Skillful Scheduling Navigates Contact Centers through the Dark Months
As every good contact center manager knows, keeping a pleasant and positive work environment is important for retaining agents and helping them perform their best. Managers should also understand that succeeding in creating a positive environment requires a little extra work at this time of year. The holidays are coming, and workers will be restless and busy in their own personal lives just when the “rush” is beginning.
There are other changes that happen at this time of year that can affect contact center agent performance. One of them is the switch off of daylight savings time, which can cause difficulty in a highly scheduled environment such as the contact center, according to a recent blog post by Monet Software (News - Alert) CEO Chuck Ciarlo. The early darkness contributes to the problem. A good call center scheduling plan, backed up by a flexible solution, can help.
“If the transition was rough on your agents this year, next year try to make it more gradual, by adjusting shifts incrementally – say, 15 minutes a day for the four days preceding the change,” he wrote. Lighting adjustments in the call center – especially those that mimic natural light – can help as well, and even prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder.”
Depending on what part of the country your contact center is in, the fall and winter may mean more time indoors under fluorescent lighting, which may not be great for agents’ moods. At this time of year, it’s extra important to schedule regular breaks into agents’ working days.
“Breaks are part of every call center shift, but can be more beneficial if agents are encouraged to spend at least part of that time outside,” wrote Ciarlo. “The crisp fall air is stimulating and will boost alertness for when they return to work, especially in the afternoon when attention to detail often begins to slip.”
In addition to darkness and cold, we’re also coming into cold, flu and stomach bug season, which may wreak havoc on your contact center’s schedule. The nature of call center work means employees are in close quarters, and bugs can spread like wildfire. A flexible scheduling solution is a must during this time of year, since you’ll likely have frequent employee call outs for sickness. Ciarlo recommends keeping some part-time or home-based agents “on tap” for this time of year.
“More of your employees will get sick this time of year,” he wrote. “Recognize that it’s coming, give them the time off, and call upon your holiday file of backup and temporary agents to fill in before the Christmas season starts.”
To brighten up what might otherwise be a particularly depressing time of year for contact center agents, consider taking advantage of the fall and winter holidays to brighten up the workplace and make it a little bit merry. Holiday celebrations can help ease the gloom and boost employee engagement. Holiday-themed performance rewards (a turkey, a Starbucks gift certificate, etc.) can also help lessen the gloom.
Most important to all of these ideas, however, is the ability to change and adapt the schedule quickly to circumstances as they arise. A too-rigid or unchangeable schedule will mean you’re not prepared for the difficulties to come.
Edited by Alicia Young