Staffing your contact centre over Christmas can be difficult at the best of times.
But with coronavirus measures once again tightening across the UK, there’s more for contact centre leaders and resource planners to navigate this year. In this blog, our Director of WFM Emma Skygebjerg shares her top tips for planning and optimising your schedules.
Tip #1: Use up-to-date data
Customer behaviours have changed in the wake of the pandemic. More people are now working from home, shopping online, and holidaying locally. That means the level of demand you normally experience over Christmas could be different this year. “Black Friday, for example, isn’t the same as it was a couple of years ago. Every year it’s getting more and more popular and contact centres are having to schedule more staff to handle the higher demand. That’s why it’s so important to use up-to-date data,” Emma says.
“Resource planners should still look back at data from previous years. This may expose some important trends, such as whether traffic is steadily increasing by the same margin every year. But ultimately planners need to use the most up-to-date figures they can get their hands on to ensure their schedules are as relevant as possible.”
Tip #2: Factor in agent skills
Customers’ channel preferences are also changing. When shops and offices were forced to close during the peak of the pandemic, many people took up online shopping, online banking and other online activities for the first time. This has led to a step change in peoples’ digital skills and confidence using digital customer service channels. For example, a recent survey of 1,000 people we conducted in the UK revealed 38% were now comfortable using an automated chatbot to resolve customer service queries. This may impact how demand is distributed across your channels this Christmas.
“People are becoming more digitally savvy and using web chat and chatbots more often,” Emma says. “This means resource planners need to ensure they’re staffing the right people with the right expertise to handle these channels.”
Tip #3: Consider employees’ preferences
Many people like to take time off over Christmas to visit family, travel, and spend time with their children. But for others, it’s the perfect time to work and earn some extra cash.
Whatever your agents’ preferences, these should be respected and factored into your schedules, as feeling forced to work can bring down an employee’s morale and motivation. “It’s important that those who are at work are there because they want to be, so they provide the best possible service for customers,” Emma says. “Puzzel WFM now enables agents to specify the days and times they prefer to work, right down to specific hours of the day. These preferences can then be factored into schedules, giving agents more flexibility to work around their personal commitments.”
If you have trouble filling seats over Christmas, you could consider offering incentives such as a higher pay rate or extra holiday in the summer.
Tip #4: Get creative with different shifts
The UK Government is again encouraging office workers to work from home if they can. And with most contact centre agents now fully equipped and comfortable working remotely, resource planners can get more creative when it comes to meeting demand. For example, agents can be scheduled to work multiple ‘micro-shifts’ across the day to better fit complex demand patterns. This is also known as split shifts.
“Working split shifts is more common in the UK and USA,” Emma says. “It gives both the employee and employer greater flexibility and ensures operational efficiency. When you don’t need to go to the office to work, you can log on during periods of high demand. This enables the same staff to meet several demand peaks in one day and to do other things in the meantime. For example, split shifts may suit parents who want to work between taking their kids to kindergarten or school and then again after the kids’ bedtime.”
Optimise your staffing with WFM
When it comes to planning your contact centre workforce, your goal should always be to provide the best possible service for customers and the best experience for agents. But there’s a limit to what you can achieve when working solely with Excel spreadsheets or pen and paper. That’s why many contact centre leaders and resource planners now use Workforce Management (WFM) solutions to help them create more sophisticated forecasts and schedules.
“With a WFM solution, you can accurately forecast demand and create schedules that will ensure your contact centre is always efficiently and effectively staffed,” Emma says. “WFM makes it easier for companies to plan for periods of increased demand and provide employees with more flexibility around when and where they prefer to work.”