Part One of Two: People & Technology
THE PEOPLE – Improving Agents’ Work/Life Balance: Millennials, Working Remotely, & Flexible Scheduling
Contact Centers today need to consider the shift in mainstream ideology that now places a very strong emphasis on having a work/life balance. According to many sources, this change in attitude is attributed to the Millennials’ rising influence on the workplace atmosphere. But even if your workforce is not exclusively Millennials, this change has a significant effect on what Call Center agents now expect of their daily workplace.
Working remotely and/or at home is more common than ever. This practice is also more affordable and available due in large part to the advancements in softphone technology. It is no longer necessary for an agent to be tied to the desk phone in your Contact Center. Now, agents have the ability to work anywhere they have internet access.
Flexible scheduling is another ‘must have’ for today’s Contact Center agents. New Workforce Optimization (WFO) solutions allow for agent preferences – such as preferred working hours, days, or time-off requests – to all be managed, changed, and approved through the Workforce Management (WFM) software. What’s more, agents can submit requests electronically and have the supervisor approve or deny them right from his or her mobile device. Other functionality, including keeping an eye on intraday operations, can also be monitored and managed via mobile means.
Overall schedule creation is easier as well. In the past, supervisors would manually analyze historical call volume data and make a best guess about needed resources. Oftentimes, this led to supervisors spending more time managing the agents’ schedules than managing the agents themselves.
Excel spreadsheets were, and in many situations still are, the most common method of forecasting, creating, and changing employee schedules. However, new scheduling and forecasting features, all available through the WFM software suite, have the ability to create and manage forecasting with a higher degree of accuracy. Reports and schedules are easy to create, flexible, and can use your center’s existing data to make accurate predictions.
By using Workforce Optimization offerings, the amount of time spent on scheduling decreases sharply, which in turn frees up supervisors to spend more time guiding, coaching, and training staff. Additionally, agents are not sitting around unnecessarily waiting for calls to come in.
The result is a center that has the right amount of agents in the right places, at the right times. Some will work virtually; some will be physically in the center. Some will have earlier start times; some will have later. Agent preferences and requests can be quickly and easily managed through the WFO suite. The work/life balance that is more important than ever, can be established and maintained.
In the end, agents are happier, which reduces turnover. And since the average cost of hiring and training a new agent is estimated to be about $6,000 these days, retaining good employees can save a significant amount of money for the company.