Balancing Staff Optimization and Agent Schedule Preferences
Balancing Staff Optimization and Agent Schedule Preferences 10/25/2012
By Donna Fluss
The new generation of contact center workforce management (WFM) solutions provides a great way for managers to balance staff optimization and agent preferences when assigning schedules. With the agent preferences feature, the WFM solution starts by identifying the contact center staffing requirements, and then fills schedule requirements using agent preferences, as much as is practical. Keep in mind that to the extent that agent preferences are favored over strict efficiency in scheduling, the result may be delivery of sub-optimal service at some hours. However, shrinkage (unplanned sick leave and personal days) will be reduced, so the result wont be as bad as the schedule might initially indicate.
The concept of using agent preferences is still unfamiliar to many contact center managers. The fact is that this practice has already been used in Europe, where work rules have forced contact center managers to give scheduling preference to agents with seniority. This requirement has driven enhancements to WFM solutions that previously did not take agent preferences into account. Once WFM vendors started to modify their programs, they made them more flexible, and gave managers more choices in how they scheduled their staff.
While DMG is a huge fan of agent empowerment, which includes prioritizing agent schedule preferences, there are some practical considerations. Even if agent scheduling preferences are applied fairly and consistently based on a pre-defined set of criteria, it is impossible to make everyone happy. Therefore, its important to communicate scheduling preference guidelines to your staff, and pick criteria that are as fair to everyone as possible. For example, when schedule preferences are based on seniority, the newer employees always get the worst schedule choices. This results in people being rewarded for longevity, regardless of performance, which has proven not to be a good practice in contact centers. Alternatively, if monthly schedules are assigned based on agent balanced scorecard ratings for the prior month, it will motivate the exact behaviors you want to reward. (But some of your more experienced agents may be unhappy.
Using agent preferences makes the workforce management challenge even more complex, as it presents more variables to consider. The only practical way to take advantage of this new contact center market trend is to acquire a workforce management solution with a flexible self-service module Whether you have 50 agents or hundreds, with the right solution, you can balance contact center efficiency with agent preferences while reducing the scheduling burden for your staff.