Schedule efficiency is a key metric for contact centers. As a planner, you are so busy that measuring success can easily get pushed to the back of your priority list. But here's how you can get started...
This article will give you a solid introduction to measuring how good your schedules are. You’ll learn what schedule efficiency is, how to measure it, and what you can do to improve it over time.
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How do you measure your schedule efficiency?
Staying within 10% of your requirements
There are a few ways to measure schedule efficiency, but I recommend looking at the percent of staff within 10% of your requirements.
For example: If you require 10 agents and you schedule 11, that’s within the threshold. If you require 10 agents and schedule 12, then it’s not within the threshold.
Measure your baseline and establish that as the number to beat. There is no set number that’s good here, it’s just about getting better than you are today.
As you measure and manage this, it will become more clear what your target should be.
Why measure instead of just comparing graphs? Let's take a look:
These graphs are the same… exactly the same, except for the scale. Graphs can be misleading, because the scale setting determines how you perceive it.
A numeric approach is critical to avoid this problem. In this example, 18 of the 21 intervals, or 86%, are within the threshold.
Here is the data behind the graphs above:
Measuring the percent variance of scheduled to required:
Three intervals more than 10 percent variance:
Now, you know how to measure the efficiency of your existing schedules. But how do you create better schedules in the first place?
Increasing scheduling efficiency with WFM software
Generally, it is a good idea to use WFM software to help you create schedules that are as efficient as possible.
It is a good first step to plug your historical data into your WFM software and let it provide you with an accurate forecast. Based on this forecast, the WFM tool can select the best mix of shifts to try to cover your workloads as best as possible.
Generally, WFM tools do a good job here. But make sure that the historical data you feed into the system is correct.
To get the best-fitting shifts possible out of your WFM software, ask yourself: Does the system have enough flexibility to create a great schedule?
Here are some limitation that could prevent your system from finding the optimal solution:
- Do you force consecutive days off?
- Do you allow the tool to create split shifts?
- Do you allow it to put breaks anywhere, or is it limited?
- What percent of part-time shifts or 10-hour shifts do you let it create?
- Can the WFM tool use non-traditional schedules, such as a slant schedule (10, 9, 8, 7, 6 hours each day for a 5-day workweek)?
The general rule is: The more flexible the WFM software is in choosing among various shift types with different lengths and start times, the better the schedule will be. It’s all about flexibility.
The prerequisite for such flexibility are flexibly contracts and working time agreements. Once you have entered those into the system, your schedule efficiency will get much better.
Scheduling flexibility is however not limitless. Likely, your contact center has built-in business rules about what you can and can’t do when it comes to scheduling.
These rules have to be fed into the system, as well. You'll have to make sure that the WFM tool will take them into account when creating the schedules.
Employee feedback about your schedules is important, too
It’s not all about scheduling efficiency however. Employee feedback is important if you ask the right questions.
OK, so any scheduler reading this is probably cringing at the thought of employee feedback being part of their measurement.
But it’s an important measure.
There will always be a perception about the effectiveness of a scheduler. It’s far better to get out in front and survey team leaders, managers, employees, etc… and get their feedback.
Not only does this give you good information, but you can leverage this to frame the conversation about the quality of your schedules.
What not to ask in your survey:
Do not ask if people like their schedules. Also, don’t ask if they like the planner! You generally want to avoid questions that are subjective, or that hold someone accountable for things outside of their control.
It’s normal that agents get shifts they don’t like. As a planner, you have the best experience for the customer in mind and that sometimes means that you have to schedule agents for shifts that are not popular. That doesn’t mean that you as the resource planner are doing a bad job.
Here is what you should ask instead in your survey:
- Ask questions about the process and how well it works.
- Are schedules released as communicated?
- Do the employees understand the process?
- Are scheduling changes processed per the timeline?
These are the types of questions that focus on objective expectations of employees concerning your work as a planner. With these questions you’re asking if these expectations are fulfilled. In short, employees will tell you if they think you are keeping your promises.
I recommend you conduct surveys 2-4 times a year. Give yourself enough time to get the results and take action before you survey again.
By showing that you act on the feedback that you receive, you’re framing the conversation employees are having about scheduling. You want them to judge whether they think you are executing the scheduling process effectively. Steer the conversation away from subjectively judging whether or not people like their schedules.
As with scheduling efficiency, the best approach for this is to measure the current state and establish that as your baseline.
Your objective is to continue to improve this number over time.
The last consideration is to determine a weighting of the importance of the schedule efficiency metric and the employee feedback. That weighting should depend on where you want to focus your time as a planner.
- If your contact center needs to become more cost-effective, have a higher weighting on the efficiency metric.
- If the objective is to improve relationships with the operations staff and focus on employee satisfaction, put more weighting on the internal customer feedback.
Over time, it’s best to try to get these to a 50/50 split, because the planning team needs to meet both of these objectives consistently.
Originally published November 15, 2017; Updated February 27, 2020.
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