Working in the call center industry, and learning about how to manage calls, customers and the staff that handle them is quite and experience. There are many Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that can be used when gauging the success of a call center environment, but when it comes down to it, business is about profit. Cash flow in a call center environment is based around the amount of staff being paid to take calls, and the volume of calls that the center can charge the client for. If the company is paying agents to be ready to take calls when there are no calls to take, that is a wasteful expenditure, and needs to be managed. This is where E-Time and E-Blocks come in.
Offering E-Time is a process where if the expected demand for agents is less than the staff on hand, they can choose to start/finish their shift at a different time to what has been rostered. Because the agent’s wages have been removed from the cash flow equation, there is a saving of expenditure for that time period.
E-Blocks are another tool available to the Call and Resource (CAR) team when they are attempting to reduce wage expenditure at times where call volumes are low. Agents can be offered E-Blocks for certain time periods (normally 15 or 30 mins) where they are not needed, so they can extend their breaks or have extra time off the call center floor. The general rule is that E-Blocks are given in short time periods due to the fact that the predicted call volume is not guaranteed, and agents may be needed back on the floor to meet the KPI’s for a later time period.
From the point of view of agents, E-Time and E-Blocks are a welcome change to their shifts, allowing time off when “bad” or stressful calls have occurred, or when they have other activities they wish to be performing outside work - which can assist in overall morale of the center. The younger workforce inherent in call center environments enjoys having shorter workdays, and these options allow the agents to tailor their work time around their schedule. Neither of these tools available to the CAR team can be forced upon agents due to the workplace agreement that our call center (among many) operates under - but there is usually at least one agent wanting to take advantage of time off the phones.
Offering both these options to agents can be a benefit to the company, but only when applied correctly as part of the resource management of a call center. If too many agents are allowed to go home on E-Time, or are allowed to go on E-Blocks, there can be times where the call volume is not only larger than the available staff, but also larger than what the KPI’s allow for in that time period. Depending on how the KPI’s are calculated for your center, this may not be a hard to manage issue - whereas our center is based around weekly and monthly targets, some centers have hourly targets - which can be quite hard to keep on target, and can require higher “waste” staffing levels.
So in summary, these tools can be a boon to the profitability of a center, allowing for the reduction in costs incurred due to overstaffing and extra resource requirements. Making sure that the use of these tools is managed well is a key point to remember, as striving for a reduction in overall wages can be a goal that can starve your center of revenue if KPI’s aren’t met. Staff morale can be increased as staff members can manage their shifts to allow for other activities and taking time off the floor where required. This is one of my firm beliefs when it comes to the management of a call center - you need to look after your staff, since your staff is your sole product.