Discover the Right Balance in Agent Scheduling for Your Healthcare Contact Center
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
Some healthcare call centers only employ full-time staff. Others do the opposite and only hire part-timers. The ideal solution might be to balance a combination of both full-time and part-time agents.
Full-Time Call Center Agents
A key benefit of staffing your call center with full-time employees is greater stability and predictability. A full-time employee with benefits, especially healthcare benefits, is more likely to be committed to their work and less likely to seek a new job.
This commitment results in having an accomplished workforce that possesses the knowledge accumulated only through longevity. The typical result is more accurate communication with callers and the potential for better outcomes. With these as the benefits of having a full-time staff, why wouldn’t every call center want to hire only full timers?
Call centers with only full-time staff face a couple limitations. The key one is that call traffic seldom fits the nice 9-to-5 work schedule of full-time employees. Instead, callers arrive in predictable surges throughout the day. When attempting to address these traffic peaks with full-time staff working eight-hour shifts, the result is they will need to work like crazy some of the time and still not be able to keep up. At other times they won’t have enough to do.
Another limitation is a lack of flexibility. If a full timer’s shift is over, having worked there eight hours, but you need them to stay late to take more calls, you’re looking at an overtime situation. On the other hand, if you have people sitting around twiddling their thumbs, you can’t send a full-time employee home early because they won’t get there forty hours of work that you promised them and that they expect.
Part-Time Call Center Agents
As a reaction of this, other call centers hire only part-time staff. This gives them maximum scheduling flexibility. They’re able to have employees work exactly when they need them, no more and no less. If things get especially busy and you need someone to stay later, many are happy to pick up extra hours. Conversely, if it is slower than expected and you want to send staff home, there is usually someone anxious to accommodate.
Yet this maximum flexibility comes at a price. Part-time staff are less committed to you, your call center, and your callers. They’re more likely to look for other jobs that pay more, have better benefits, or offer more appealing schedules. They may desire full-time work and only accepted your offer because the hours you offered them were better than no hours.
This means that a call center of part-time employees has higher turnover, along with all the problems that the constant churn of employees can present.
The solution is to strategically hire full-time and part-time employees. This provides the best solution to achieve both a degree of stability along with much-needed flexibility. Though the ideal ratio of full-time to part-time workers varies from one call center to the next, a general initial goal is 50-50. That is to have a foundation of full-time employees filling half of your typical schedule, using part-time staffers for the remaining half.
In your actual operation, however, you may find it works better to have fewer full-time agents or have more, but you won’t know what the ideal ratio is and will have to home in on it over time.
Call center staffing is part art and part science, balancing your organization’s fiscal responsibility with your caller’s healthcare needs. A hybrid staff comprised of both full-time and part-time agents may be the best way to get there.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.