The Scheduling Swap Ideas from the 2013 SWPP Annual Conference

At the 2013 SWPP Annual Conference, Penny Reynolds from The Call Center School facilitated an interactive workshop titled “The Scheduling Swap.” This interactive workshop facilitated the exchange of scheduling ideas in a large group  format. Each person was expected to share in writing at least one practical, proven idea that has worked in their center. Through an anonymous voting process, attendees prioritized the ideas from top to bottom based on the originality and feasibility of the idea. For those of you weren’t able to attend this session, we thought we would share some of the top ideas with you. Enjoy!

1. Different Start Times by Day of Week. Consider different operating hours and start times on  different days of week. For example, pushing the start time to a later time on weekends and shortening the overall work day may work better in attracting part-time staff as well reducing overall workforce hours.

2. Preference Based Scheduling. Allow  agents to provide one to three preferred start times and lunch times. Based on a performance ranking, using factors such as seniority, schedule adherence, and other performance measures, shifts can be assigned based on requirements. This process reduces the need for shift bidding and is a great performance incentive.

3. Use Flexible Model for Hiring. Hire and schedule full-time and part-time staff based on a flexible model. This model allows the agent to give  a preference of the start/stop times by day that they are willing to work. This allows the agent to come into play by placing agents where needed.

4. Replace Traditional Shift Bids with Schedule Assignments. Eliminate shift bids by using  schedule assignments. These assignments are based upon agent shift preferences they choose to add to their employee profile. When creating a schedule, each employee is assigned a shift based upon their preference (in order of 1-5) as well as  their bid priority. Bid priority is assigned based on KPIs and seniority.

5. Use Local Students for Hard to Schedule Hours. To cover peak times and understaffed hours, find students to fill parttime positions. Use the summer to train and  publish “gap” schedules where students can sign up for short (one or two hour) schedules. These small part-time schedules can help fill gaps.

6. Schedule Prep Time for Peak Calling Times. Based on expected daily call volume and peak times,  agents are scheduled to start 30 minutes prior to the rise in call volume. This allows time to have all agents prepared and ready for work ahead of the normal queue backup.

7. Hiring Class Schedule Flexibility. Offer flexibility to new hires  within reason. Consider asking new hires to select a schedule that includes a Monday and either a second hardto- schedule day like Friday or Sunday. This can be easier if schedules are four 10-hour days where these two days are selected and  others distributed over needed days.

8. Shift of Choice. Offer the top 25% the option to create their own schedule. There can be limitations from business rules such as one hour minimum length, one hour between shift segments, and no more  than 15 hours in a schedule day. These schedules serve as the base staffing during the shift creation process for the other 75% of schedules. Offer these every shift bid as an incentive for good performance.

9. Shift Surveys. Survey the staff to  determine what schedules that fill gaps will be popular or not with the staff. A recent survey showed that a “slant schedule” with 10 hours on Monday, nine hours on Tuesday, eight hours on Wednesday, seven hours on Thursday, and six hours  on Friday was a good choice for many employees.

10. Mini-Split Shift with Two Hour Lunch. To adapt to a workload that has peak morning and afternoon but a lower volume through middle of day, find a way to offer a longer lunch and  create a mini split-shift schedule. One call center offered a schedule with 2 ½ hour lunch in middle of day and paid gym membership fee so that a number of staff could do a group workout together mid-day. This was an effective way to  stretch schedules into longer hours with no overtime or additional staff.

11. Schedule Preference Forms. Create a database of schedules based on agent preferences. As the need arises, the workforce team can search the database to find those  hat meet the needs of the business and move agents into those schedules quickly. The database of preferred schedules will typically contain a wide range of schedules that fit both business needs and the lifestyles and needs of the staff.

12.  Accountability for WFM Team. Hold all your workforce team members accountable for hitting or missing the important metrics that measure the success of their work. These may be perceived as unfair at first, but will result in better communications, more ownership over what really matters, better process development, more creativity and idea generation, and ultimately better results.

13. Flexible Start Times. At the point of hire, each new employee provides a window of two hours when they can start work each day. In their initial months of work, the agents understand that their shifts may be different each day based on that two-hour start time window. Mondays may start at 9 a.m., Tuesdays at 8 a.m.,  Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m., etc. giving the center the flexibility to better match the workforce to changing call patterns.

14. Paid Time Off for Flexibility. To entice agents to work difficult to schedule hours, offer one hour of paid time off during  low call volume times in exchange for some number of hours worked in difficult times. For example, an agent might earn one hour of paid time off for every three hours worked on Saturday.

15. Full-Time Flex Agents. Hire full-time agents to  work flexible schedules, including non-consecutive days off and other different schedules which may include different start times on different days of week or some days with more hours scheduled than others to meet the business needs. Shift  bids happen once per month and agents can earn better schedules  with better performance.

16. Outlook Schedule Delivery. Deliver schedules using Outlook. Export schedules to a file with the fields mapped to Outlook calendar fields. Agents  receive an email with the calendar attachment. When they click the attachment, their new calendar is automatically added in to their Outlook file. Supervisors also get all their agents’ calendars in Outlook and can instantly track group  schedules. This calendar approach can also link to the agents’ mobile devices.

17. Flexible Schedule Incentives. Incent associates to participate in flexible schedules by offering additional break time for little adjustments or extra dollar  compensation for harder to fill slots. For example, a flexible start time of 30 minutes might earn an extra break per week, while a split shift might earn an additional $.25 per hour additional pay for the time working that schedule.

18. Share  Employees with Other Departments. To create a part-time schedule that fits your call center schedule needs, find some employees to share with other departments. The call center gets the employee during peak call times and the employee  works elsewhere in company during non-peak times.

Make your plans now to attend this session at the 2014 SWPP Annual Conference on April 15-17 at the new Omni Hotel in Nashville.