Improve your Customer Engagement with Creative Agent Shift Design – Part 1 of 2

24th Feb, 2015
Read time: 2 minutes

Shift Patterns that Work and Why

Matching growing customer expectations with a finite resource is a growing theme. Enhancing your customer's experience is pivotal to success. Shift design can play a key role in delivering customer service excellence.

Experienced resource planners agree there is no perfect single shift pattern. Workloads often change at short notice, resulting in an inconsistent customer experience due to reduced customer service levels. It is important that the shifts you choose are flexible and fit for your organisation's purpose and provide a solution for:

  • Restricted shift patterns that may incur the need for costly additional hours
  • The flexibility to react to changing market requirements, including new organisation wins
  • Reducing reliance on 'key' flexible agents which can result in fatigue and affect performance

Often flexible shifts become irregular to cover agents with shifts that are too specific. It is essential to have the underlying processes with the flexibility to deliver a productive team environment.

Shift Lengths and Attendances

For the perfect schedule it is necessary to consider a variety of different lengthed shifts worked by agents, together with the number of attendances (days at work) each week. Different length attendances may be effective in meeting requirements.

Full-Time and Fixed Length Attendances

Historically, contact centres begin with full time staff, typically working 8-hour shifts. Staffing to meet the morning peak can mean that as the contact peak declines over the day and the late staff come on duty there is significant over-staffing. When faced with restrictive shift lengths organisations have a simple choice to over-spend or under-perform, neither of which delivers best value.

Part-Time Staff

Alternatively, centres could employ part-time staff which could become part of a very effective solution. Having a good base of part-time staff can be very beneficial. The type of operation and employee availability need to be considered, alongside the following;

  • Is there a ready pool of resource in the local employment market?
  • Are agents prepared to remain permanently part-time or are they seeking a stepping-stone to full-time work?
  • What training and support costs need to be taken into account, including software seat licences?
  • Are you able to replace gaps left by part-timers for specific shifts?

Part-time workers may be the answer but only if there are known peaks that are expected to remain for the foreseeable future. However, there is a more robust approach for a contact centre focussed on performance.

Full-Time, Varied Length Attendances

It is possible to design shifts that are not standard 7-hour lengths to cover the requirements and still provide 35- paid-hours per week. For example, a 35-hour week could be broken down as follows:

  • 4 x 8-hour attendances and 1 x 3-hour attendance
  • 3 x 8-hour attendances, 1 x 7-hour attendance and 1 x 4-hour attendance
  • 4 x 7.5-hour attendances and 1 x 5-hour attendance
  • 3 x 8.5-hour attendances, 1 x 5-hour and 1 x 4.5-hour attendance

By incorporating at least 1 shorter day it is possible to turn a minimum of 20% full-time staff into part-time workers.
This gives the flexibility of part-time staff without the need to recruit higher volumes of agents with the associated costs.

Having the ability to design manual contact centre rotas to get the correct "fit" with more than 30 agents can be extremely complex and time-consuming, and best practice suggests you should consider a workforce management tool.

For a more in-depth read on a further shift technique called Reserve working, stay tuned for part 2 in this series.

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