Self-Scheduling: The answer to agent stress
With stress levels in contact centres as a constant, here is how to balance the needs of employees and the business with a fresh approach to agent self-scheduling.
I have been in the Workforce Management (WFM) business for over 20 years and during this time, contact centre leaders have again and again told me that one of their biggest challenges is balancing the needs of employees with great customer service. Recently however, the situation has reached crisis point with the pandemic ushering in a new era of ‘The Great Resignation’, where employees are reassessing the impact of their jobs on work/life balance, mental health and overall life goal fulfilment. This has hit the contact centre industry hardest, where higher-than-ever levels of stress are driving serious agent retention issues. According to Salesforce, 71% of service agents in the US have considered quitting in the past six months, while 86% report they need more from their company in order to stay, citing monetary compensation, career growth opportunities and better management at the top of their wish list.[i]
Other than ‘higher pay’, customers often tell me their agents crave ‘more flexibility’ in their job.[ii] While many attempts have been made to address this, such as introducing shift bidding, shift trading and shift preferences, nothing has really worked 100% in favour of frontline employees. Granted, these new ideas catered for the needs of the business but they were not flexible or easy enough for what agents really wanted – that is until now.
7 ways to crack the code using agent self-scheduling
By blending radical new thinking with breakthroughs in technology, I believe that contact centre leaders finally have the opportunity to crack the code, offering businesses the dual ability to give agents more freedom to self-manage their own schedules and keep service levels under control. When agents are able to plan their work around their life rather than the other way round, stress levels naturally fall and customer satisfaction rises. Here are a few ideas to getting started:
- Change the mindset – in a world where there are too many customer interactions and not enough agents, the culture has to change. Traditionally, the notion that the customer comes first has prevailed, but at Calabrio we see more and more companies coming to us and saying, “My customers are really important, but my employees are also really important. I can't afford to lose my people.” Now that is a radical change in thinking.
- ‘Easy and smart’ does it – and that’s certainly the case when it comes to agent self-scheduling solutions that allow agents to build and edit their own schedules in real-time and on the move, using their mobile devices. Frontline employees can move lunches, catch-up with colleagues and make time for new learning as customer demands or domestic events occur throughout the day. I often hear customers say self-scheduling is a “brilliant idea” because the simple act of having lunch and taking breaks together helps – in their words - “build teammate chemistry.”
- Give agents the freedom to create the ideal work-life balance – one of the things agents love most about self-scheduling is it is “easy to fit around their lifestyle”. Adopting modern self-scheduling capabilities empowers agents to achieve an even greater influence over their working day, while allowing contact centre managers to keep control of overall staffing levels. For example, agents can now add work hours on either unscheduled or scheduled days. Someone looking for extra shifts can go to the self-scheduling app, see where there is a need for agents and sign up for more hours. At the same time, they could even consider making partial-day shift trades with their colleagues.
- Remember the secret sauce to self-service automation – comprehensive rule sets and real-time intraday service level controls across all skills ensure that agents can completely self-service, build and modify their schedule, without any intervention from the WFM team. Without this secret sauce of rule sets, the WFM-team would have to manually check and approve changes - far too slow and time-consuming for most busy contact centres today.
- Build in self-regulating guard rails – look out for agent self-scheduling tools that are configured to automatically take into consideration global work regulations as well as the legal parameters of individual agent contracts. Being able to track and manage an organisation’s compliance against important employment laws means you can always rely on automated approvals to protect you and your staff while building in the highest levels of efficiency to best serve your customers.
- Raise the status of self-scheduling – make what we call at Calabrio ‘lifestyle scheduling’ an intrinsic part of your strategic Workforce Engagement Management (WEM) framework. Agent self-scheduling is just one way to engage and motivate employees. When combined with modern call recording, quality management and performance coaching, today’s analytics-driven solutions offer a complete, end-to-end personal development toolkit. Personal development plans and insight into individual/self-managed performance boosts employee experience and as a consequence improved customer experience follows.
- Take inspiration from real-life successes – such as National Debt Relief, an early adopter of agent self-scheduling which claims “it lets agents manage and change their own schedules as unexpected things happen throughout each day, without negatively impacting the contact centre’s service level.”[iii] National Debt Relief is just one of 80% of Calabrio’s customers who say WFM increases their ability to balance both business and agent needs.[iv] Why not follow their lead?
Don’t just take my word for it
Self-scheduling is easy and smart for the agent and for the WFM-team – and contact centre staff just love it. As one of our satisfied customers enthused, “Self-scheduling is the best!” while another confesses to be “in love” with self-scheduling because it helps them get over the routine aspects of their job. Self-scheduling also delivers tangible business value, enabling organisations to gain a critical edge over the competition when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best contact centre talent, essential for business success. Visit Calabrio’s Self-Scheduling hub for more information.
[i] “How the Great Resignation will redefine service research” – published in January 2022 by Salesforce.
[ii] “Health of the Contact Centre 2021 – Agent Wellbeing + The Great Resignation” – report published by Calabrio in October 2021
[iii] Calabrio press release issued on 23rd February 2022 - https://www.calabrio.com/press/new-self-scheduling-package/