Excused time Implementation in the Call Center

Topic Views - 136

Resource Management

Access Intergrated Networks

Excused time Implementation in the Call Center
I would like to utilize "Excused time" as a tool to better manage Call Center resources during periods of low call volume and high agent staffing. This time would be non-paid and would not count towards attendence policies. It would be granted based on the needs of the business and managed by the resource management group.

Are there any sugestions on how to propose this to management and sugestions on how to implement this?

CC Operations Design Specialist

Financial Services

Excused time?
Can you be more specifc - are you looking at simply releasing people for unpaid periods? or are you looking to introduce banked hours? Not familiar with your terminology

Resource Management

Access Intergrated Networks

Excused Time
My call center operates Mon - Fri, 8am - 6pm. When call volumes are low we want to be able to let reps leave(off the clock)and maybe return depending on service level and pridicted call volumes. We do not want to count this leave towards the reps vacation time or sick leave. I have talked to one person about this before and they said that they would have a sighn up sheet for reps to sighn if they would like to leave early if call volume is low. Have you heard of any call centers doing anything like this?

Project Manager

SH Pte Ltd

Not a gd way..
Hi Ryan,

In my opinion, the methodology that you are planning to employ, may cause a lot of uneasiness or loss of morale amongst staff. If i understand correctly, a staff may be told to leave for 2 hours in the afternoon and come back when your call volume picks up later in the day. That is definitely not a good way of doing things.

You may be better off, analysing your historic call arrivals and planning yr resources, staffing up or down as necc on a weekly basis. This way, agents would know when to come in and when to take off.

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Obstacles
Ryan,

The main obstacles you may face include;

Employee unrest - could be very serious consequences on this, resultant poor image problem may prove difficult to retain and recruit staff long term. Management of the issue, its very difficult to say to someone we dont want you for the next half hour but be back at your desk straight after, what happens if they dont want to return when you say. Staff who have families and other commitments will not be able to manage their work/home time. Recruitment may have difficulty selling the idea to potential new employees.

Contractual problems- check with Human Resources and local/national legislation whether your contracts legally allow you to employ staff and not pay them whilst on your premises.

Management buy in - the first issue they will identify is "Why dont you staff better in the first place to prevent the problem ocurring."

I dont have any suggestions on how to implement, if you investigate the above issues I think you may find its not viable.

CC Operations Design Specialist

Financial Services

1820 hours
Have you concidered introducing an 1820 contract(banked hours)? This is where agents are contracted to work 1820 hours over the year, with the time being called in in line with the company needs (and worktime regulations of course). This is the most tightly managed way to achieve workforce flexibility.

When considering alternatives, it is important to remember that in todays business contact centres need to be ethical employers, and that the old maxim "a happy workforce is a productive workforce" is as valid today as ever. Sign-up sheets, unpaid leave, etc leave agents and employers lacking any true control, and both sides will tend to feel ill used. The 1820 scheme is transparent for both the employee and the employer, leaving you far less vulnerable as an employer.

1820 schemes have their own inherent problems. You must be 100% tight in your recording and of worked hours, as agents will want to know at any time where they stand. You also need to have confidence that your resource team have their forecasts right, as you do not want to find yourself in a position where you cannot resource the end of the year, or you are having to give agents "free money" as you are not able to call in the remaining hours at the end of the year within EU regulations.

The alternative, less formal, version is to run a banked hours scheme. This gives you less flexibility as it is not a formalised arrangement and has control issues in tracking banked / recalled hours, but may be easier to implement if your business does not have the HR and Resourcing infrastructure required to support a formal contract.

Hope this helps.

Resource Management

Financial Institution

Leave Early
Having reread Ryan's second post, it looks like we may have missed his point slightly. It reads to me like it isn't enforced leave, they want to be able to let people go if they want to, but unpaid as opposed to vacation.

This has been in place in a number of contact centres i have worked in before and has a varying degree of success.

If a rep signs to say they would like to leave early you have to be careful that there isnt the expectation that they will definatley be able too. Also they expect an answer as to whether they can go or not, and in my experience will keep checking every couple of hours to find out!

The system is beneficial, but i agree that some form of time banking is better as you can then call this time back when the business needs it at some stage in the future. It benefits both the agent and the business


CC Operations Design Specialist

Financial Services

"leave early"
The arrangement Gary refers sounds like a typical Bnaked Hours scheme, but driven by the agent more than the business. While it is true that this can be made to work, especially in a small environment, the problem is all based around controls. If you work on a banked vs. recalled hours then you need to be very tight in recording the balance, and an adhoc agent driven system is not very amenable to this. If you work on an unpaid leave basis then you may find your HR and Accounts departments nnot very happy, as there will be a lot of related work. You also need to instigate a transparent means of allocating the time out, as it is unlikely that you will always be able to let everyone go. You cannot do this on a "1st come 1st served" basis as this would prejudice agents on the later (10-6?) shifts. If you cannot prove the system to be 100% transparent then you will end up having to manage agent issues. Even though the agents are signing up to go home, you still expose yourself to the risk of tribunal, as if it is not formally contracted then agents may claim that they felt "unduly pressured" to participate and that they have suffered a loss of earnings as a result. Also, being primarily agent driven, the system does not fully address the business need in the way that an 1820 might.

CC Operations Design Specialist

Financial Services

amendment to above
>>> "The arrangement Gary refers sounds like a typical Banked Hours scheme..."
What I should have added is "...but without recall" - the mechanics are primarily the same, but there is less benefit to the business.

Analyst

Pubmaster

McDonalds
Sorry to wade in here....
not too sure on the exact technicality of the law, but you may want to investigate McDonalds experience of asking staff to take unpaid breaks during quite time (in the UK this is)...

It resulted in McDonalds losing a court case - if you are releasing the staff to leave the centre, this may be different... I just hope you don't have a centre in the middle of nowhere, as you may get some very disgruntled employees...

MI Capability Manager

Vertex DataScience Ltd

Banked Time
One way you could try that will manage expectations of both the staff and resource management teams would be to offer the time off in lieu against specific 'pay back' slots where you are under resourced.

This manages the issue of keeping records of owed hours and trying to get the agent to agree, if it is all done up front no-one can argue. Obviously the slots offered have to be realistic - either for a reasonable number of hours or linked to the start or finish times of the agents existing shift patterns otherwise they will be viewed cynically.

Overall nothing beats good scheduling, but there are always unexpected events which cause drops in volume.

N/A

Datacraft NZ Ltd

Excused time...
Hi all,

This has been in place in a previous call centre (220 staff) where I worked several years ago. It proved to be extremely effective and an excellent way of reducing both leave liability and the business costs during quiet periods. From an agent perspective it was also great as it gave the ability to take time off without having to lose your annual leave on an adhoc basis (if it was a fabulous sunny day you could request the afternoon off - queues permitting). If it was for a half day or full day then the agent could choose to take their annual leave, time in lieu or unpaid leave. It was a simple process of filling out the leave request form for a half day or full day and if you chose to take an hour or two off (unpaid) then you simply filled your name, date, time off requested in a spreadsheet. It did require an overhead from the queue management perspective and obviously good communication to advise staff of the leave acceptance/decline. It was issued on a first in first served basis too which worked well. This was all done based on staffing availability, queue performance and trending. I still believe this is an excellent idea and one which I personally fully supported from an agent and supervisor perspective.

Cheers

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McDonalds McExperience
Can anyone tell me how this banked hours scheme works with those who have families/other commitments or dont want to participate? How does one prevent them from being discriminated against especially at recruitment stage?

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Those interested in the McDondalds experience may find this page useful. It refers to the UK McLibel case and all its ramifications, it is MASSIVELY informative.

http://www.mcspotlight.org/issues/employment/index.html

If you type in 'unpaid breaks' you get some actual references from transcripts during the trial.





CC Operations Design Specialist

Financial Services

Avoiding issues
As a couple of posts have highlighted,
>any ad hoc scheme is likely to cause issues around control, morale, discrimination, etc. This is why I would again strongly recommend that the most effective way to implement flexible work hours at the contact centres control is to use
>1820 contracts. This gives the contact centre control over resource against workflow (allowing effective peak/trough management), is transparent to employees, and is no more discriminatory than any shift environment - this policy is in place in many major corporations and is perfectly acceptable in law.
As an additional consideration, if we are to move the perception of contact centres as low skilled, non-professional, bucket shop environments, then
>it is important that we treat contact centre agents with the same professional courtesy and respect that we afford to any role within our companies - would anyone amongst us in senior (or even lower/middle) management consider it acceptable to have any ambiguities in our contracts and in our earning ability?

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Schedulers should take the lead
>>>>would anyone amongst us in senior (or even lower/middle) management consider it acceptable to have any ambiguities in our contracts and in our earning ability?


Perhaps a scheduler ought to lead by example in this matter, she/he has clearly been ineffective in scheduling in the correct number of people and the quality/accuracy of his/her work is open to question.

The proposed solution aviods the scheduler ever having to schedule with significant accuracy precision and wastage, it is a placebo responding merely to symptoms - high call volumes - rather than treating the root cause - inabilty to schedule effectively from the outset.

Remedial action would be taken against agents if they underperformed in this manner. What say you?


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PS.
Something tells me Ryan (the thread originator) long since forgot to tick the 'keep me informed with emails' box and isnt reading any of these replies.............

Such are the vagaries of forums.( I have e-mailed Ryan to let him know - Lindsay)

CC Operations Design Specialist

Financial Services

scheduler responsibilities
You appear to miss the point of how an 1820 operates. It is not an "on the day release" scheme, it still requires scheduling and forecasting. Employees must be given their shifts within a stipulated period (usual is 6 week rolling). The flexibility comes from being able to schedule additional hours during known peaks and reduced hours during known troughs. If anything thescheduling needs to be far tighter than otherwise, as there is a risk of getting it wrong and having no standard hours to call in at the end to match the call volumes, especially if the total resource pool is insufficient.
Creative scheduling apporaches are ways to deal with difficult workflow e.g. extreme seasonal fluctuations, without having to rely on temporary staff - in other words it brings benefit to the workforce by providing full time permenant positions where otherwise there would only be temporary seasonal work.

Re: PS > true but then again others will hopefully read, contribute, learn, ect. and then if Ryan comes back he will have loads of info to chew over!

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scheduler responsibilities
Dylan,

I agree with you and the 1820, with your solution the scheduler owns responsibilty for scheduling. I disagree with the original proposal "excused hours" for the reasons I stated.

I back your 1820 solution for all the reasons you state.

Sorry, I can see how my posting is open to misinterpretation. My fault for not being clearer.

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