Going Beyond the Call Center Basics to Manage Seasonal Spikes

Posted by Parikshit Kalra and Marsha Eisnor 

While effective workforce management is a well-known challenge (with the seasonal spike as case in point) robotic process automation is emerging as a high-value enabler that can create significant opportunities to reduce manual effort and increase transactions. Today’s ideal workforce optimization solution incorporates this automation—along with flexible staffing and other optimization basics—for a multi-faceted approach.

Robotic Process Automation

Image removed.

Robotic process automation (RPA) reduces the manual effort required for each activity or even totally eliminates the manual effort required for some tasks. Significant capacity optimization can be achieved by connecting and building business rules on multiple applications. This saves the valuable agent effort of toggling between systems enabling them to handle more and more complex transactions. RPA works on multiple applications via its connectivity layer to front end. The solution interprets, processes decisions and actions through its business rules engine layer, and it shows scripts, presents data, guides, and suggests the next best action.

RPA delivers on many fronts: driving significant cost savings and also optimizing the customer experience. As a high-value enabler, RPA will:

  • Provide a summary view of the customer with the specific information that is required at the time of the interaction.
  • Assist agents on routine tasks, to save processing time.
  • Act as a guide for the new learners and reduce the need of training.
  • Automate rule-based workflows.
  • Minimize error rates, as most of the processes can be automated.
  • Standardize the processes while managing the quality and compliance at a significantly higher speed and lower effort.

BPO partners, as RPA experts, can employ the technology to significant results. As just one proof point: HGS recently employed analytics and automation to reduce costs, for one client, by $1 million during the company’s challenging open enrollment fluctuation.

Image removed.

Performance Optimization Still Essential While Managing Through the Holidays

While RPA augments and optimizes proven processes to enable your trained resources to take handle more contact volume with the same number of people, it’s still critical during a quick but temporary staffing ramp up to integrate some the basics to optimize the call center workforce and minimize your reliance on new hires. Here’s a list of call center manager best practices to keep in mind this season:

  1. Flex Existing Schedules - Ask employees working part time or reduced schedule hours if they are able to adjust to a full-time schedule temporarily. Adjust all schedules to accommodate maximum shift length (allowable hours). Setting an expectation in the employment contract that schedules may fluctuate “between 30– 45 scheduled hours per week, employees should be well informed of the requirement for extended hours to accommodate seasonal volumes. This flexibility alone generates an increase in scheduled hours by up to 6 percent.
  2. Schedule Based on Performance - The rank and preference model is a fair and equitable process that drives strong program results, while providing employees the opportunity to “earn” the schedules they receive.
  3. Use a Shift Mix - At HGS, we have leveraged a proven staffing mix that has allowed us to successfully recruit a workforce with as high as 40 percent of the employee population working a flexible part-time or split shift option on some programs. To achieve optimal delivery, cost effectively, a combination of shorter shifts durations in blocks of four to five hours complement full-time staff. Additional benefits are offered to employees willing to preference into these highly desirable split windows, such as a higher vacation accrual, four-day work weeks, week-ends off or work less weekends than regular full-time counterparts. Ultimately reducing the amount of part-time employees required or overages carried where volume does not warrant.
  4. Flex Shifts - In addition to the flexibility split and part-time shifts provide, we have been highly successful in adjusting shift length to increase or decrease hours or FTE delivery as expressed previously. Our base schedule is set at 40 hours; however, by increasing or decreasing scheduled shift length or quantity, HGS can adjust up or down by 6% on delivery in as little as 48 hours without the added cost or timelines associated with onboarding additional FTE. Overtime and voluntary go home opportunities are immediately visible to our employees through the scheduling tool as well, to facilitate in communication and response time when the unexpected hits.
  5. Real-time Schedule Optimization - Remain watchful of product recalls/changes, new brand launches, system upgrades, and other events that can be difficult to predict/control and affect call volume fluctuations. Conduct mass schedule adjustments with 48 hours’ notice to address call storms, call degradation or changes in shrink patterns, when required. On a near real-time basis, immediate exercise of extra hours, voluntary go home, cancel or add elective offline time, extend breaks times and perform break/lunch optimization to address staffing gaps or overages.

These workforce management basics can deliver as much as a 25 percent increase in call-handling capacity without increasing staffing for shorter term needs. And, for a best-of-all-worlds approach, these results can be multiplied with automation innovation that takes performance to the next-level.