Achieving Work-Life Balance in the Contact Center

By Paul Chance, NICE

Gen Z and millennials’ expectations for their employers are changing. As companies like Uber, the food delivery service Postmates, and digital freelance marketplaces like Fiverr have grown, so has the appeal of gig work. About 84% of millennials and 81% of Gen Z would now consider joining the gig economy.1

In the minds of millennials and members of Gen Z, these positions offer an opportunity to increase income, work the hours they want and achieve better work-life balance. And as these younger generations now make up the bulk of the U.S. labor force, contact centers must provide similar flexibility benefits in order to attract and retain agents.

But delivering schedule flexibility must be done in alignment with day-to-day business needs. Contact centers need to fill less popular shifts and have a certain number of agents onsite to deliver a quality customer experience.

The capabilities of NICE Workforce Management (WFM) make it easy to balance agent desires for work-life balance with business demands. Here’s how contact center leaders can utilize NICE WFM to tap into the flexibility that makes the gig economy so appealing and create a win-win situation for agents and the organization.

Incorporating Agent Preferences

The gig economy has taken off for a pretty simple reason: Workers only have to work when they want to work. Contact centers can tap into the appeal of those positions by giving agents the reins on scheduling and enabling agent preference. It makes agents more engaged with their positions, which in turn increases productivity and satisfaction, drives them to provide better service and makes them less likely to miss work.2

By utilizing NICE WFM, the leading solution for workplace flexibility, contact center leaders can incorporate additional preference types into the scheduling process. NICE WFM enables contact centers to provide much of the same flexibility that makes Gen Z and millennials love gig work. Among the preference types NICE WFM offers for scheduling are:

  • Custom priorities, daily rules, and days off
  • Days and hours per week
  • Fairness
  • Lunch lengths and times
  • Start and stop times

Offering agents the ability to prioritize each preference type is also key. For example, an agent might need a particular shift free to attend classes and would be willing to come in during a shift that has higher call volume. NICE WFM enables workers to select the preference types that are most important to them, creating a schedule that’s closely in line with their ideal working hours.

Utilizing Multiple Preferences

In the past, contact centers have largely only been able to utilize one type of preference due to the complexity involved. NICE WFM solves this challenge with a proprietary algorithm that compares an agent’s ranked preferences against a generated schedule. It provides numerous options to implement agent preferences, including:

  • Choosing to implement only a few preference types.
  • Utilizing only certain preference types for specific groups at a contact center.
  • Awarding preferences based on seniority or rank. To ensure fairness and reward the most loyal employees, contact centers can implement a composite scoring methodology that weighs seniority as a factor.

This evaluation process takes into account the full breadth of agent preference, gives them a voice in the scheduling process, and mitigates one of the biggest sources of agents’ frustration: lack of control over their schedules.

Solving Business Scheduling Needs

Empowering agents to share the entirety of their preferences is just a start — it has a huge potential to solve agent engagement challenges but doesn’t take into account contact center work rules and needs.

Consider a situation where an agent wants to work weekends but the contact center only has rules that cover weekdays. The agent can’t provide his (or her) preference to work weekends, so he isn’t able to get the shifts he wants, becomes disgruntled and is unmotivated to go the extra mile when interacting with customers. When you multiply this agent disengagement problem across an organization, it creates large-scale issues with schedule adherence, productivity, and attrition.

For contact centers that experience this, it can seem like enabling agent preferences doesn’t work, causes more harm than good or is a waste of everyone’s time. That’s because agent preference is only one part of the equation.

Using Availability Points

What’s missing is a method for agents to communicate when they’re available to work. NICE WFM provides that functionality, known as Availability Points. They enable supervisors to define each interval of a day with a unique numeric value and set rules (like minimum amount of available time or minimum number of hours per day) that agents must meet in order to complete their availability.

When paired with enabling agent preferences, Availability Points drive agents to make compromises with their availability based on business needs. NICE WFM ensures that both business and agent needs are met and empowers contact centers to avoid the pitfalls of using agent preference in scheduling.

For example, an agent could easily indicate a preference to work on weekends and availability to work during the week. The agent understands the rules that guide creation of the schedule, feels that his (or her) voice is heard and knows he will get preferred shifts whenever possible. As a result, the agent is more productive and misses fewer shifts.

The Power of Agent Preferences

It’s projected that nearly 40% of American workers will take part in the gig economy by 2020, proving the huge pull that scheduling preference has for Gen Z and millennials. As a result, contact centers must adapt to employee demands for greater work-life balance — balance that is now an imperative in this environment. NICE WFM empowers contact centers to make schedule flexibility a reality while meeting business scheduling demands. Leaders who take this approach will tap into new levels of agent engagement needed to drive growth and market leadership.

For additional information:

1 Deloitte. “A Generation Disrupted: Highlights from the 2019 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey.”

2Society for Human Resource Management. “Leveraging Workplace Flexibility for Engagement and Productivity.”