Staff Your Operation with Agents with the Right Stills to Work at the Time They’re Most Needed
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
You run a multichannel contact center for the healthcare industry and have staffed it with well-trained agents. Some specialize in one specific channel, others can handle related channels, and some are cross trained on all channels. This is a great start. Now comes implementation; now comes multichannel contact center scheduling.
Schedule Channel-Specific Agents First
Start with the channel that receives the most interaction, and schedule agents for that channel. By way of example, let’s assume the majority of your contacts are via the telephone. Schedule telephone agents, across your hours of operation, to take a percentage of those calls.
If they can cover 50 percent of those calls overall, don’t schedule them to cover 100 percent on some shifts and ignore other shifts. Instead populate your schedule so that your telephone-only specialists can cover 50 percent of those calls throughout your hours of operation.
Repeat this for your next highest used channel.
Continue this process for each channel that has enough traffic in any given time slot to call for scheduling a specialist to handle it. As you work through this, you’ll find a particular time-of-day or day-of-week that doesn’t have enough traffic to keep one agent busy. Don’t schedule a specialist for those time slots. Instead move them to an area with enough work to fill their scheduled hours.
Schedule Partially Cross-Trained Agents Next
With your single-channel specialists scheduled, next fold in those who are trained on more than one channel. Let’s assume you have an agent trained to handle both text and email contacts. Place them on the schedule where there will be enough activity from one channel or the other to keep them busy.
Depending on the dynamics of your traffic, they could spend their shift bouncing between the two channels or primarily receiving contacts on one channel or the other. This is to be expected, and they need to be aware it could happen. The key is to not schedule them for shifts where there isn’t enough potential traffic in either of the channels they’re trained to handle.
Schedule Fully Cross Trained Agents Last
Once you have your channel-specific agents and partially cross-trained agents on the schedule, fill the remaining open slots with agents who are fully cross trained to handle any channel. This is the last step of multichannel contact center scheduling.
At minimum you should have one fully cross-trained agent on every shift throughout the day. They’ll serve as your buffer, able to pick up traffic from whatever channel has the greatest need.
Assuming you have enough staff, the fully cross trained agents will smooth out your schedule. They’ll pick up the slack on the channel where they’re most needed.
You can use these fully cross-trained agents in two ways. And their personality may align with one approach or the other.
Although able to take contacts on any channel, some agents will want to start on one channel and focus on those interactions until you move them to another channel—or until some preset condition exists, signaling them to make the switch themselves.
Other fully cross-trained agents are completely comfortable bouncing between channels from one contact to the next. They thrive on the moment-to-moment variability, which ideally positions them to pick up the moment-to-moment traffic changes that occur within any multichannel contact center.
Knowing the philosophy of multichannel contact center scheduling forms the foundational understanding of what to do. Now comes the challenge of making it happen. For smaller operations with minimal channels, you can do this with some degree of proficiency on a spreadsheet.
A better solution, however, is scheduling software. But don’t try to use a single-channel scheduling package. Instead look for a solution that can take historical inputs from multiple channels and allow you to match agents according to the projected need.
Having a full-featured, robust scheduling solution will make the task of multichannel contact center scheduling much easier—once you’ve mastered the foundational staffing strategy.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time. Read more of his articles or his book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.