Agents today expect far higher levels of flexibility than ever before. Nick Brook at Calabrio shares 7 winning strategies for driving all-round flexibility in contact centres.
If you’re not a fan of wearing a suit and tie every day and want plenty of time to spend with friends and family, then working in a contact centre is for you. That’s the verdict of Bristol-based RED Recruitment, which cites ‘flexible dress codes’ and a ‘great work/life balance’ as 2 of the top 8 reasons to work in a contact centre.
For employers, failure to meet these expectations for flexibility can have a damaging impact on staff retention, a serious workplace challenge. UK analyst for the contact centre and CX industry ContactBabel in its 2023 Decision Makers Guide discovered a ‘very wide spread of attrition rates across the industry with 22% of respondents having to deal with attrition rates of over 30% compared to only 16% in 2020.’
7 Ways to Create Flexible Teams
How can organisations meet employee expectations for greater flexibility? Here are 7 steps guaranteed to point you in the right direction:
1. Drive Flexibility in Agent Schedules
Start by building flexibility into agent schedules. An easy way to achieve this is to introduce fluid start times and re-think shift lengths. For example, instead of starting at 9am, allow agents to begin their day any time between 8am and 9am to enhance flexibility without disrupting agent schedules or customer demands too dramatically. The latest Workforce Management (WFM) solutions are perfect for accelerating the arduous process of offering flexible shifts that suit agents and customers.
2. Support Lifestyle Needs
It’s not just about when agents work but where they work that is important to remote and hybrid-working employees. Thanks to modern WFM technology, it is now possible to apply standard and extended shift preferences for home and office working. By using shifts with either “home” or “office” category labels, agents can pick both their preferred time and location to work.
3. Create a Level Playing Field
Use shift preferences and shift bidding for flexibility that is fair and transparent. Shift bidding allows agents to pick from a selection of predefined shifts. Agents will typically get one of their choices when the bidding process is finalised by the WFM team. Preferences allow agents to submit their preferred shift and when scheduling, planners will optimise their preferences to fit operational demand. While this means that agents might not get 100% of their preferences, it does give everyone the opportunity to influence the scheduling process.
4. Flexibility is a Two-Way Street
A flexible approach benefits agents psychologically while making contact centres more agile and better prepared for volatility in demand and other unexpected events.
First, encourage resource planners to take the lead by making a concerted effort to push through last-minute schedule request from frontline staff. Then show flexibility in shift swaps so agents are more likely to work overtime when “all hands-on deck” are needed. Next, allow agents to highlight when they can work extra hours so that planners have total transparency when asking agents for overtime.
5. Believe in Self-Regulating Contact Centres
Trust agents to know themselves and give them permission to use their own judgement in developing schedules that play to their strengths. Modern app-based self-service tools encourage high levels of self-awareness so if an agent knows they aren’t a morning person, their preference may be more afternoon or evening shifts. This form of self-regulation ensures agents are in the right place at the right time—on duty when they know they will perform at their best.
6. Self-Service is an Agent’s Best Friend
Conversations with Calabrio’s own customers indicate agent-self-scheduling usage has rocketed—up 200% in the last 12 months—and for good reason. Today’s app-based self-service solutions are miracle-workers, empowering agents with flexibility and control. They can quickly add days of work, move breaks or lunches, and trade partial-day shifts anytime, anywhere using their mobile devices. Since the launch of self-scheduling in 2022, there have been more than 5 million self-scheduling activities. This would roughly equate to 12.5 million minutes saved, or 208,333 hours, or 8,680 days, or 23.7 years assuming 2.5 minutes per activity.
Combine them with AI-driven self-service tools such as Chatbots providing virtual personal planners for agents. Ideal for remote and hybrid-working staff, Chatbots proactively notify frontline staff of late start options, early finishes, and overtime throughout the day. Bots can even handle agent requests for changes and automatically alert them if accepted.
7. Build Flexibility Around New Learning
Allow agents to take complete ownership for personal development. Analytics-powered dashboards give agents all the visibility they need to form their own self-assessments and personal development plans while harnessing WFM to automatically plan their training at a time to suit their WFH and hybrid lifestyles.
Investing in automated performance coaching solutions that connect to WFM will create a robust QM framework and adds further flexibility to often complex contact centre environments. Combining WFM and QM allows supervisors to boost contact centre flexibility, and performance by quickly identifying skill gaps to improve training, monitor agent performance and factor in mentoring and new learning around busy agent schedules.
For more flex-boosting tips and techniques, visit www.calabrio.com
Nick Brook is a Senior WFM Consultant/Project Manager at Calabrio
Calabrio is a trusted ally to leading brands. The digital foundation of customer-centric contact centres, Calabrio helps enrich and interpret human interactions, empowering the contact centre as a brand guardian.
We maximise agent performance, exceed customer expectations, and boost workforce efficiency using connected data, AI-fuelled analytics, automated workforce management and personalised coaching.
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