Tips on scheduling your call center agents

Thursday, May 29, 2014

One of the important tasks of a call center manager is to design an agent schedule that can guarantee productive results. Open Access BPO, a Philippine call center solution provider, gives some tips on how managers can schedule their agents effectively.

Scheduling your call center agents is not just another management task that should be taken for granted. In fact, if done carelessly, agents may get burned out by a stressful or rigid schedule. Worse, you can prevent customers from reaching out to you.

Scheduling agents requires organization and strategic thinking. You must be able to balance your available workforce with the expected call volumes. After all, high call volumes can mean inefficient or untimely delivery of services. Here are some tips for mapping a schedule that can work well for your call center:

1.   As much as possible, divide the tasks assigned to your team into several sub-units, may it be according to the skills required to accomplish them, nature of issues, product category concerned, or geographical location of caller.

Most call centers divide their support services into three: voice, e-mail, and live chat support.

2.   List down the agents who are trained to work on each task and those who are cross-trained to work on more than one. Remember, you are scheduling your agents to man the different tasks, so it's important to know if you have agents with multiple areas of specialization in case some of your agents are not around.

3.   Plot the peak calling hours for every task. You need to make sure that there are enough people during these hours to avoid long queues. Customers always want to be prioritized. Hence, if they are placed on hold for too long, they will be dissatisfied with the services given to them.

4.   Make sure the break time schedules of your agents adhere to the expected peak hours. If your order-taking department receives high call volume on lunch hours, and your product inquiry department gets more calls earlier in the day, let your order-taking agents have their lunch earlier while your product inquiry agents can take their break a bit later.

5.   After studying your call volume patterns, listing down the specialization areas of your agents, and tentatively setting break time schedule, you can now create an actual copy of your schedule.

There are several schedule-generating software products available, but you can also use Microsoft Excel and make your own spreadsheet.

6.   Don't stop tracking call patterns and identifying causes of call volume spikes. Last season's data may no longer be accurate several months after you used it in plotting your schedule. The last thing you want to happen is to be caught off guard by sudden surge of call volume. Do not forget to take into consideration the times when you launch new products or double your marketing campaigns. 

Although giving agents the freedom to choose their schedule is ideal, the call center managers must have the final say. What you can do, instead, is to make your agents understand the rationale behind their schedule. Let them know how the schedule you made can guarantee that there are enough people who can take calls during peak times.