Many contact centers are shifting away from the traditional shift patterns to improve customer service and increase productivity.
Now, they are implementing several innovative shift patterns to better meet forecasted demand and employee preferences. Here are five excellent examples.
1. Split Shifts
A split shift divides the workday into two or more sections. The gap in between is longer than an hour-long lunch break, allowing employees more time to enjoy hobbies, complete tasks like picking up their children from school or simply relax.
Planners must schedule split shifts in advance; a request for an extended break does not count. After all, WFM teams often implement split shifts to ensure most employees handle contacts during peak periods, which requires meticulous planning.
Indeed, most operations experience a lull in contact volumes in the middle of the day. So, implementing split shifts with a three-hour break from 11am to 2pm is standard practice.
The pandemic fuelled this growth in split shifts, as they are convenient for remote agents. However, it is often not the best shift pattern for in-office teams. Why? Because it is not ideal for most employees to travel to work twice a day.
2. Micro Shifts
Like split shifts, micro shifts are an excellent option for remote agents. These shifts can last as little as two hours or perhaps even 30 minutes and are ideal for contact centers that experience high contact volumes at particular points in the day.
These shifts are particularly beneficial for contact centers that hire college students, as they will likely have a couple of hours free in between lectures and seminars to log on.
Offering these shifts also helps gain more hours from the team. For example, some part-timers might enjoy doing one or two extra hours every week, as long as they can fit it around their schedule. Given the current cost of living crisis, many agents will welcome such opportunities while the contact center enjoys greater coverage.
3. Slant Shifts
Coined by leading WFM provider injixo, slant shifts offer agents the opportunity to work the conventional 40-hour week. However, hours are not split evenly between each day.
Instead, the working week compromises of ten hours of work on Monday, nine hours of work on Tuesday, eight hours on Wednesday, seven hours on Thursday, and five hours on Friday.
Such a shift pattern is ideal in operations where contact volumes drop as the week progresses. Also, many agents appreciate such a schedule as it allows them to enjoy a more relaxed end to the week.
4. Casual Shifts
Many contact centers have a base of casual workers on zero-hour contracts to whom they offer shifts when low on staff. With a WFM system, these agents may instead view the schedule and create their own schedules.
Enterprise labor services like Shiftsmart help businesses accrue such a workforce. Their solutions are ideal for many companies that suffer from continuous understaffing, supplying the casual workers to plug schedule gaps.
5. Banked Hours
Banked hours offer teams the opportunity to add hours to the end of their shift if the contact center is bustling. Agents can then redeem these hours at a later date.
Such a strategy not only enhances agent advocacy but it improves peak management, limits overtime costs, and lowers the cost of temporary resources.
However, such an initiative should come with rules attached, as some agents may end up with lots of time accrued, which they could choose to take off during periods with traditionally high contact volumes.
These Examples Are Replacing Rotational Shifts
The rise of the shift patterns above comes as traditional shift patterns fail to meet the preferences of modern-day employees. Perhaps the best example of this is rotational shifts.
Rotational shifts often offer good coverage, as the agent schedule “rotates” from one day/week/month to the next. Maybe they work one week during the day, the next during the night. Or perhaps one in every four weeks, they have to work a weekend.
Yet, more contact centers are choosing to move away from rotational shifts. One of the most common complaints is that they often disrupt the work-life balance of agents. After all, few people live rotational lives.
Another downside is that they sometimes increase stress and burnout among agents. Indeed, switching between day and night shifts often takes its toll on mental and physical health. In addition, this type of schedule can make it difficult for agents to get enough rest, further contributing to health concerns.
Finally, rotational shifts may enhance absence and lateness rates because agents are not in a routine, which inhibits their sleeping patterns.
Tips to Tackle Contact Center Shift Planning Challenges
Planning shifts is challenging, especially when dealing with high volumes of requests and fluctuating resource availability. To overcome these challenges and improve overall productivity, here are some tips to consider:
- Frontload Schedules – When understaffed, many planners try to evenly distribute the workload, accepting shortages throughout the day. However, if they instead plan to meet service level targets at the start of the day, they reduce the number of customers who abandon early and try to call back later. These callbacks add more pressure on the contact center, which is avoidable.
- Take Advantage of Automation Tools – Instead of manually juggling agent scheduling preferences, WFM tools automate the entire process. The previously time-consuming activity becomes much faster thanks to the speed and precision of current technology, which incorporates predictive analytics. As a result, planners can spend more time focusing on value-add activities.
- Coach the “Power of One” – Power of one training shows agents the impact of lateness and absence. It demonstrates how CX falters as wait times soar, how business results falter as customers abandon, and – most importantly – how the workload of colleagues swells. Indeed, agents at work get less time to rest between conversations, increasing the likelihood of burnout. Offering such coaching ensures that agents are more likely to stick to their shifts, lowering people-related planning issues.
The Bottom Line
Managing shift planning in a contact center is tricky, especially when dealing with high volumes of customer requests and employee absences.
Companies can consider using innovative shift patterns like slant shifts, casual shifts, and banked hours to overcome these challenges.
Such patterns allow agents more choice and a better work-life balance. Meanwhile, WFM solutions make them less challenging to implement.
Discover which WFM systems lead the market by checking out our article: 10 Leading Resource Planning Tools for Contact Centers