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We are looking into the possibility of moving our sales agents from set schedules to a flex- schedule environment. Do you have suggestions on the best way to approach this change?

We are looking into the possibility of moving our sales agents from set schedules to a flex- schedule environment. Do you have suggestions on the best way to approach this change?

10/15/2013

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Question
We are looking into the possibility of moving our sales agents from set schedules to a flex- schedule environment. Do you have suggestions on the best way to approach this change?

Answer

While it’s a given that contact centers of all sizes need to schedule agents cost effectively based on hours of operation and forecasted volumes, it’s also important to give agents as much control and choice as possible over their schedules, so they can maintain a satisfying work/life balance.

  
The first step in migrating your contact center is to specify your definition of “flex schedules.” Does it mean that an agent can be assigned to any shift, or does it mean shifts that are static but outside of the typical scope of normal business hours? Flex hours can also mean a mix of part-time and full-time days within the same shift, or even split shifts.
  
Once the flex schedule is defined, create a forecasting analysis and identify call patterns to determine the optimal mix of part-time, peak-time and full-time shifts to meet agent requirements effectively based on your service level goals. The next step is to survey the agent population about their personal preferences regarding work schedules. This should include information about days and hours they cannot work, prefer to work, or would be available to work if needed. Agents should also be given the opportunity to prioritize what matters most to them with regard to their schedules, i.e., is start time more important than days worked? Is having a weekday off more important than working on a weekend? Would they prefer to work a full-time shift in four 10-hour days? Given the opportunity to design their “ideal” schedule, agents can be very creative, resourceful and flexible. After determining which agent preferences are best suited to address the needs of the business, you can gradually migrate agents to their new flex-time schedules. You many also want to consider giving agents who volunteer for a flex schedule a financial incentive to reward them for their willingness to adapt. Over time, you should gradually shift as many agents as you can to flex schedules. Also, consider implementing a flex scheduling policy for all new hires. (However, keep in mind that there are many people who are not comfortable with flex schedules because they have personal commitments that are non-negotiable.)

  
DMG recommends taking a look at the new generation of workforce management (WFM) solutions in the market today. Many of these solutions create a “win-win” situation by helping managers find a balance between optimizing the productivity of their contact center and prioritizing agent schedule preferences. Another major enhancement in these new WFM solutions are the self-service modules that allow agents to enter their own schedule preferences, request time off (vacation days, or even just a few hours) and swap shifts. The self-service modules empower agents while freeing supervisors and WFM specialists from administrative burdens of managing scheduling changes and time off requests. A successful transition to flexible scheduling that utilizes the full array of functionality in a workforce management application can reduce operating expenses, improve efficiency and productivity, enhance employee morale, and increase agent retention.

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