Customer Contact Strategies Blog

Flexible Scheduling and Self-Scheduling for Work at Home Staff  - Contact Centers

Posted by Michele Rowan

January 18, 2017 at 1:30 PM


Self Scheduling Chart.png


Home-based staffing reduces labor costs by an average of 20% by more closely aligning staff (in very short segments) to arrival patterns of voice and non-voice work.

Work schedules in contact centers have always created challenges, and are usually the top one or two drivers of turnover. For most organizations, there are night-time and weekend hours to fill, there are spikes in certain day parts and times of the year, and there are other unplanned events that arise that ultimately result in shortage of staff, and gaps in service level. For many companies, it's a consistent growing problem, and expensive to manage.


Including work at home in your staffing strategy can relieve much of the pain. Here are some examples of how contact center organizations utilize self-scheduling and flexible scheduling to improve staffing and reduce costs.


  1. Qualify a segment (i.e. 25%) of you work at home staff to build their own work schedules from your business requirements. There is large population of qualified people we can consider for work at home positions that prefer varied shifts, split shifts, etc, so that they can wrap their jobs around their core focus (often meaning their family, school, other part-time career or life interest).   Hiring them (or identifying them within your existing population of work at home staff), and offering self-scheduling in small 2 hour segments based on your business requirements will satisfy their schedule needs. It also enables you to get unstaffed when you don't need it (i.e. two-hour shifts) and add people (in short shifts) to exactly where you do need them.


  1. Allow most or all of your work at home staff to self-schedule a small segment of their work schedule (i.e. 20%) while you shift bid the balance. In this case, 80% of a work at home team member's schedule is fixed, and a bid process is used to ensure that full time staff are scheduled where needed. The work at home team members then use the self-scheduling model to build out the balance of their full time requirement. Some self-scheduling hours are posted in advance (based on business requirements), new hours are posted daily based on real time needs. Again, hiring people and identifying people that need this sort of flexibility in their lives is the key.


To learn more about Flexible Scheduling, Self-Scheduling, and Work at Home Best Practices, join us at the 2017 Remote Working Summit, Dallas, March 8-9. Citi, USAA, Hilton, Kaiser Permanente, Express Scripts, Capital One and Esurance are amongst 20+ Speakers on Work at Home for Contact Centers.


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21st Century Contact Centers - the Future of Work

Posted by Michele Rowan

October 26, 2016 at 9:51 AM

People in many parts of the world are changing how and where they want to work, and it is nowhere more evident than in the United States. Flexible working is the #1 new benefit being offered by employers, according to a recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management.

            Yes, technology continues to drive the pace, but growing in prominence, employees are raising their expectations for workplace-specific technology. Workers value cutting edge technology above most other perks, per the Work in Progress 2016 survey facilitated by Adobe.

            While "working from anywhere " creates it's own set of challenges, it is here to stay, led by specific segments and job functions where work is transactional in nature populations are large.

            So where are the big impacts, the high volume payoffs in virtual working? What are the pitfalls and challenges companies are facing?


            Mobile, social, video, web conferencing and chat have all influenced the way that we get work done. While we still use email and we still use instant messaging, we are seeing many modes of interactions blending together, such as Slack, Yammer and Socialcast. Some business communication experts believe that we'll reduce the number of channels or modes we use to communicate, and automate more along the way (i.e. automations to manual monthly reports, expense reports, travel documents).

                        Highly transactional, densely populated work groups like contact centers have had exceptional results utilizing the remote working environment, both full-time and part-time. Companies maintain the exact same visibility of output of home workers as their in-house counterparts. For the most part, they use the exact same the same technologies. The only significant change is in digital tools that employees use to learn, and share knowledge/experiences, and these tools are being implemented in office anyway, because they're more efficient.

            There are a number of incremental benefits that highly transactional groups are seeing from expanded use of the work at home model:

  • Staffing and overall labor cost improvements (staggered start times, shorter shifts, and split shifts), reduce overall labor cost reduction by 15-25% (2014-2016 CCS Remote Working Benchmarking Survey).
  • Disaster recovery and on demand staffing are both significantly more effective in managing volume due to inclement weather staffing shortages, and unplanned spikes in volume.
  • Employee satisfaction is 10-20% higher, leading to better attendance (25% improvement in unplanned absenteeism) and employee retention (trends of 30% improvement 2011-2016, CCS Remote Working Benchmarking Survey).

            On the downside, companies that invite workers in more traditional jobs to

work remotely for some or all of their work schedule sometimes struggle to gain visibility of output, and find that collaboration can suffer. Both can be overcome, but it requires investments in technology, management muscle and cultural shift that a lot of companies fail to think through or plan for before the launch their remote working programs.

            Customer Contact Strategies is holding a Work at Home Conference in Laguna Beach, CA, November 16-17.   It's two days of deep dive discussions on remote work, a number of great speakers/case studies, and really meaningful benchmarking.


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Top Three Failure Points of Work at Home Programs

Posted by Michele Rowan

February 26, 2015 at 6:34 PM


Over the past five years, we've worked with 800+ organizations in design, implementation and continuous improvement of work at home programs for contact centers.  

Now that home working for contact centers is moving into the mainstream, there are some patterns emerging in terms of failure points.  The top three are folllowing, along with proven methods of turning things around, or better, avoiding the failure points all together:

1.  Bad Hiring - 62% of respondents from the 2015 Remote Working Benchmarking Survey cited poor job matches as the top reason for turnover, particularly in the 30-120 day employment window.  This is generally the highest turnover segment for contact centers, and the highest cost, due to churn. Minimize bad hiring:

  • Streamline and automate processes, transform from "manual" environment
  • Use 21st century technology for sourcing and assesing candidates (recorded interviews, simulations)
  • Incorporate personality testing into your process, once you've established what "good hires" look like
  • Put together well thought out behavioral interview questions
  • Arm yourself with ample and qualified hiring resources
  • Don't set unrealistic hiring targets

2.  Bad management - employees who are successful in training, but later (30-120 days) disengage and depart, are likely feeling too much distance, and lack of support.  Distance and lack of support could be caused your business processes and technologies (covered in #3 below) or could be caused by the quality of your managers themselves.  Best practices on going from bad to great remote working management:

  • Align the way work gets done (on site and virtual).  If everyone accesses the same systems to share knowledge, communicate, recognize, exchange, then moving someone a few blocks or a few hundred miles away won't matter much, if at all.  In other words, go digital (chat, enterprise social networks, video)
  • Prepare managers for the virtual distinctions that do exist in your organization and best methods to close the gaps
  • Set expectations on frequency and quality of touch/interactions
  • Expect and measure demonstrated competency of virtual working (for managers and team members)
  • Be careful to put a mediocre manager in charge of remote employees - they will struggle or fail

3.  Virtual distance - when people feel cut off, isolated, or have to exert incrementally higher effort to be seen or heard (compared to their in house counterparts or other jobs they've had in the past), they will eventually lose interest and move on to an environment where it's not so difficult to achieve personal best. Surefire methods of marginalizing "virtual distance" in your work environment:

  • Go digital - everybody works from the same platforms to get stuff done, regardless of where they sit
  • Visiblity of co-workers - implement an enterprise social network (Yammer, Jabber, Socialcast)
  • Require use of social platforms - it's not for fun - it's where most exchanges take place
  • Share knowledge - use peer resolution to solve problems (group chats, groups on the enterprise social network)
  • Keep socre - implement real time desktop scorecards - everybody knows how everyone else is doing
  • Engage/applause - at minimum, utilize the enterprise social network for reward/recognition and better, add gamification to amp up the fun and value.
  • Measure effectiveness of your remote program frequently - bimonthly mini-surveys at minimum

Join us at one of the two Advanced At Home Strategies Workshops in 2015 (July 22-23 in Denver or November 11-12 in Laguna Beach), for deep dive discussions and best practice exchanges on all of above.










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Topics: Remote Working

Top Five Remote Working Priorities

Posted by Michele Rowan

December 16, 2014 at 5:32 PM

Survey results from 100+ Fortune 1000 companies with home-based employees are in.  Not surprisingly, the top challenge for companies is preparing leaders for effective management of telecommuters.  The second largest challenge has been reported in

training people on technology usage and leveraging technology to drive productivity and engagement.  Here's the list from the survey results:

  • 71%:  Preparing managers for remote roles
  • 52%: Training managers and remote staff on technology
  • 47%: Engagement of remote staff
  • 45%: Satisfying hiring requirements
  • 32%: Upgrading/replacing legacy technologies


Given telecommuting is the #1 new benefit being offered by employers in 2015-2016, getting business processes, technologies, and work flows sorted is becoming increasingly more important.  Pretending it's not different, or leaving it to your managers to wrestle with, will result in performance gaps, and impact engagement.

If you've got people working from home, or remotely, or you're thinking about offering it, please do two things:

1.  Register for the 2015 Remote Working Summit February 17-19 in Dallas  - 20+ speakers, and it's only once a year.

2.  Download the paper on Five Remote Working Priorities, and best practices to make it go.



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Topics: Remote Working

Psychometric Testing Tools - Employers are Split

Posted by Michele Rowan

October 8, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Personality tests can predict on the job behaviors, or they are intended to.  And the use of them in customer service jobs is rapidly expanding.  60-70% of prospective workers are tested by US businesses today, doubling its use from a decade ago, according to a September article in the Wall Street Journal.

Psychometric testing can be an extremely valuable tool for assessment and selection, by adding science to a mix where previously there was none.  Leading up to this decade, most businesses pretty much relied on background checks and interviews to make employment decisions. While both have high impact, less information is available via background checks today, and interviews can be quite subjective. Translation:  the risk for hiring mistakes is mounting.

So including a third pillar to the process by collecting a snapshot of cognitive abilities, personality type, customer service skills and other traits can create a really balanced approach to the hiring process.  Many businesses like IBM, Home Depot, Target, Walmart, and McDonalds utilize them.

But there is growing scrutiny alongside the rise in utilization, particularly around effectiveness and fairness. The EEOC is investigating whether personality tests discriminate against people with disabilities.

Perhaps we should examine the point at which personality tests are administered.

Many companies place the testing process at the very beginning, in an attempt to streamline the entire application process. Personality testing comes at the same time that people are learning about the job, and the minimum qualifications.

And other businesses ask applicants to take the personality test later  - after they've learned about the job, and the minimum qualifications.  Applicants read about things like specific responsibilities, working hours, shifts, work days, minimum levels of experience, special skills.  And they either opt in to continue on (acknowledging they meet the described minimums) or they opt out - on their own - because they discover they are not a good fit. 

Only after applicants self-select through the minimum gates, is the personality test then offered.  Why does this make a difference?  It saves everybody time, it reduces the risk of testing people that may not meet minimum qualifications (through their own de-selection) and it saves companies money, because fewer people are tested, and fees are based on started/completed tests.

Testing companies want employers to test everyone, but it doesn't mean it make sense for you business.  In fact, combining personality testing and minimum qualification assessments very early in the process is likely adding to the risk of poor matching, and certainly adding to hiring costs.

We'll have this debate at the Laguna Beach, CA Remote Working Master Class on Nov 12-13.

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Topics: Remote Working

Laguna Beach Remote Working Master Class

Posted by Michele Rowan

October 6, 2014 at 7:20 PM

Two Days of Thought Leadership:  November 12-13, Laguna Beach, CA

Nathan Hickman, Director Workforce Management, and Michele Rowan, President Customer Contact Strategies, lead this two-day meeting on all things remote working.  Topics are attendee-driven, and will incude the following:

Topics and Dicussions Points:

  • Building a remote working infrastructure that will scale in the future
  • Identifying attributes and characteristics of high performing remote team members
  • Cultural connectivity and engagement of remote staff
  • Best practices in collaboration and peer recognition
  • Virtual performance management - getting it right
  • Innovtive technology to leverage a remote platform
  • Virtual learning - design & delivery



Deep dive discussions, benchmarking, and thought leadership in an intimate setting.  Attendees are surveyed in advanced on topics of high interest, ensuring you walk away with exactly what you came in for.

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Topics: Remote Working

More Evidence that Telecommuting Augments Performance

Posted by Michele Rowan

September 25, 2014 at 2:30 PM

Unversity of Illinois 2014 Telecommuting Study:

Results from a recent study on benefits and limitations of telecommuting was released by the University of Illinois; here's the scope and top line findings:

  • 500 surveys were mailed to full-time US based professionals across a broad scope of jobs
  • 300+ employees responded, and another 150 (managers of the employees) also responded
  • 1/3 of the respondents worked from home or in a satellite office part-time, 2/3 worked from home full-time.
  • Home-based employees were rated on job dedication and working well with others (vs. their in-house counterparts)
  • Telecommuters have lower stress and tend to work longer hours

Could it be that telecommuters still often represent the "cream of the crop", or highest performing employees, and therefore skew survey results like these?  Certainly on the enterprise side of remote working, this could be the case.  Many organizations have invited just a fraction of their corporate or enterprise staff to telecommute.

But another meaningful reference point is telecommuters in contact centers.  80% of companies surveyed by Customer Contact Strategies in February 2014 reported that their home-based contact center employees had lower absenteeism, similar or better productivity, and higher employee satisfaction scores compared to their in-house counterparts.

So two more meaningful reference points that both en masse and from this recent smaller sample, telecommuters perform (at minimum) as well, and often better, than their office-based co-workers.

More data and case studies on telecommuting returns for enterprise workers, contact centers and support roles will be shared at the Remote Working Master Class, Laguna Beach, CA, November 12-13.  Two days of extensive thought leadership and benchmarking.

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Topics: Remote Working

Nathan Hickman: Building a Scalable Work at Home Model

Posted by Michele Rowan

September 4, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Meet Nathan Hickman, Director Workforce Management and Technology Planning, BECU Credit Union

Driven by a keen curiousity surrounding physical vs. virtual distance in the workplace, Nathan conducted his graduate thesis at Gonzaga University on remote workers and was published in the 2011 Journal of Business and Leadership.

Take a listen to the 15-minute podcast, and then join Nathan and 25 additional subject matter experts  in Laguna Beach, CA, November 12-13 for the Virtual Agent Conference.

Listen to Nathan's insights on:

  • How to build a scalable program on a small program budget
  • Separating virtual distance challenges from physical distance
  • Efficiently and securely utilizing employee-owned equipment in a highly regulated environment

November 12-13 Laguna Beach, CA Virtual Agent Conference

Two days of intense thought leadership, benchmarking,
and - paddleboarding.


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Topics: Remote Working

UK Passes New Law on Flexible Working

Posted by Michele Rowan

August 27, 2014 at 4:34 PM


Until now, only employees in caregiving positions could request flexible working arrangements from their UK employers.  But that all changed last month, when the Government got involved.

The change to the law gives all UK employees the right to request flexible working arrangements, as long as they have a minimum of 26 weeks of service.  

So what is the UK Government trying to accomplish?  Culture change in tandem with economic benefits.   Here's what the UK Department for Business is forecasting:

  • 60,000 new flexible working arragements per year
  • 475 million GBP in overall economic benefits over 10 years
  • Improvements in productivity, attendance and employee retention
The extension to the flexible working rules comes alongside the introduction fo parental leave, which, starting April 2015, will combine materinity and paternity rights into one package.

What's your company's stand on flexible working arrangements?  Where are the early adopters, small majority, large majority and laggers going with flexible working arramgnements?  

This and many more critical topics are on the agenda for the Laguna Beach, CA  Remote Working Conference November 12-13.

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Removing Remote Working Barriers

Posted by Michele Rowan

May 21, 2014 at 5:13 PM

Stacy Lowman, VP of Talent Development for World Travel Holdings, talks for 15 minutes on this webcast about removing barriers to world class remote working. 

World Travel Holdings has nearly 1,000 remote employees in multiple states, and recently started "virtually" hiring and training new team members - without ever meeting the personally. 

Stacy and his team share innovative strategies for ensuring that employees are connected on that "last mile" between the corporate offices and home-office.  We discuss:

  • Leveraging social platforms to create high visibility and engagement
  • Recognition & reward on steroids (or gamification)
  • Low effort performance awareness and support

Stacy is speaking at two upcoming Remote Working Master Classes in Chicago June 24-26:

 Listen to webcast


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