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When opening a 24-hour call center, how should we handle scheduling?

My company is considering running our call center operation 24/7. We plan to modify current shift schedules to address weekend hours and may use remote agents for after hours support. We are also considering shift rotation or contract help to cover the additional hours – what do you recommend?

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My consultancy, DMG Consulting, recommends that if you are migrating to a 24-hour call center operation, you ask your call center agent staff to volunteer for the new hours and that you do not assign new schedules without asking their permission. If working from home/remote agents are a preferred opportunity, we suggest that you give your current staff preference over new hires.

Shift rotation can be very hard for call center agents, as it forces them to alter their schedules periodically. If agents have personal responsibilities, such as needing to be home by 4 p.m. for their children, it's very hard for them to alter their schedules. While some people can accept and adapt to shift rotations, we have found that many agents find it challenging and in some organizations, it has prompted agents to resign.

The migration to a 24-hour call center will increase the complexity of scheduling, shift creation and assignments, particularly if shift rotation is being considered. If you are not currently using a workforce management application, I would suggest that you research these products and the benefits and efficiencies that they can provide. Please refer to the DMG Consulting web site to read an article called Contact Center Workforce Management Keeps Getting Better.

This was first published in January 2008

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