Overstaffed One Day, Understaffed the Next

 

Don’t you just hate it when you are always understaffed on a certain day of the week, while being overstaffed on a different day of the week?  Or you are understaffed in both the mornings and in the evenings when only part of the staff is there, while being a bit overstaffed during periods where all of the agents are scheduled.  This is actually a pretty common problem in call centers, especially in ones that are open just Monday-Friday, where the assumption is that full time employees work 8 hour shifts, 5 days a week.

It would be nice if call volumes were flat, with the exact same number of calls each day, and had the same arrival patterns.  But this rarely happens.  Some weekdays are just busier than others, and it is often difficult to create schedules to balance out days of when you actually need staffing. 

If you can relate to this, then it is time to start getting creative with your schedules.  Even coming up with creative schedules for a small handful of agents can make all the difference you need.  And the beautiful thing is that some agents LOVE these special shifts which helps with agent satisfaction and retention.  Here at SpreadsheetScheduler.com, we have a few ideas we would like to share:

Implement some 4x10 shifts

One of the first things I would look at is 4x10s.  This is a quick way to add more hours on the days you need extra staffing, and allowing less hours on days where you are currently overstaffed.  Also, this could often help with trouble intervals.  It is common for call centers to be understaffed in both the mornings and in the evenings when only part of their staff is there, while being a bit overstaffed during periods where all of their staffed is scheduled.  4x10s extend shifts such that your morning agents help a little in the evening time, and evening agents start helping in the mornings.

Apply slant schedules

Typical day of week patterns have busier days early in the week, and then less volume later on in the week.  The idea here is to create shifts that are longer in the beginning of the week, and gets shorter later on in the week (and still equal 40 hours).  So, their daily hours would be something like 10-9-8-7-6 (or whatever best matches when you need the staffing most).  Or, even something as simple as having shifts where they work a 10 hour shift on Monday, and then a short 6 hour shift on Friday or Saturday (which if it helps your staffing, some agents LOVE this option).  Really there are infinite possibilities here where you can have longer shifts one day, shorter another.

Allow longer lunches

This solution is aimed for the call center that sees understaffing in the morning/evening, and a bit of overstaffing in the middle of the day.  Simply create some schedules that have 45 minute, or even hour long, lunches.  A lot of agents will see this as a perk, and it will get rid of some of your middle of the day staffing and add more staffing to morning or evening times.  Who knows, some agents may even want a 2 hour lunch or even a split shift of some sort.

Utilize Part timers

Having part timers can sometimes do wonders for filling in the gaps of when you need agents.  But, don’t assume the only shift you can do with a Part Timer would be a 4 hour shift, 5 days a week.  Explore options where they might work longer shifts, but just a few days of the week.

Consider adjusting your hours of operation

Do your current hours of operation make sense for your customer needs and for your business?  Do you need to be open more days than you are currently, or less days?  What about the hours you are open during the day, do they make sense?  I have often seen businesses that have their call center open for just 8.5 hours a day, having all of their agents working an 8 hour day with a half hour lunch.  With everyone scheduled to be on the phones right when they open their operations as well as when they are closed, they end up being rather overstaffed at those two times, and struggle in the middle of the day when they are trying to stagger breaks and lunches into such a tight window of time.  This is magnified by the fact that the time they are trying to squeeze in the breaks and lunches tend to also be the highest call volume times of the day (mid-day is typically when call centers see their highest call volumes).

Final thoughts

In scheduling, you often need to think outside of the box and come up with creative new schedules to better match your staffing needs.  Be sure to check out some of our low-cost scheduling spreadsheets/programs for your call center at SpreadsheetScheduler.com and apply these unique schedules to your call center.