Contact centers have a great need for as many agents as the budget allows. How do you solve staffing issues by bringing in talented people without breaking your budget? The answer is clear: part-time agents.
What are feasible ways to cultivate successful part-time agents? This is the problem that Dave Hoekstra, Product Evangelist at Calabrio, and guest, Brian Munoz, Supervisor of Professional Services, discuss ways to solve in this episode of the Calabrio Shorts Podcast.
In the United States, it’s standard to see a part-time employee work around 20 to 30 hours a week. Then again, it’s not uncommon to have a part-time agent work as few as 4 to 6 hours a week in a contact center. Essentially, anything that is not full-time is considered part-time.
Call centers can greatly benefit from part-time employees in numerous ways. Let’s explore some of the benefits of adding part-time contact center agents to your team:
One of the top reasons to add part-time contact center agents directly relates to managing forecasted increases or decreases in volume. Fluctuations in call volume require having enough agents available when they’re needed and contact centers aren’t always able to quickly add new staff to respond to temporary fluctuations.
This is especially true with 24/7 contact centers. Adding extra agents for only a few hours during peak call times or during seasonal peaks greatly supports the contact center and customer interactions.
There are busier times of the year, for example health care open enrollment or if an organization is releasing an ad campaign, that contact centers can anticipate needing more customer support. The trick is correctly forecasting when these peak call volumes will be so that you can hire enough staff beforehand.
Accurately forecasting for an upcoming holiday shopping seasons, big events, or open healthcare enrollment will help leaders plan for staffing shortages. Hiring, training, and scheduling a part-time agent during these peak times needs to be a priority to fully support customer expectations.
Not only do they offer additional support to your call center, but part-time contact center employees also are more affordable than adding extra full-time agents. Part-time employees allow for flexes in cost.
For certain industries, like retail, we can predict a greater need during the holiday season and budget for that additional short-term help. Since these are only seasonal surges, it doesn’t make sense for companies to hire an additional 100 full-time employees. Call centers can greatly benefit from that seasonal support with a more affordable option: part-time employees.
Part-time agents also play an important role in supporting full-time team members. By primarily working nights and weekends, part-time employees can fill those necessary roles while letting full-time workers’ have consistent schedules.
Often, many call centers need staff on-demand during those hard-to-fill and irregular hours. Believe it or not, there are plenty of people who are looking to pick up work—10 or more hours a week—the key is finding and retaining them.
The shift to remote and hybrid work has created a unique opportunity for contact centers. Part-time employees often balance their contact center roles with other jobs or commitments, so they may greatly benefit from the flexibility of remote work.
We’ve seen greater success when part-time agents have their own leadership and group to help manage their entire experience. It helps foster greater connections to share experiences, learn new insights, and offer support.
These groups can also help reduce turnover alongside the flexibility of remote working. Agents working split shifts can use the time in between to drop off their kids at daycare, do some laundry, or relax at home.
One tremendous asset for managing remote workers is self-scheduling software. Agents can design their own schedule, pick up or trade shifts with ease, and generally feel more in control of their work-life balance. This software provides added technical support to easily connect agents to their schedules. It also supports managers by ensuring they get necessary roles filled.
Helping workers build their schedules from scratch while sticking to the needs of the contact center is possible with proper workforce management (WFM) software. It helps managers put the right people in the right place at the right time for greater contact center performance.
By investing in better WFM contact center technologies, you can empower your part-time agents with more control over their work-life balance. Happier, more engaged employees can then provide greater customer support in contact centers. Want to learn more? Watch a workforce management demo.
Despite all the benefits of having a workforce that can scale up and down when needed, there are some challenges as well.
One of the biggest challenges with part-time agents can be the onboarding process. Part-time agents may require a longer period of onboarding as they can only go through the onboarding process during their limited schedule.
Onboarding is a lengthy process in contact centers that usually takes 6, 8, or sometimes 10 weeks until people are comfortable handling the incoming volumes. This is especially more difficult in industries where customers have more complex questions and need a shoulder to cry on.
Some contact centers solve this issue by giving their part-time agents. Unfortunately, less training time means problem-solving how to get workers up to speed on 50% of what their full-time counterparts are training.
Another way contact centers solve this problem is by using performance coaching as part of their quality assurance process. This can help call center leaders identify agents who need more training, while letting part-time agents get to work faster.
The inefficiency in the extended onboarding process can be compounded by the higher turnover rate seen in part-time agents. Higher turnover rates translate to additional costs to replace those roles.
One solution to this is to offer former high-performing agents the option of working part-time during peak periods. Those agents require less time to get up to speed, and they may appreciate the opportunity to work a limited number of hours on a schedule that works for them. You can also offer recently hired part-time agents the opportunity to keep working on-demand after your peak periods are over.
Another way contact centers address agent attrition is by focusing on ways to keep agents engaged. Remember, performance coaching opportunities are a great way to keep employees invested in their part-time careers in contact centers. Whether your agents are full or part-time, they are more likely to be invested in your company if they can see greater growth opportunities.
There are many benefits that part-time contact center agents can bring to an organization. From supporting your full-time team, adding a cost-benefit advantage, and strengthening your contact center systems, part-time employees are highly valuable. To take full advantage of the benefits they bring, it’s also imperative to find meaningful ways to engage and uplift these team members to avoid agent attrition.
By investing in better WFM contact center technologies, you can empower your part-time agents with more control over their work-life balance. Happier, more engaged employees can then provide greater customer support in contact centers. To learn more about adding part-time agents to your organization, listen to the latest episode of the Calabrio Shorts Podcast on The Value of Part-Time Agents.