduling approaches for workforce optimisation in contact centres

by Jineshwar Kochar, WFM Innovation Consultant on Jul 30

Let’s face it – It’s hard to create efficient schedules that meet the fluctuating demands in a contact center. However, there are a few effective scheduling approaches that can help you out.

 

Staffing needs in your sites are constantly changing and they fluctuate throughout the day, month and year. But what can you do to ensure you have the right number of people in place without being highly overstaffed or understaffed?

 

Fortunately, quite a few options are there and identifying the scheduling approaches that could work in your environment and then making a decision can prove to be useful.

1. Forecast Agent Workload Accurately

Creating error-free forecasts that can accurately depict your workload and the staffing skills can be crucial. Many forecasts are usually created manually and this may seem like an easy job to do. However, if you go deeper into how the forecast works this can be a real game-changer.

 

Semi-automated or manual forecasts are not powerful. To boost schedule efficiency, the forecasts you need require sophisticated, AI-driven algorithms. We don’t want to sound fancy but AI-based algorithms are actually more accurate. This holds true especially when you want to consider a diverse range of activities and channels, such as calls, emails, chats, etc. within your contact centers. Schedule accuracy is a direct result of the quality and intelligence of these algorithms performing complex calculations in seconds. If you cannot include fluctuations, events, synchronous as well as asynchronous channels and all potential demand drivers for your business, your schedule efficiency will always be lower than it could be.

2. Multi-Skill & Multi-Channel Planning

Being able to add specific skills to each employee type individually is very important. We all know that each agent is not equally suited for each and every operational task – so it’s handy to create a scheduling plan that considers individual employee skills and preferences.

 

Your schedule is most efficient when the right people are matched to the right tasks as well. Agents who are ideally skillful for the shift they’ve been scheduled for are also better. Considering individual skill types and levels and automatically adjusting your schedule to reflect them can be highly time-saving and error-free. This goes for not only your FTE but also for part-timers covering standard, stagger and concentrated shifts.

 

For example, one shift begins at 05:00, the next at 05:30, the next at 07:00., etc., until the center is fully staffed for the busy mid-morning traffic. These shifts can be re-adjusted as necessary to account for changes in workload patterns. It can be also be possible some that employees prefer to work fewer days with more hours per day, while others would rather work fewer hours but have five-to-six workdays in a week (gig-style working)

3. Provide Optimised Breaks

Small changes to when breaks, including lunch breaks are scheduled could mean that more people are handling customers at just the right times. This can make a big difference. Some managers find that scheduling breaks on the 15-minute level and lunches on the 30-minute helps. Having flexibility to adjust schedule breaks for different groups of employees working in different time zones can reduce time spent on creating schedules optimised for higher business performance.

 

It may occur that agents call in sick and this can impact your original workforce plan. Wouldn’t it be nice to provide optimised breaks and rearrange your schedule at the click of a button? This way you can simply shift the breaks automatically as it fits best to the actual circumstances. It’s a clever thing to do, especially when changes suddenly occur. This way you are more likely to keep agents happy who have enough breaks and prevent them from being overworked. Compare this approach to changing their activities or timelines in the short-term, where you might have a bigger benefit in improving schedule efficiency.

4. Optimise Tasks Efficiently

Efficient task scheduling works well in unexpected situations. This can result in a very different schedule for the agents (say working in a different channel and breaking the timeline as they anticipated when starting the day). While this may cause dissatisfaction from an agent’s perspective, it might have a greater impact on meeting your SLAs. If you are confronted with unexpected absences or similar, this feature is crucial to make the best of the situation and maximize the efficiency of your schedule despite those challenges.

 

Let’s summarise!

So, in a nutshell here are some top WFO approaches any site planner can consider:

  • Create high-performing forecasts, ideally based on effective AI algorithms
  • Make automated schedules customizable across multiple channels and skills
  • Provide optimised breaks to meet primary business goals
  • Consider unexpected changes to handle priority tasks and re-optimise schedules

Of course, it’s not easy to implement these approaches all on your own. We understand that each site is different and so are your workforce optimisation goals. Get in touch with Widget Brain to see how we can help you out!