Call Center Incentives: It’s all about Flexibility

While Call Centers are not the glamour department in most businesses, the quality of service your agents provide is critical in the eyes of most customers. In fact, 55% of customers in a recent survey said they switched to another company after a bad customer experience. If you want to retain your customers, you need to make sure your call center agents are providing satisfying customer care.

To that end, you’ve invested in training and coaching to teach agents how to do their jobs. You’ve invested in tools and automation that make it easier for agents to do their jobs. But keeping employees engaged and motivated to perform well is an ongoing challenge for any company. This is especially true in call centers where agents spend hours on the phone, talking to customers who are often upset or angry because they have a problem that needs to be solved. Even in service centers where customers call in for a positive reason – to purchase products – the work can be tedious and repetitive, without much in the way of thanks or appreciation. As a result agent turnover is high and morale suffers.

How can you motivate call center agents to perform better? What drives employees to be engaged and happy with their work? I know what you’re thinking. Money. Higher pay. Better benefits. While monetary reimbursement is important, it may not be the main reason that agents are happy or unhappy at their jobs. It may not be the reason they want to stay or leave. Flexibility is fast outpacing money as a critical contributor to employee satisfaction in the workplace.

In recent years, we find employees –especially younger generations–job-hopping more than ever due to dissatisfaction with work schedules and lack of flexibility. Many are willing to make tradeoffs to achieve the work-life balance they desire. A recent study by Earnest found that more than 40% of employees would trade a tenth of their salary for more flexibility in their schedules!

The biggest and most affordable incentive program you can offer may be FLEXIBILITY. Here’s how it could work.

Flexibility Incentives in the Workplace

Consider Phil, a recent hire to the call center who prefers to work the evening shift because it pays a bit better and supports his family’s needs at home. When his wife signed up for a college course that meets on Tuesday nights, Phil wanted to alter his schedule. He now prefers to have Tuesday night off. But the call center scheduler can’t accommodate his preference. Like many legacy systems, it’s all or nothing – with no ability to be flexible. Sometimes Phil calls in sick, but he can’t do that every week. As a result, Phil is unhappy at work and looking to jump ship at the first opportunity.

Then there’s Terri, who is training for an amateur sporting event. She would like three consecutive days off each week to train intensively, without having to show up at work dead tired from her workout. Once again, the call center scheduler is inflexible. It doesn’t offer 10-hour days followed by three days off. Terri is frustrated with her work-life balance and just goes through the motions at work.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has preferences. Multiply these feelings of dissatisfaction across your call center team and you’ve got a morale and motivation problem that is affecting agent performance and your bottom line.

Luckily, it’s a problem that can be successfully addressed with flexibility incentives in the workplace.

Enable Scheduling Flexibility to Achieve Work-Life Balance

When you offer flexible scheduling, you give your call center team a modicum of freedom within a highly structured system. Letting agents have a say about when their 40 hours are worked makes them more engaged and happier to come to work and to be productive.

While flexible work hours are an attractive incentive for your employees, they are also a nightmare to schedule. Schedule flexibility must be done in alignment with day-to-day business needs. Call Centers need to staff all shifts – even the unpopular ones and even on holidays. And they need a certain number of agents onsite to deliver a quality customer experience day in and day out.

To find harmony between business and agent needs you should invest in workforce management technology that will give your call center managers and agents the flexibility and freedom to create the schedule that works for your business.

What does a Scheduling Incentive Program look like?

More Ways to Work 40 Hours

Flexible scheduling offers a variety of ways to work 40 hours in a week. Some employees may prefer to work four 10-hour days and have three days off. Others might want a shorter work day, but are willing to work more days/week. Those who value a long weekend may choose to work 80 hours in 9 days, and then get the tenth day off. These options work for other companies and might work for your call center too.

Agent Preferences and Priorities Factored In

Flexible scheduling lets both agents and management set their preferences and priorities over a range of rules, such as Days Per Week, Days Off, Start/Stop Times, Lunch Times, Lunch Lengths, to name a few. To prevent the schedule from becoming overly complicated, you may need to limit your agents to only a few preferences until everyone gets the hang of it. Schedulers should also be able to factor in agent seniority, or KPI rank if a particular scheduling perk is being offered as a reward for outstanding performance.

Know your Agent’s Availability Constraints

To be flexible, you need to know when agents are available to work and when they are not. Of course every call center has a certain minimum number of hours and days each week that agents must work. But the more “available” an agent is willing to be, the more flexible you can be regarding his/her preferences. In Phil’s case that we discussed earlier, he prefers not to work Tuesday evenings, but is available to work a number of other shifts to make up the time. This kind of flexibility engages employees and makes them willing to compromise to get the flexibility they want without jeopardizing call center coverage and performance.

Call Center Incentives with NICE Workforce Manager (WFM)

Delivering a better customer experience is always the bottom line, but the path to higher client satisfaction lies in the ability to engage your agents and keep them happy. That’s why NICE Workforce Management uses AI and advanced machine learning to perfectly match employee availability and preferences with the scheduling needs of the contact center.

  • It starts with and accurate AI-driven forecast to determine staffing requirements.
  • Then it generates agent schedules based on skills, availability, time off, and weekly rules.
  • Agents can then access their schedule anywhere and anytime, using the web or their mobile phones.
  • Best of all, agents have complete freedom to swap or trade shifts, opt for overtime, or request time off, all by themselves, and directly from the NICE app.

As agents make changes to their schedules, managers can rest assured that the NICE WMF system will automatically keep the contact center staffing needs at an optimal level. By letting agents have a say in their own schedule and work preferences, you keep them engaged and happy. And as we all know, happy employees are more productive, less likely to leave the company, and more fun to be around.