WFM Survey Results
This article details the results of the most recent SWPP quarterly survey on critical workforce planning topics. In this survey, which focuses on the scheduling process, was completed by over 150 call center professionals representing a wide variety of industries.
The largest percentage (45%) of the participants is from large call center operations with over 500 seats, followed by 16% with 100-200 agents. However, 14% of the survey participants represent centers with 100 or fewer agents. All types of call center operations were represented in the study, with the biggest percentages representing financial, insurance, healthcare, telecommunications, and Other (which includes all industries not named in the survey choices).
Survey Agents for Preferred Shift
The survey participants were asked whether they survey their agents to see what shifts they would prefer to work. The answers were evenly split between those who ask and those who do not. While it is important to preface such a survey with a disclaimer that nothing is promised, asking the staff to identify their preferences can be useful. Some centers have had requests for shifts that would not have been considered without the request and some of these have worked to the center’s benefit as well as the agent’s desires. In many cases, if the agents are asked to list three or four options, at least one of these can be offered to a large percentage of the group.
Process for Assigning Agents
Assigning agents to the shifts they will work is a process that varies widely, but more than half of the respondents choose to have a shift bid process in which the agents select their choice. Agents are generally ranked in order by some criteria that may include seniority, performance results, attendance, adherence to schedule, or other items. The next most chosen option for how assignment happens is through a manual process, followed by an automated process using a software program. Only 4% reported that agents are hired for a specific shift and do not change.
Frequency of Assigning Schedules
There is significant variation in the frequency of assigning schedules to the agents. The most selected choice is “as needed” with semi-annual and quarterly chosen by 16% and 14% respectively. More frequent assignment was reported by 9% for weekly and 8% for monthly. The need to adjust schedules arises from significant changes in the workload that may be driven by seasons, marketing campaigns, product changes, and a variety of other business drivers. It is important to change as often as is needed to adjust to these changes, but not so often as to cause more than the necessary disruption in the lives of the agents.
Agent Self-Scheduling Options
Many centers offer self-scheduling options for the agents. The vast majority offer the ability to request time-off with over two-thirds offering request for schedule swaps. Schedule change requests and request for extra hours are offered by approximately half of the respondents. Fully Automated Scheduling Options Of the centers that offer agent self-scheduling options, about half manage the process with a fully automated system requiring no manual approval or administration. However, about 40% automated none of these options. Processing these types of requests can be time consuming for the WFM staff and/or supervisors. In addition, giving the agents control of this important aspect of their work life can be viewed as a significant benefit.
Fully Automated Scheduling Options
Of the centers that offer agent self-scheduling options, about half manage the process with a fully automated system requiring no manual approval or administration. However, about 40% automated none of these options. Processing these types of requests can be time consuming for the WFM staff and/or supervisors. In addition, giving the agents control of this important aspect of their work life can be viewed as a significant benefit.
Value of Self-Scheduling Options to Agents
When asked to categorize the value of the various self scheduling functions to the agents, the respondents were offered low, medium, and high value or “don’t know.” The following chart shows the results of that question which suggests that the impact of these options can be significant.
|Request schedule swap||11.8%||21.6%||47.1%||19.6%|
|Request extra hours||14.1%||19.5%||35.6%||30.9%|
|Request time off||1.9%||4.5%||78.7||14.8%|
|Request schedule change||10.0%||17.3%||46.7%||26.0%|
Survey participants were asked if they had policy restrictions in place for agent schedule change requests. Over two thirds require advance notification while just under half require leadership approval before submission of the request. Less than 10% reported no restrictions on these requests.
Impact of Restrictions on Agents
When asked how these restrictions impact the agents’ satisfaction, the options were once again low, medium, and high impact or “don’t know.” In this case, the percentage answering “don’t know” is higher than in the question above. While some restrictions may be necessary to maintain control of the operation, the impact of such restrictions on agent satisfaction should be considered before the policy is put in place.
|Certain number of requests allowed||14.5%||18.8%||13.0%||563.6%|
|Leadership approval before submission
|Must be employed for a certain length of time before requesting change
Scheduling in the contact center is one of the more challenging tasks. Finding that delicate balance of meeting the workload with an acceptable and consistent speed of answer along with agent satisfaction and resulting retention is not easy. It is clear from this survey that each center finds its own solutions to these challenges and that there is no one right way or industry standard approach that will work for everyone. The Fall survey will be available on our website soon. We hope you will participate.