Optimize Call Center Scheduling: 7 Proven Strategies

Effective call center scheduling is critical to delivering excellent customer service and driving business success while maintaining a motivated and productive workforce. However, the dynamic nature of call center operations, coupled with rising customer demands, employee preferences, and regulatory constraints, makes call center scheduling a multifaceted and universal challenge.

With such significant influence over your business performance, the question on every contact center leader’s mind remains, “How do you overcome call center scheduling challenges to optimize your workforce and meet metric goals?

7 Strategies to Improve Call Center Scheduling

#1. Improve Scheduling by Assessing Call Center Agent Skills and Identifying Training Opportunities

Effective call center management hinges on a thorough understanding of each agent’s unique skill set. Some call center agents may excel primarily in handling routine inquiries and addressing common issues, which can limit scheduling flexibility.

Conversely, certain agents possess the ability to multitask and a broader knowledge base, meaning they are well-suited to successfully addressing more complicated or intricate customer interactions. This versatility enables their deployment to any workstation within your operations as needed.

Begin assessing your contact center agents’ skill competencies by performing quality assurance testing to analyze their proficiencies and skill diversity. This exercise will reveal training needs and gaps, empowering you to deploy the appropriate training to upskill your workforce and raise your baseline of excellence to see greater performance across all channels and inquiry types.

#2. Improve Call Center Scheduling by Analyzing the Right Data

Call center scheduling is a highly data-informed function that relies on accurate data and metric reports. It’s not uncommon for call centers to discover significant holes in their call center workforce management data or to find that their reports are analyzing the wrong metrics. When your workforce scheduling is informed by inaccurate data, all bets are off.

To achieve the utmost precision in call center forecasting and scheduling, it is imperative to consistently record and analyze the right WFM metrics, such as call volume, service level, average speed to answer (ASA), abandonment rate, agent occupancy or agent utilization, first call resolution (FCR), average handle time (AHT), call wait time, abandonment rate, and agent schedule adherence. These metrics collectively provide a comprehensive view of workforce requirements at specific times, facilitating optimal scheduling decisions.

#3. Improve Call Center Scheduling by Implementing a Flexible Scheduling Model

Persistently high turnover rates are a common scheduling challenge for contact centers of all sizes. Flexible scheduling models have made possible the realization of not only contact center workforce management metrics but numerous employee satisfaction metrics as well. By offering flexible scheduling, you can create greater agent agility and availability, enabling more efficient scheduling for high-demand intervals and unanticipated staffing needs.

Types of flexible call center scheduling include:

Flex-Time Schedule
Employees determine their own schedules, within established limits, to reach a standard number of hours or to accomplish target output

Compressed Workweek
Employees work the same number of weekly hours over fewer days (ex: four 10-hour shifts)

Shift Bid Schedule
Shifts are made openly available on a rolling basis, allowing employees to “bid” for their desired shifts with final schedules depending upon factors such as seniority or performance merit

Descending Shift Schedule
A full-time schedule where day one of the workweek is the longest shift, with each following day descending in hour-count

Job Sharing
Two, or sometimes more, part-time employees share the responsibilities of a single job role

Daily Flexible Schedule
Shift options with non-traditional start times (ex: 7a-4p)

Split Shifts
Employees work two separate daily runs with an extended mid-shift break

Part-Time Schedules
Any scheduling framework that keeps working hours under full-time hours on a regular basis

Remote Work Schedule
Employees work from their own home environment within hours based on your need

Hybrid Work Schedule
Providing employees with the freedom to determine when to work in-office and when to work remotely

Shift Work Schedule
Scheduled hours outside of the traditional 9a-5p workday (ex: overnight shift)

Annualized Hours
Employees work towards target outputs within a total and highly flexible number of working hours per year

Work Sharing
Assigning the duties of one full-time position to 2+ part-time employees to reduce need for layoffs

Commissioned Outcomes
Employees have no fixed working schedule, only a target output to work towards

#4. Improve Call Center Scheduling by Cross-Training Agents

Even meticulously crafted contact center schedules are susceptible to abrupt needs for alteration, particularly when confronted with unexpected spikes in call volume or sudden agent staffing shortages. Having a team of multi-skilled agents enhances your crisis management tool kit and can be a valuable asset during such moments of urgency. By equipping your agents with a diverse skill set, you establish a highly capable workforce that can take on new shifts and tasks as scheduling challenges arise without sacrificing quality or WFM productivity.

#5. Improve Call Center Scheduling by Managing Internal Shrinkage

From staff breaks to training or coaching moments, there are plenty of reasons why a call center agent might be taken away from call handling throughout the workday, leaving a suboptimal staff count on hand to manage customer needs. Inefficient shrinkage planning has the potential to drive average handle time (AHT), call abandonment, wait times, and other critical customer satisfaction (CSAT) metrics into the ground.

Optimize your call center scheduling model by tracking and managing internal shrinkage to more accurately determine when agents are available to handle calls. This practice is vital for creating efficient schedules that align agent availability with staffing needs during peak call times. Empower your supervisors to prioritize punctual adherence to scheduled internal shrinkage activities and maintain vigilant oversight, promptly addressing any deviations from the established norms. Even minor extensions to these breaks can cumulatively impact your scheduling.

#6. Improve Call Center Scheduling Using Real-Time Analytics

Leveraging real-time analytics to improve call center scheduling is one of the most impactful ways to streamline operations and increase efficiency. Real-time data analytics monitoring involves the continuous monitoring of all queues to ensure swift adjustments are made in response to business fluctuations, effectively mitigating the negative impact of call abandonment, extended hold times, and, ultimately customer satisfaction (CSAT). When these metrics deviate from the desired range and remain unchecked, your operation is at risk of labor and cost waste and poor call center CSAT.

Modern analytic software has the capability to analyze both structured and unstructured data, enabling you to continuously monitor activity and critical metrics, such as call volume, service level, average handle time (AHT), etc. These critical insights allow you to make data-driven scheduling decisions to optimize contact center WFM by adjusting schedules and assignments in real-time response to happenings and performance.

#7. Improve Call Center Scheduling by Benchmarking Your Contact Center WFM Capabilities

Evaluating your long and short-term forecasting, capacity planning, intra-day management, and scheduling practices is a highly effective way to gauge the success of your call center scheduling methodology. Utilizing a comprehensive tool, such as Insite’s Workforce Management Capability Assessment, allows you to see how your WFM practices measure up to industry best practices and the specific improvements that must be made to optimize scheduling. By capturing a thorough picture of everything from your adverse event impact planning and scenario modeling to your report automation and multi-skilling practices, you can pinpoint your scheduling inefficiencies and prioritize improvement initiatives to see the path forward.

Schedule Your Free Baseline WFM Assessment

Ready to start optimizing your call center scheduling practices and workforce management operations? Schedule your free baseline WFM Assessment today and begin improving toward peak performance.