Guide to Agent Scheduling: 7 Best Practices

Improve agent scheduling with this fast-paced guide

Guide to Agent Scheduling: 7 Best Practices

Last Edited: February 27, 2023

Charlie Mitchell

After forecasting customer demand, workforce planners must staff the contact center with respect to those estimates. 

Yet, planners must not treat agent scheduling as if a game of Tetris, shoehorning staff into particular shifts to fit demand. 

After all, these are real people with real lives. As such, businesses must ensure that shifts align with their preferences to drive engagement and – ultimately – business results.

Indeed, as Gartner research suggests, agent attrition rates are increasing beyond 25 percent – as a median average across the contact center industry. Such statistics indicate that it is time to pay greater attention to delivering work-life balance and encouraging agents to stay put. 

If contact centers can achieve this, they may pave the path for higher agent satisfaction rates and enhanced cost efficiencies – through lower absence and attrition. 

In addition, they may enable improved customer outcomes, as when agents have more choice in when they work – instead of being dragged onto the phones – they bring greater enthusiasm to every customer conversation. 

However, increasing agent engagement through scheduling is easier said than done. Thankfully, these ten tips may provide some top-notch guidance. 

1. Uncover Agent Shift Preferences

Survey agents to find out what their ideal schedule looks like. Is it a four-day workweek with full hours? Would they like to start early and finish early? By asking questions like this, the contact center can create new shift patterns that complement both the arrival of customer demand and employee preferences. 

2. Consider How Next-Gen Shift Types May Aid Schedule Efficiency

With remote work now the norm, planners can trial new shifts to support staff and bolster efficiency.

For instance, a split shift, which gives agents a much longer break, may allow them to pick their children up for school, so the agent can better plan their day.

Also, consider a micro shift of one or two hours, which allows agents to earn more money at a time that works for them while affording the contact center more coverage. 

3. Avoid Scheduling Activities at the Top of the Hour

In the contact center, contacts tend to arrive just before and after the hour mark as customers plan the ideal time in their day to reach out.

As such, try scheduling 30-minute activities – such as coaching, call listening, and quality calibration – at a quarter past the hour. Doing so may help the contact center to manage its service levels and – more critically, from an agent perspective – occupancy. 

4. Build Flexibility Into Staffing Plans

At the beginning of a recruitment drive, a planner may say: “I need X full-time staff.” Yet, balancing full-time and part-time employees at the start of the process – based on the contact center’s demand profile – adds flexibility.

Just make sure that part-timers have their own onboarding schedule. Many stick everyone into a full-time employee induction plan, which disillusions part-time workers from the get-go. 

5. Monitor Schedule Adherence

Schedule adherence is a metric that offers insight into how closely agents stick to their shifts and where there could be inefficiencies.

Anomalies in schedule adherence could indicate training issues, lack of culture fit, or ineffective scheduling mechanisms that planners must address immediately to improve engagement and schedule efficiency.

6. Consider When Agents Work Best

Many contact centers now implement automatic QA, which monitors agent performance across every interaction. As such, they can track when agents are at their best.

Is it on a particular day or during a specific part of the day? By recognizing these trends, planners may offer them more hours during their high-performance period. If the agent is happy to change their schedule, the contact center may bolster its performance and perhaps its scheduling plans too. 

7. Explore Staff Sharing Alliances

For non-specialized contact centers, staffing sharing alliances with similar organizations is an excellent way to have an on-call reserve of agents without investing hugely. They can act as the first point of contact during night shifts and for generic interactions – perhaps plugging schedule gaps that full-time agents have no desire to fill.

Final Thoughts

Planners can also improve agent scheduling by implementing workforce management (WFM) software. 

With this, agents can set their schedule preferences, book holidays, and request shift swaps from a convenient app. 

Also, with this software, brands can more easily schedule across multiple sites, balance agent skills during particular periods, and optimize agent breaks. 

NICE is a vendor of such technology. Learn more about the benefit its scheduling software may offer planners by reading our article: NICE WFM: 10 Top-Notch Features



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