Due to the recession, a lot of companies have cut their call center staffing to the bone – which means they have no choice but to put increased demand on their remaining agents.
The problem is this increased workload will eventually lead to fatigue and “burnout” among the existing agents. The phenomenon is especially prevalent in companies that don’t cross-train their agents or use a “universal agent” approach -- which is where each agent is trained to handle a mix of different contact types, including Web chat, email and phone.
For sure, mixing up the various tasks that a call center agent is responsible for on a daily basis can go a long way toward preventing “burnout” and can actually improve agent performance. For example, if an agent is working an eight hour shift, and they are cross-trained to handle all channels, why not have them handle email or Web chat for two hours a day? Many organizations have discovered that by cross-training their agents to handle different tasks they can break up the monotony of constantly answering phone calls -- reading the same scripts over and over again -- thus resulting in a more positive agent attitude and higher productivity.
Some merchants with centralized operations have even had success scheduling their agents for non-call-center-related tasks – including, for example, basic, manual fulfillment processes, such checking order invoices or packing orders to be shipped, in the company distribution center. Not only does this keep agents busy during lulls in call volume and gives them exposure to the rest of the fulfillment process, it’s also a great way for companies to gain new operational efficiencies.
The big challenge, though, is how to schedule agents for these various activities without inadvertently impacting service levels for any particular channel. This is where a workforce management system can play a key role. Today’s workforce management systems can be used to intelligently and accurately schedule cross-trained
agents for different tasks throughout the day – thus helping to solve the problem of agent “burnout” while at the same time enabling managers to get increased productivity out of their remaining workers.
Many of today’s Web-based workforce management systems, such as Monet’s Software
’s Monet WFM Live
offering, sport advanced analytics capabilities which enable call center managers to forecast how many agents will be needed for any particular shift. This is achieved through integration
with the call center ACD and other databases, including a company’s CRM system. Not only can the WFM system accurately forecast call volume based on historical call volume patterns, time of season and past customer activity, it can also take into account one-time external/internal events that will impact call volume, such as a recently launched marketing campaign, the airing of a new infomercial, the introduction of a new promotion, or the demise of a direct competitor.
Allowing agents to handle different tasks during the course of each shift requires careful planning and accurate scheduling. If you operate a call center with 30 or more agents, and you’re still using spreadsheets
, you will have a difficult time scheduling agents to handle different tasks within each shift. A workforce management system, on the other hand, will not only help you schedule these various tasks more accurately, it will enable you to do it in automated fashion. For example, with a spreadsheet, if an agent fails to switch to a certain task at a scheduled time, the manager might not know until it is too late – whereas with a properly integrated WFM system, the manager can receive a real-time alert in the event an agent fails to switchover, thus helping to ensure service levels.
There are many advantages to be gained from cross-training agents and adopting a “universal agent” model -- not the least of which are the operational efficiencies -- but just as important is the fact that it helps “break up the day” for call center agents by enabling them to carry out a variety of tasks throughout each shift, thus affording them a level of variety that helps prevent boredom and “burnout.”
And as they say, “variety is the spice of life.”