Reserve Working, a technique that keeps up to 20% of the team on fluid shifts, can be unpopular as it introduces uncertainty; most agents prefer to have fixed shifts and to always know when they are working and when they are not. Agents prefer the longest possible notice of attendance, so that they can plan their lives around this, whereas contact centre managers would prefer giving the shortest possible notice of attendance to cope with requirements from staff off sick or in training. Achieving customer satisfaction and service levels while motivating staff requires mutual benefit and compromise.
Reserve Working provides a mechanism to ensure a continued positive customer experience and is a viable alternative to rescheduling 100% of the contact centre, 100% of the time. It provides agents with advance notice of attendance while giving management maximum flexibility, and means a percentage of agents working flexibly (typically 12-15% on a weekly basis) on a rotating basis. If this is enforced on agents, they will either demand more money, raising the cost of service, or they will vote with their feet and attrition rates will increase.
To overcome any resistance, provide agents with guaranteed visibility of when they will be working; for example, sixteen weeks in advance. However, this stability comes with the proviso that two weeks out of the sixteen they will be "on reserve" and will be advised of their shifts for those weeks only a few days in advance.
To avoid anyone claiming the system is unfair, all agents should be put on the sixteen-week rota, as everyone will then get two weeks of Reserve Working and fourteen weeks of set shifts. Organisations can choose the reserve percentage that delivers the best customer experience; two weeks in sixteen (12% reserve), one week in five (20% reserve), one week in four (25% reserve) or any level that best manages the risk of understaffing. Contact centre mangers are focused on seamless exception management and should set the level of reserves as low as possible, while consistently meeting service targets with minimum cost and effort. Agents prefer objective transparent solutions that schedule using a robust workforce management system (WFM), such as QMax.
Agents soon realise that this arrangement gives them stability across fourteen weeks out of sixteen, with the added advantage of knowing their shift patterns sixteen weeks in advance; flexibility during their two weeks on reserve is made possible by the WFM tool using sensible rules to schedule shifts. For example, they might get four longer shifts followed by a day off during the week or an extra day at the weekend.
Contact centre managers enjoy improved productivity as there is no need to pay people a premium for reserve working. Overtime is cut and there will always be a percentage of agents available at short notice for unforeseen events.
Reserve Working gives agents socially acceptable shift patterns with plenty of notice of attendance so they can organise their family and social responsibilities around them. It also provides management with the flexibility required to meet service levels. Combining this method of scheduling with an intra-day optimiser to schedule breaks and lunches on the day is the perfect solution to ensure you have motivated agents, enhanced customer service and contact resolution with the right people, in the right place, at the right time.
Reserve Working makes a positive contribution to an effective contact centre, and when respectfully implemented, delivers a winning combination for the centre team and customer service.