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Flexibility Improves Agent Performance

Flexibility in Call Centers Could Improve Agent Performance

May 12th, 2021

Your company can have the best products or services available and still not be successful due to poor marketing efforts. Agent performance is one of the most important key performance indicators (KPI), particularly now that so many employees are working from home at least part of the time. Measuring agent performance is essential for call center managers to evaluate how successful their sales efforts are.

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You must maximize employee performance in order to improve your company’s financial picture. One way to boost this KPI is by embracing flexibility. By giving your employees more choices in their work environment, you can improve morale as well as productivity.

Why Is Flexibility Important?

Research shows that happier employees are more productive employees - up to 13 percent more productive. Employees who enjoy flexibility in their work situations achieve a better work/life balance, which leads to a high level of satisfaction and improved morale. Your company will be more likely to retain these workers, which prevents you from continually recruiting and training new employees, a costly and time-consuming process.

Happier employees also enjoy more positive interactions with consumers, improving their closing rates and enhancing your company’s reputation for customer service.

Benefits of Increased Flexibility

Employees see flexibility as desirable, but employers are often wary of it. However, it provides a variety of benefits to the industry. These benefits extend from the agent's performance to overall call center operations.

Split Shifts

Breaking away from the traditional 9-5 schedule can be a good idea. For instance, a split shift can work well in a call center. You can offer your agents a four-hour morning shift and then a late afternoon/ early evening shift, for instance. This type of arrangement can benefit parents who need to pick their kids up from school or employees who are furthering their education. Your call center may still require certain hours to be mandatory, but the added flexibility will improve agent morale.

A split shift lets you expand your call centers hours, which improves the customer's experience. Often, your clients are working themselves during 9 to 5, and cannot easily contact you during those hours. Extending hours gives you a better chance of keeping your customers happy.

Improved Training

Your call center agents need continuous training and coaching to improve their effectiveness. This ongoing training is especially important for remote employees. While working from home has many positives, it also means fewer of the face-to-face interactions that are necessary for learning new skills and policies. Flexible schedules allow managers to set aside group training time for new and existing agents.

Cost Reduction

Flexible options such as split shifts and remote workers deliver reduced costs, something every call center can embrace. The choices can allow you to downsize physical office space and reduce expensive equipment purchases. You can offer your clients superior service while keeping fewer employees on site. These budget savings allow call centers to invest more in scalable resources like cloud-based options and to hire more personnel. Flexibility improves the bottom line as well as employee morale.

Improving Flexibility

While flexibility offers many benefits, it is often a difficult transition for call centers. Keeping track of remote agents is not a simple task and can be time consuming for managers. Split shifts require careful scheduling and an adjustment by employees and management. People often fear change initially, but most adapt quickly, especially when they see how it improves their daily lives.

You can begin changing your approach in stages. Some tips to improve flexibility among agents include the following:

Update Schedules

Consider offering your agents creative shift choices. Instead of a traditional eight-hour shift, you may allow your agents to work four hours in the morning and take additional hours at night. This way your call center can extend its hours but also keep peak hours staffed. This choice also allows your agents to maintain a better work/life balance.

Shift Exchanges

Informal shift exchanges have long been popular in the workforce. Formalizing these exchanges is a good way to ensure your agents can manage their personal business while still working when you need them. You can make certain that these exchanges take place between two equally qualified workers and do not disrupt your workflow. By using workforce management software, your agents can coordinate shift changes better with their managers.

Break Options

Whenever possible, let your agents choose how to take their breaks. Some agents may not want to take an hour lunch but prefer a 30-minute midday break so they can finish their day early. This practice is a bit like split shifts. Your employees enjoy greater job satisfaction, and your work output does not suffer. In fact, it may improve because of a more positive workplace.

Essential Hours

Flexibility does not mean anything goes. You need to set essential hours to maintain productivity. Obviously, you cannot let all of your agents skip afternoon shifts. Your clients could not get the help they need when they need it. Instead, you can use KPI data to set essential hours and then manage how agents can cover those hours while maintaining schedule flexibility.

Shift Incentives

Some shifts are clearly more unpopular than others. Maybe you have trouble getting employees to cover an early morning shift. Offering incentives for taking on undesirable shifts can help solve this problem. This move can increase job satisfaction and also improve participation and collaboration during these hours.

Cross-Training

Cross-training is also a great idea for flexible work environments. You can train your employees in the duties of other departments so that you can move staff around in case of a worker shortage or an unusually high workload in a particular department. Cross-training means your agents will have more skills and be better able to improve the customer's experience.

Greater Emphasis on Remote Agents

Today’s constantly changing economic landscape demands that your organization be adaptable. In the last year alone, the number of remote workers has skyrocketed. Many of these workers will not be returning to the physical office but continuing to work from home. Other flexible work arrangements are also on the rise.

You may be hesitant to embrace these changes, but doing so will benefit your company and agent performance in several ways. Your employees will be happier, and happier employees are more productive. They also stay with you, reducing the cost of training new employees. You may also save on office expenses, including rent and equipment costs. The old 9-to-5, at-your-desk model is already gone, and its demise benefits you while increasing agent performance.