The Most Undervalued Contact Center Workforce Optimization Strategy

Schedule change empowerment has been shown to make recruitment of new agents easier, improve agent attrition, and allow contact centers to reduce their agent salary budget.

However, it’s under-utilized in a majority of contact centers.

The data behind the benefits of Schedule Change Empowerment.

In November 2016, The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) surveyed a group of contact center leaders and agents to determine the value of schedule-change empowerment as it relates to agent recruiting and retention.

The results present a strong business case for schedule flexibility and show significant operational and financial benefits for the contact center.

The schedule-change empowerment survey.

The first part of the survey asked participants which schedule-change options were offered to agents. The options were:

  • Change work type (for example, from chat to phone)
  • Swap schedules with another agent
  • Take time off currently assigned schedule
  • Add hours to schedule
  • Take time off and make it up at another time
  • Pre-define interest periods for extra hours or time off

The results.
Eighty percent or more of respondents allow their agents to swap schedules with another agent and take time off of their currently assigned schedule. However, only 50% said agents could make those hours up at a different time.

Almost 60% of agents can add hours to their current schedule, and roughly 40% of agents can predefine time periods for which they’d like to eligible for extra hours or time off.

Interestingly, only 5% of respondents said agents could change work-assignment (e.g., from phone to chat). As omni-channel contact center solutions become more standard in the industry, we’ll likely see this number grow significantly in 2018.

The next part of the survey focused on which schedule-change empowerment options were available while at work and while not at work.

The options while both at work and not at work:

  • Automated approval of schedule-change requests
  • Submit any number of schedule-change requests
  • Submit schedule-change request with no advanced notice
  • Ability to view schedule change opportunities
  • Receive alerts for new schedule-change opportunities
  • Ability to view schedule

The results.
While nearly all agents were able to view their schedules both while at work and not at work, the remaining options were significantly less available.

60% reported that their agents have “zero” access to schedule-change empowerment options when they are not at work.

The graphic below represents the results of the survey. The top graph represents the “While At Work” options, and the bottom graph represents the “While Not At Work” options.

workforce optimization

Nearly all agents were able to view their schedules regardless of their location, but the remaining options were significantly less available.

Most notable was the fact that a significant amount of agents (60%) can’t make any changes to their to schedule outside of work.

Less money for more empowerment?

While the vast majority of agents surveyed said “No way!”, one third of agents were willing to take wage cuts averaging $0.38/hour or $60.00 per month in exchange for more schedule-change empowerment.

schedule change empowerment contact center

These results could be indicative of the changing demographics of contact center agents.

Millennials now account for 70% of agents. And, a recent study by the US Department of Labor found that over 50% of Millennials (which would equate to roughly 1/3 of the US agent population) consider schedule flexibility to be more important than pay.

Implement schedule-change empowerment and recruit more agents for less money.

To determine the effects of schedule-change empowerment on recruitment costs, they asked agents to select from a list of options that would increase offer acceptance.

They started with an offer of $13.75. Then, they asked the agents if a higher base pay or schedule flexibility would have more of an impact on their decision to accept an offer.

About one-third of the agents surveyed would pass on the base-pay increase in favor of the schedule flexibility. Agents that selected a higher pay option desired an increase of $0.70/hr or about a 5% wage increase.

contact center workforce optimization

Should hard work earn agents more time off?

Gamification is becoming increasingly popular in contact centers, and more than one-third of survey participants said gamification programs existed within their contact centers. Ten percent planned on introducing them within the next two years.

Gamification has been proven to increase employee engagement, but SWPP wondered – could schedule-change empowered increase the effectiveness of these programs?

Almost two-thirds of respondents said that schedule-change empowerment, like the ability to exchange points for time off, would enhance gamification programs.

Clearly – having more control over their schedules is of significant value to agents, and they are motivated to work harder when flexibility is the reward.

The correlation between this survey and the growing Millennial agent population.

An ICMI study from 2012 found that contact center agents cited “No flexible work environment” as the reason for quitting “very frequently” or “sometimes” over 42% of the time.

Further supporting the above statistic is the fact that forty-eight percent of contact centers who participated in this survey reported an increase in agent turnover.

A correlation exists between the results of this survey and the increase of Millennial agents, who now make up 70% of the workforce.

Millennials want schedule flexibility, and if the contact center industry doesn’t offer it, they won’t hesitate to move on.

Schedule-change empowerment strategies are worth the investment.

The results of this survey clearly indicate that schedule-change empowerment can reduce contact centers’ biggest agent-related costs: recruitment and turnover.

When the financial benefits were tallied up, SWPP found that, between agents’ willingness to accept a pay cut and the ability to offer a lower starting salary, the value of schedule change empowerment was between $60-$110 a month per agent.

But, more importantly, it shows a need for an overhaul of contact center technology and policies. Today’s agents want flexibility, more control over their schedules, and mobile technology that empowers them to exercise choice. In return, they will be more engaged and less likely to quit.

One thing is certain – with more Millennials entering the workforce each year, contact centers without a schedule flexibility can expect their turnover rates to continually increase. Considering the cost of agent turnover estimated to be about $6,000 per agent, implementing schedule-change empowerment is definitely worth the investment.