Is Your Scheduling System Ready for the Holidays?

By Bob Webb

With the holidays quickly approaching, now is the time to ensure that you are prepared to handle all the adjustments that occur with holiday scheduling. While the holidays are the time agents typically request time off, it is also the time when call volumes are at the highest. Preplanning is essential to ensure that you are properly staffed during busy seasons. Automated scheduling systems can save hours of administrative overhead when dealing with vacation requests, but not all systems are created equal. You can use the checklist below as a guide for achieving maximum benefit from your scheduling system.

Agent Functionality: A scheduling system should offer various features to optimize the process and provide self-service functions, allowing agents to:

  • Keep track of their personal leave time,including earned, used, and available days
  • Access center-wide available vacation slots prior to requesting time off to ensure that their desired time is available
  • Request time off in accordance with corporate rules
  • Check status of a time-off request to verify whether it is pending or has been granted

These features enable agents to have a degree of control over their time-off schedules. They also lessen the clerical burden on call center managers and schedulers.

Manager Functionality: The functionality for call center managers must be more extensive. A scheduling system should be able to support highly sophisticated scheduling tasks as well as incorporate different corporate policies that affect time-off booking. At a minimum, it should enable supervisors or schedulers to:

  • Access each agent’s eligibility for yearly time off either from HR or personnel records
  • Establish limits for time off during various times of the year, including how many weeks can be booked during certain times when the call volume is likely to be highest, how many weeks can be taken consecutively, and any other parameters governed by corporate policy
  • Set rules that dictate days when no time off will be allowed,especiallywhen high call volume is expected, such as certain holidays or major promotion periods when the center must be fully staffed
  • Allow supervisors to choose their preferred method for approval of time-off requests. Agents should have the ability to request time off based on established corporate policies regarding seniority, rotation, or first-come-first-serve.
  • Assign available time-off slots by agent group in order to prevent a negative impact on the center due to having too many agents with the same skill set in the same call center, or in other group categories, from taking vacation simultaneously
  • Establish parameters for time-off requests in the interest of fairness to agents. For example, full weeks should be booked no more than six months in advance, while partial or single days can be booked no more than one month in advance.

Additional Benefits: An automated scheduling system provides many benefits for call centers. Managers have the ability to control time-off requests, implement corporate policies that work in favor of fairness to agents, and most importantly, ensure that the staffing needs of the call center are met. Having the right scheduling system in place is your best option for avoiding holiday scheduling dilemmas and preserving profits.

Bob Webb is vice president/sales for Pipkins, a supplier of workforce management software and services to the call center industry. For more information, call 800-469-6106.

[From Connection Magazine September 2008]