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Article : Employee Satisfaction Versus Increased Profitability: Do You Have To Choose?

In this article John Cann from InVision Software discusses the pros and cons of staff scheduling in the call centre sector. He provides advice on how businesses can successfully combine employee satisfaction whilst increasing profitability.

Employee Satisfaction Versus Increased Profitability: Do You Have To Choose?
Staffing is a crucial aspect of any business. It is important to get the most from your workforce to ensure productivity and customer satisfaction. However balancing employee satisfaction with increased profitability is a difficult task, particularly within a busy call centre environment. In an industry fraught with recruitment difficulties and poor levels of retention, combining staffing requirements with employee preferences is desirable, but is a balance most companies fail to achieve.

The call centre market is now increasingly competitive, complex and demanding. Agents are expected to be more organised and powerful than ever before, but with high-levels of sick-rate, agent fluctuation and poor service quality - dissatisfied agents are costing companies millions. Integrating employee preferences may seem the best option, but in a call centre environment, where staffing requirements fluctuate throughout the day, which is more important?

John Cann
Account Manger
InVision Software

It could be argued that commitment to employee satisfaction should be the number one priority. As any company's largest investment, getting the most from your workforce is not only cost-effective, but can also play an integral role in the development of the organisation as a whole. On the other hand, customer focus is also of vital importance. Providing a flexible, but above all productive call centre system is the only way to secure long-term customer relationships. For either scenario, unsatisfied agents equal low profitability and low customer satisfaction.

From an agent's perspective, shift patterns are one of the most important aspects of the job. As with any shift work, scheduling has to be fair, but at the same time you do need to be realistic. Not everyone is going to be happy with his or her allocated shift. However with intelligent rostering, there should be an element of flexibility.

Consider this - an agent has requested a holiday and it doesn't fit with the staffing requirement at that time, so their holiday request is declined. You then find they phone in sick, having contracted a mysterious sickness. Alternatively - an agent has child care commitments and their allocated shifts fail to incorporate this obligation, they repeatedly arrive late, call in sick and eventually hand in their notice. Worst still, an agent continuously works the Saturday 'grave yard' shift - they become so de-motivated and frustrated, they simply leave.

So how is the call centre sector tackling this problem? Workforce management software offers a method of automatically rostering shifts, incorporating changes in personnel - scheduling more/less staff dependent on the precise requirement. This type of software has enabled companies to work more efficiently, enabling more effective distribution of personnel with improved profitability. However, workforce management software is now challenged with incorporating employee preferences to ensure better levels of retention.

Currently, call centres survey employee preferences and determine their schedules with this as the key proviso. Whilst this situation ensures a happier workforce, it fails to integrate the needs of the business, leading to over and under-staffing at crucial times. In contrast, the alternative is to determine staffing requirements over employee preferences, fulfilling the business credentials, but leaving staff feeling de-motivated and frustrated.

There is an innovative solution that fulfils both the business requirement, whilst integrating the needs of the workforce.

An ideal scenario would be to create shifts according to the number of staff required, but at the same time enabling employees to make their own selection. Unallocated shifts can then be assigned using a random lottery system. This system ensures the correct number of agents during each shift, enhancing the profitability of the company. At the same time, it manages to incorporate the preferences of the workforce in a fair and unbiased manner.

The scheduling of these previously unallocated hours can also include the specific legal requirements of workforce management. For example - UK law does not allow employees to work over a certain number of hours, with a rest period between two shifts. There is also a limit to the maximum number of consecutive night shifts each employee can work.

Of course it's not all about shift patterns and staff scheduling. To really get the most from call centre agents it's imperative to provide good training and development. Ensuring your employees feel motivated to work hard and achieve their optimum is key.

It has become widely accepted that attrition is an established and acceptable part of call centre life, profitability is seemingly the main focus. However, with the right balance, the two can be securable. By 2008, it is anticipated that the call centre sector will employ 665,000 people, or around three per cent of the entire UK workplace. In a market that shows no signs of slowing down, finding the right balance is key and with careful planning and the right software it can be achieved.

About John Cann:
John Cann, aged 32 joined InVision Software in June 2004 as Account Manger for the UK & Ireland. John is responsible for distribution in the UK and Ireland. John's experience lies in the human resources sector, having previously worked in project management and business development.

About Invision:
Invision Software was established in 1995 and its core business focuses on developing and selling software solutions for Workforce Management. The Invision Staff Planning System was originally introduced in the early nineties and has since become one of the biggest systems in the global Customer Interaction Centre sector. Solutions from InVision optimise staff planning, delivering significant process improvements and substantial reductions in personnel costs.

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Published: Friday, April 29, 2005

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