Managing Client On-Call Schedules

By Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections MagazineTelemessaging operations and many inbound teleservice companies are faced with the need of getting caller information to on-call personnel. This task is often referred to as dispatching. One tenet of effective dispatching is timeliness; another precept is accuracy. Succinctly stated, this means that the correct on-call person needs to be contacted in the correct manner at the correct time.

Historically, on-call schedules were manually recorded on 3 x 5 cards, in notebooks, or even on a strategically positioned bulletin board or whiteboard. Adopting a manual methodology was fine as long as the quantity of schedules was small, the instructions were simple, and the agents worked in a single location. However, once any of these factors ceased to exist, a manual system becomes at first, cumbersome, and eventually, ineffective.

Fortunately, the modern call center is computerized. On-call schedules can be entered into a database, which can then be accessible from any agent station on the network and even extended to remote agents and clients via the Internet. With a centralized database, once information is added, updated, or deleted, the changes are immediately available for all parties. This keeps everyone current and ensures consistency from one agent to the next.

Although it would be relatively easy to make a basic database of clients’ on-call information, it is far more difficult to integrate it into a call processing platform. When properly integrated, the correct client’s on-call instructions are a key stroke away for any agent when he or she is handling that particular account. Integration ensures that the on-call instructions that are displayed to the agent are the correct information for the current day-of-the-week and time-of-day; old information is archived and future information is not presented. These features all combine to ensure that the correct on-call person and their current dispatching instructions are displayed to the call center agent, thereby minimizing errors, increasing efficiency, and ensuring consistency. In some cases, certain dispatching steps can be automated, thus saving the agent time and speeding the delivery of information.

Several companies provide advanced on-call scheduling software. Here are key vendors who specialize in on-call scheduling software for teleservice agencies and outsourcing call centers:


 

Almond Hill Enterprises: Turbo-On-Call is a simple and cost-effective way to handle clients’ on-call schedules. It provides monthly, biweekly, weekly, and daily views along with reporting features. It allows real-time access by the call center and clients and integrates fully with TurboSchedule calendars to provide a unified scheduling system. Like TurboSchedule, Turbo-On-Call is a hosted package, requiring no capital outlay, special hardware, or software to load or maintain. It is Web-based and can work with any Web-enabled or Web-ready call-processing platform. It costs $19.95 per schedule per month or $9.95 per month as an add-on to TurboSchedule.

For more information, contact Almond Hill Enterprises at 800-398-6100 or cs@turboschedule.com.


 

Alston Tascom, Inc.‘s Evolution Communications and Data On-Call Scheduler display time and date sensitive on-call information to the agent. The agent may then select the appropriate on-call person and generate a message with the on-call information inserted into the message form. There are virtually no limits to the time periods or the number of on-call entries in a client account. Each client account can have a dedicated on-call schedule or share an on-call schedule with one or more other accounts. The system can provide on-call functionality for multiple facilities, each having its own staff directory (or multiples) and each department within a facility, with information that can be entered and updated either locally or remotely by the client via the Evolution Client Web interface. On-call schedules can be entered in advance with no restrictions as to how far in advance.

The On-Call Scheduler is designed to work with the Evolution Communications and Data system. It can be either hosted or installed at the call center.

Contact Alston Tascom at 909-548-7300 or sales@alstontascom.com.


 

Amcom Software, Inc.: Amcom On-Call Scheduling applications provide centralized, real-time access to on-call information by any authorized user. The system tracks who is on-call for various departments, offices, and clinics, preventing mistakes in coverage tracking. It prevents problematic entries such as duplicate coverage and notifies the user attempting to make the update.

Amcom on-call calendars can be set up months or even years in advance, and can be maintained via Web browser, wireless devices, IVR, speech recognition, or agents at their stations. Clients may maintain their own calendars, get daily on-call lists, and view monthly calendars. Calendar access and maintenance is security controlled and every on-call modification is logged. User-friendly tools allow management staff to set exceptions, coverage, referrals and page-block scenarios in addition to standard on-call schedules.

Amcom Software has two on-call scheduling options. Smart Web On-Call Scheduling is a premise-based package and e.On-Call Scheduling is a hosted offering. Both packages are platform independent and can be used with any switch or call processing platform.

Package features include:

  • Pre-built templates
  • Real-time scheduling
  • Quick pick lists
  • One-button assignments
  • Drag and drop assignments
  • Automatic escalation
  • Daily on-call lists
  • Monthly style calendar views
  • Administration by departments/clinics via Intranet or Internet
  • Access controlled by security
  • Real-time and historical reporting

For more information about either of Amcom’s on-call scheduling packages, call 888-337-9274 or email sales@amcomsoft.com.


 

Amtelco‘s Infinity Intelligent On-Call Scheduling software provides the ability to automate the process of scheduling resources for on-call coverage. Access to on-call schedules is available to agents, supervisors, clients using the Web, and callers, to provide a fully integrated on-call scheduling capability.

Infinity On-Call Scheduling is tightly integrated with the messaging and dispatching functions of Infinity to automate the process of locating on-call resources and dispatching messages to them. The current resources covering for an on-call schedule can be pulled into an Intelligent Message script automatically, allowing the dispatch process to be directed to on-call personnel.

Web On-Call Scheduling allows clients to view and update on-call schedules without involving call center staff. This can provide clients with much greater control over on-call coverage and can shift the responsibility of maintaining on-call schedules away from the call center to the clients. Clients can take advantage of Web features including recurring shifts, schedule copying, daily-weekly-monthly calendar views, and generating reports. The On-Call Scheduling package is designed to work with the Infinity call processing system.

Contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148 or info@amtelco.com.


 

CadCom Telesystems, Inc.‘s AccuCall Notify Scheduler has an on-call rotation feature which automatically rotates the on-call person listed on the notify window for each account page. It also gives the option for manual message dispatch or automatic dispatch. Schedules can be implemented for up to one year in advance. The AccuCall Notify Scheduler is designed to work with CadCom’s AccuCall platform.

For more information, contact CadCom at 800-422-3266 or sales@onvisource.com.


 

Professional Teledata‘s PInnacle system includes an internal, integrated on-call scheduling software package as part of every PInnacle Telemessaging System. Each account may contain one or more separate on-call schedules with each schedule containing multiple on-call contacts. Appropriate on-call contacts are automatically identified by the system according to a series of conditions, such as time-of-day, day-of-week, and geographical location or any other variable as established by a response to a scripted query while talking to a caller, such as, “Is this an emergency?” Multiple on-call individuals or locations are immediately identified, displayed on the screen, and/or included in the message ticket.

Schedules are accessible by the client through a branded, secure, password-protected website. Clients are entitled to no-access, read-only access, or unlimited access to maintain schedules and optionally generate reports. Depending upon account setup, on-call persons may be notified automatically, manually, or by a combination of both methods.

To learn more information, call 800-344-9944 or email sales@proteledata.com.


 

Startel Corporation offers two on-call scheduling options. The OnCall Scheduler is available for both their original platform through their Workstation Module application and Startel’s new CMC platform; the IntelliScheduler is only available for the CMC system. Both packages are specific to Startel call processing systems and are installed at the call center.

Startel’s OnCall Scheduler’s key features include the ability to automatically display time and date sensitive information when a call is presented to an agent. This information can be directly imported into the message form saving the agents numerous keystrokes as multiple columns of information can be populated into assigned prompts. Both calendar views as well as list views conveniently display the information and enable strategic searches to be done by dates, shifts, or individuals. Schedules can be shared across multiple accounts to reduce the administrative time and eliminate errors.

Startel’s CMCCMC platform. This application provides a quick and easy way to set up and maintain daily schedules as well as accommodate each client’s special schedule. In addition, it provides a scheduling capability with the new “On The Fly” scheduling functionality. When clients need to quickly change some aspect of their normal assignment, agents can easily accommodate their special request. It is instantly overlaid on to the current schedule and immediately available for all agents, eliminating the need for special instructions as well as costly agent mistakes.

For more information, call 949-863-8714.


 

Szeto Technologies Inc.‘s Linx On-Call is an integral part of their Call Linx TAS System on a Linux platform. The software is installed at the call center; the call center can in turn host it on their website for their clients.

Linx On-Call functions in conjunction with all the message delivery capabilities of Call Linx. When only one person is on-call, the software automatically dispatches to that person. For schedules where multiple on-call persons are slotted in the same time period, the built-in “automatic rotation” feature, when activated, ensures that all are contacted equally. Otherwise, the agent is left to manually make the selection. Additionally, Linx On-Call can “hunt,” if a sequence has been entered, for the first available on-call person. It also allows the agent, depending on the nature of the call, to “override” the automatic choice of dispatch recipient.

Linx On-Call allows maintenance of multiple schedules under one client. As a regular function of Call Linx, it helps agents decide which schedule to use with pop-up “linked sub-accounts.” When it is used with Linx Call Scripting, “On-call Schedule Branching” enables this decision to be automatic.

The control of this software rests totally with the call center. If they choose to host client access in its website, Linx On-Call becomes a tool for its clients to plan, maintain, and communicate their on-call schedules. All changes are kept in history log files, which are only available to the call center. If the call center wishes to offer Linx On-Call as a complete on-call software tool for its clients, Szeto can customize the option of client-access functions.

For more information, contact Charles Szeto at charles@szeto.ca or 888-421-3737.


 

Telescan‘s Spectrum On-Call Scheduler is a Windows-based program that allows for daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly client schedules with contact information. Client schedules are instantly available to agents as the clients send in their electronic schedules. Spectrum On-Call Scheduler helps call centers track their clients’ complex schedules easily and accurately; it reduces the time agents use to manage client schedules and minimizes errors.

Professional Answering Service, Inc. in Springfield, MO, has been using the Spectrum On-Call Scheduler since it was first introduced. Their Operations Manager, Gail James, says it has been a huge help in setting doctors’ schedules. “Since our business is 70% medical, keeping doctors’ on-call schedules is an important part of our business. In some cases, a doctor may share on-call schedules with five other doctors. Prior to the Spectrum On-Call Scheduler, we had to type in every doctor’s schedule each day. It took a lot of operator time and left room for errors. With Spectrum On-Call Scheduler, we can type in all our doctors’ schedules for a whole month at one time and the information will be easily assessable by any operator for the rest of the month. Since much of the doctors’ information is preset in the program, there is very little typing required, just a few mouse clicks. The doctors can access the schedules online and provide the information or change the schedule themselves, with no operator assistance. The biggest advantage to the On-Call Scheduler is that it speeds up the schedule entry.”

For more information, contact Telescan at 800-770-7662.


 

Xtend Communications Corp offers Enhanced On-Call Scheduling software, which is installed in the call center. With Enhanced On-Call Scheduling, on-call schedules are created by agents from their MediCall workstations. This database can be accessed from any agent console via the lookup function, displaying 24 months of schedules in half-hour time increments. Paging functionality, as provided with the primary system, can be performed from the on-call schedule screen.

With the addition of the WebXchange application, any user with an appropriate access level can review or edit the on-call schedule lists via a standard Web browser. This feature allows departmental administrators to create, edit, and become responsible for the on-call schedules within their department, rather than placing this responsibility with the call center operators.

Xtend has recently incorporated in its MediCall system a function, which uses the paging status to track and report the duty hours for hospital interns and residents.   With the duty hours reports, users can plan their on-call schedules and prevent abuses, which could be harmful to the patients as well as the institution and its doctors.

The Enhanced On-Call Scheduling module of MediCall organizes and provides coverage information for individual doctors, doctors’ practices, and specialties in hospitals. A keystroke reaches on-call staff members, or entire teams, via personal pager or telephone. Each schedule is arranged for the person or specialty being covered by that schedule and team. Every team member is listed including the calendar, dates of coverage, and user-defined time periods in increments as small as 30-minute increments. Radio page software enhances the on-call function by enabling the attendants to locate and page directly from the on-call schedule itself.

[From Connection Magazine October 2005]

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