Call centers aren’t what they were — and that’s not meant as an insult. Like every other industry, call centers have been subject to the transformative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Where previously employees and other workers worked from contact centers, now many are working from home as a distributed, remote workforce. This brings new challenges, not just in terms of scheduling, but also around morale and productivity.
The same is true when it comes to optimizing the availability of agents to fit demand. Although the world is a year into the pandemic, forecasting can still be a challenge. A world in which the “new normal” is anything but normal means that there might be spikes in customer demand where previously there wouldn’t. Call centers operators must be more proactive and flexible than ever in order to deliver to expectations in a challenging environment.
What are some of the ways call center operators can change things up for this strange new world? How can Workforce Management scheduling (WFM) technology help you? Here are a few recommendations.
It’s all about the employees
Managing people can be a challenge when everyone is working in the same physical location. A good call center manager must build a positive work environment in which employees feel listened to, valued, and given the support they need in order to excel. At a time when many are working remotely, it can be easy to lessen the focus on this and, instead, to simply see the operatives working with you as numbers on a screen, waiting to be given their schedules. This is exacerbated by the fact that, traditionally, call centers have had high turnover rates of employees, with people frequently leaving and others coming on board.
But call center operators must do their best to go in the other direction and focus more on employees. Having a morning huddle in the form of a shared virtual meeting (where a physical one is not possible) can get everyone on the same page, and motivated and knowledgeable about the day ahead. It’s also important that people feel listened to when it comes to areas like scheduling. Boost employee morale and productivity, and this will directly result in improved customer experiences. Everyone is struggling to some degree right now. But make the right decisions and you can make the call center environment a more positive one for people on both ends of the phone line. To help with this…
Get the best tools for scheduling
Use the advances in Workforce Management (WFM) tools to manage schedules in a way that will get the best out of all involved. These software tools can be used by those without direct special skills when it comes to planning. Despite the physical distance separating employees, it’s now more possible than ever, through software, to know exactly what call center agents are doing, as compared to what they are scheduled for. Seeing where scheduled activity and actual activity do not adhere can be used for improving real-time decision making and further improving scheduling and accurate forecasting. These will also aid with making sure that people get the proper breaks required, which might be easy to overlook in a working from home setting.
When you’re experiencing big spikes in call center demand, or greater demand across the board, it can be tough to step back and try and see the bigger picture. The idea of optimizing work processes at a time when people are rushed off their feet can feel daunting. But carry out these optimization measures correctly, and things could well improve. More than ever, the current situation requires efficient scheduling. There have always been peak and non-peak times when call centers were either incredibly busy or a little more quiet.
Using data-driven analytics and smart scheduling tools, you can smooth out some of these highs and lows so that you don’t, during the quiet times, have employees sitting around doing nothing and, during the busy hours, have too few people to deal with demand. Smart scheduling allows you to look at information relating not just to volume of calls, but also call resolution rates, average answering speeds, when numbers spike, call abandonment figures, and more. These can then factor into your scheduling so that you ensure you are scheduling staff optimally to ensure that quality of service to customers is maintained.
Rethinking the call center
Every WFM practitioner knows what the worst case scenario looks like. From bad forecasting to unexpected, unplanned events to inflexible schedules to unproductive time, there are plenty of ways that call centers — and WFM tools — can fail to deliver. Right now, we’re at a moment when the old rules are being rewritten. Some of this is just a way to cope with the demands associated with the pandemic.
But the idea of making call center management less reactive, and more proactive, is a long-term solution to a very real problem. By choosing to work with the right WFM companies, and following some of the suggestions laid out above, you can make a significant difference. Both employees and customers alike will thank you for it.