Every performance decision you make needs to be assessed in terms of its impact on key stakeholders (the business, the customers, and the staff), and the values of your call centre. Your agent schedule is no exception, and in order to optimise your agent scheduling, it’s essential to consider which of these stakeholders your schedule most needs to serve.
1) Optimising for Cost
When we think of optimising a schedule, the traditional concept that springs to mind is cost optimisation. Within the call centre, this typically takes the form of optimising a scheduling to deliver an acceptable service level, at the lowest possible cost – usually by minimising the number of agents scheduled at any one time.
Within in many call centres, this is still a popular approach. Cost optimisation offers a tangible and easy-to-measure way to optimise a schedule, whilst also directly lowering the call centre’s costs. In a handful of instances, cost optimisation is even taken to an extreme – with every aspect of the agent schedule optimised for the lowest possible cost. In these cases, training is reduced to a bare minimum, service levels are dropped to the lowest acceptable threshold, and customer experience becomes almost an afterthought.
Crucially though, the basic assumption behind this form of optimisation is that customer contact is simply a cost that needs to be minimised. But is that a correct assumption for your call centre to make?
2) Optimising for Customer Experience
In the majority of call centres, the link between profitability and customer experience is indirect, and hard to quantify. Even if improved service levels and CSAT scores correlate with an increase in profitability, there’s often a serious problem of attribution – with members of all departments eager to claim credit for the improvement.
Crucially though, this shouldn’t dissuade you from optimising for customer experience. In an increasingly competitive market, customer-centric thinking is an important differentiator. Market-beating customer service can often be enough to turn small, uncompetitive businesses into huge global companies – and optimising your agent scheduling can sometimes take the form of overstaffing your call centre, in order to achieve high SL targets and CSAT scores.
It may even be possible to correlate improved satisfaction scores with reduced customer churn rates, and justify the decision to optimise scheduling for customer experience. Within a sales environment, the direct value of this strategy becomes more obvious. Instead of minimising the number of agents required to serve customers, you can assess the value of each transaction, and instead schedule agents to optimise the number of transactions you can handle.
The relationship between scheduled agents, sales and profit can be more readily identified – and by increasing the number of available agents, it may be possible to improve both profit and customer experience.
3) Optimising for Staff Satisfaction
Whilst customer experience and cost minimisation often take precedence over the agent experience, optimising a schedule for staff satisfaction can bring with it a host of direct and indirect benefits.
Your agents are valuable and experienced team members – expensive to recruit and train, and difficult to replace. By sacrificing a small margin of profitability, and optimising agent scheduling to improve working hours and rotate the least desirable shifts, it’s often possible to reduce hiring and retention costs by improving staff satisfaction. As a general rule, happier staff will also translate into happier customers – and indirect benefits in the form of improved efficiency, more efficient call resolution and higher customer retention. As the adage goes, if you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers.
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