We asked our readers what their agents value most from scheduling.
By far the most common answer was consistency. It’s the most vital component of what tends to be called the ‘life/work balance’.
When you have no clue what shifts you’ll be given, it makes organising a personal life really difficult for an agent. It’s easy to think of someone’s ‘personal life’ consisting of lunch dates, gym time and hangovers, but always remember the family.
Children and parents all play a key role in the agent’s personal schedule.
You could just as easily call it rhythm. No one expects to know their precise work schedule months in advance, but it helps if they can get into a routine of knowing what is most and least likely.
2. Early warning
If there’s some big event happening next week that’s likely to drive calls into your office, you’ll need more staff in. But how long have you known about it?
If you start changing your agents’ shifts with only a day or two’s notice, when that big rise in call volumes has been anticipated for weeks, you’ll have some angry agents to answer to.
Obviously the type of industry you’re in will determine how predictable your call volumes are, but lack of forward planning will never go unnoticed.
This is a pretty simple one – it was hardly a surprise to see so many of our readers saying their agents want fair schedules above all else.
It should be very easy to schedule fairly. But often, what an agent thinks of as being fair is not the same as what their management might think.
Some agents, for example, like to work the shifts that are quietest, because it’s less stressful. Some might prefer it busy, because ‘the day goes quicker’. In the eyes of management, it shouldn’t make a blind bit of difference, but it does.
Mind-reading skills come in useful here. But if you don’t have them, just try to get a feel for what kind of shifts your agents like and dislike. Then you at least have a ‘tie breaker’ for when you have to make a decision on who gets what shift.
The key to flexibility is making sure agents know who they’re ‘interchangeable’ with. If they want to change their shift, they should be able to work out for themselves which other agents are suitable to swap with.
Once they know what kind of shift swaps will and won’t have an effect on the team, your job will become easier – because you won’t have to keep rebuffing requests for swaps that aren’t viable.
Make this happen by always giving a reason when you refuse to let agents swap shifts.
Here’s the situation: you’ve spent ages, pulling your hair out, trying to get all the schedules perfect for the next few weeks. But you’ve finally cracked it and everything fits together like the perfect game of Tetris.
Then straight away, agents start coming to you with requests to change their shifts.
It’s annoying, it’s time-consuming and it’s never going to stop happening. But to be a good leader, you have to greet these requests with a smile and helpful attitude.
It’s a two-way street because, as we said before, agents should be able to see for themselves when their request is a total non-starter. But even when they don’t, you mustn’t get sharp-tongued and frustrated.
Just be approachable and always explain your decisions.
Do you agree with this list?
Get in touch and let us know.
With thanks to Matt Phil Carver – a regular contributor to Call Centre Helper.