School is canceled. Daycares are closed. Society is on hold. How does your contact center deal with these employee challenges? Flexible hours will help your team with the unexpected cancelations, everyday tasks and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact centers have the ability to maintain customer service goals while working together to match employee lifestyles.
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There are several ways to offer flexible working hours without sacrificing customer service. Here are some examples:
- Rethink your workforce and schedules. This doesn’t have to be a time for layoffs. Contact centers have a unique role to play to create jobs now more than ever. If you have all full-time schedules, you’ll have to rethink this approach. Some of your best employees may have to reduce their hours to accommodate childcare. While this impacts your coverage, it doesn’t have to. You can hire part-time workers to fill your demand. What about your customer experience? While there is a cost to hiring and training, your current staff can help. Their skills and experience are an invaluable asset that can be shared with new hires.
- Split shifts are an easy option to help parents make lunches, walk the dog, or to work in a busy household. In fact, a split shift can be completely flexible! For example, a shift could start at 6am-10am and start again at 7pm-11pm. These options should be considered by evaluating the forecast and making sure the spikes in call volume will be covered.
- Set essential working hours instead of scheduling fixed shifts. Set times for “all hands on deck.” Then, empower your employees to work the rest of their hours outside of these essential working hours. Give your employees the choice. This will also allow for your morning people to work in the morning. Your night owls can stay up late and sleep in.
- Break and lunchtime options. There are a lot of ways to change breaks and lunches to accommodate busy schedules. For example, you can give your employees the option to sign off early if you need more coverage midday. Instead of taking an hour lunch break, your employees take only thirty minutes. Offering different break time options is an easy way to match the employees’ needs. Instead of one thirty-minute break, you could provide the option for two fifteen-minute breaks, as well.
- Shift exchanges. Provide flexibility among your employees by allowing agents to exchange shifts. With workforce management software, shift exchanges are easy. For example, with the injixo Me app, agents can request swap shifts from their smartphones. For colleagues with the same skills and working hours, shift exchanges are automatic. This gives your contact center coverage and frees up your approval time. Your employees have the flexibility to handle their own personal emergencies.
- Offer extra time off for working unpopular shifts. People are making big adjustments. Working parents want to continue working while also making time for their kids. Your average employee may need some time off to get to the grocery store at an ideal time. You can incentivize your employees to work unpopular hours, like late nights, in exchange for extra time off.
- Train and improve skill gaps. To offer greater flexibility, you may want to consider training your employees to have a needed backup skill. For example, if you have an agent who is primarily dealing with calls, you may want to train them to do chat as a secondary skill to meet an influx of demand from that channel. To help you train without overextending your resources, consider utilizing e-learning programs like The Call Center School.
Having the ability to work flexible hours empowers your employees. They can have better control of their lives in these uncertain times. Your contact center can provide the stability they need. With flexibility, your employees will work harder and be more loyal.
What are the negative impacts? Giving employees full control over their schedules can run the risk of poor coverage for your contact center. If employees aren’t scheduled when needed or if everyone wants to work the same schedule, that’s a problem. You and your employees will have to find the right balance to meet their needs and your business’ goals.
Avoid the negative impacts with the right tool
Workforce management software, like injixo, helps you to find the optimal balance for your contact center. The right WFM tool can make scheduling easier for planners. Planners can focus on what matters most: maintaining service level while improving business efficiency. A WFM software finds the optimal time for scheduling breaks and necessary coverage. It also offers your employees the ability to exchange their schedules. In short, WFM software makes balancing employees, customers and the business easier.
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Originally published on Apr 07, 2020, updated on May 24, 2021.
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