Off Center
Last night you were told by senior management to “do less with more” in your contact center.

You can stop celebrating now – it was just an “opposite” dream.

Back to reality.

Contact center professionals have historically had to devise ways to do more with less. The economy being down for the count hasn’t helped matters much. While some managers have resorted to prayer and medication to get through it all, others have rolled up their sleeves and gotten creative.

Especially in terms of contact center staffing. Try as some organizations might, you can’t simply replace agents with machines. The best contact centers have learned to be innovative and resourceful with existing employees – embracing unconventional and progressive staffing and scheduling approaches to get the most out of agents without breaking their backs.

Here are several ways you, too, can get crafty with staffing in your contact center to drive the sort of success that upper management demands, and that customers expect.
4 x 10 workweeks. Many centers have introduced 4 x 10 workweeks (four 10-hour days) to the agent scheduling mix, thus enhancing coverage in the contact center during peak periods while simultaneously making agents happy with an extra day off. Schedules can be arranged so that the center has all hands on deck on the busiest days, like Mondays. And since 4 x 10 stints are popular, centers find that they have plenty of senior agents working through the evening, thus ensuring that service quality and efficiency doesn’t go down once the sun does. 

Agent reserve teams. The contact center loses many of its best agents to internal departments like Marketing and Sales all the time. Crafty managers know how to steal them back – at least temporarily. Creating a crew of former agents who can help out on the phones during unexpected call spikes is a great way to meet service level objectives without having to enter into a complicated outsourcing arrangement. It also brings some welcomed job diversity to those who serve on the agent reserve team, who more than likely miss their headset a little. After all, you can take the boy or girl out of the contact center, but you can’t take the contact center out of the boy or girl.

Home agents. I can’t say enough about the home agent model. When carried out with care, no other staffing approach has as big an impact on agent engagement, retention and performance, or on the center’s ability to staff flexibly and cost-effectively. The center is able to attract and keep top talent who rarely if ever call in sick and who don’t mind being “on-call” on occasion if it means getting to work in just their underwear every day. And kicking agents out of the contact center means the contact center facility needn’t be so big – and rent so expensive. Plus it’s all seamless to the customer, except for the fact that they might note a little extra joy in the voice of the agent with whom they’re interacting.

To read more about these and other effective staffing/scheduling tactics – as well as lots of other contact center best practices – be sure to check out my comprehensive ebook Full Contact.

4/13/2012 12:09:13 am


You know I like your articles. They're always informative and witty and show great insight with contact center operations. One day, you will tell us who writes these for you.

Today, I agree with everything here except for the last three points.

While 4x10's can be helpful, one of the greatest contact center challenges is schedule adherence. People want to go home early in that final hour. By the 4th consecutive shift, they are worn out like grandpa's socks.

Making Agent Reserve teams actually work is about as easy as eating your first brussel sprout. You deal with competing priorities, core job responsibility, process adherence and the assumption that folks are just waiting and available to jump on the phones. Getting people mobilised to respond in a timely manner to the call spike can be an even greater challenge, assuming you have enough agent licenses for ACD and CRM...getting these things proactively is much like eating your SECOND brussel sprout! Damn near impossible to do. It does work, however, if you are dealing with an anticipated and temporary increase in volume over a short period of time.

Home agents are iffy to me. I love the concept and I've seen it work, but your typical contact center agent is likely not going to have the discipline to operate properly as a home agent. For example, complaints I've received in the past about Home Agents include background noise from children, pets, TV, food being chewed, and bio break sound effects. To be fair, I've never had someone complain of hearing all of these at one time.

So while you may be right on the Home Agent thoughts, it creates additional challenges that are more difficult to manage due to the remote nature of home agents. You really must be selective in choosing or empowering Home Agents. Then you must be prepared to deal with the backlash of those who are wisely not allowed to participate in such programs.

Lovingly Yours,


4/13/2012 12:31:32 am

I appreciate your input, Kevin, but I have to disagree with most of your disagreements even though I like how eloquently you put them.

I call them like I see them -- that is, I've seen each of these unique strategies work in real live contact centers as well as in a few that exist only in my head. You're right -- there are challenges involved, but that's the point. If you want to overcome the "more with less" problem, you have to dig a little deeper and do something different, explore some unconventional methods, do some rain dances.

I especially disagree with your take on home agents. The home agent model is growing rapidly and stands to have a huge impact on how contact centers look and work. For every failed initiative, I'll show you 25 that have worked exceedingly well. The whole background noise thing is an old chestnut -- easily dissolved by having a clear home office policy in place. Many agents are dying to work from home, and will happily adhere to the rules and guidelines in order to hang on to the privilege of working in their pajamas.

Again, thanks for you comments, but now kindly go back to just praising everything I write, as you have in previous posts. It makes me feel special. ; )



4/13/2012 12:33:18 am

Oh. OK, you win.

4/13/2012 12:40:08 am

I'd better win, otherwise I'm taking my blog and going home.

Have a great weekend!


9/12/2012 07:28:07 pm

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9/23/2012 06:22:02 pm

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7/26/2013 05:11:32 am

Old post but need to comment on it. I wasn't convinced about 4 x 10 but we now have several 4 x 10 agents and it's great! If I could convert everyone to 4 x 10, I would. The secret is that the agent needs to do their part. They cannot "party" the three days that they are off - they still need to stick to their own schedule and get the sleep they need to function for a 10-hour day. Our 4x10's are Friday - Monday; we've not tried mid-week.


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