Contact Center Shared Staff Arrangements

Aug 19, 2009 3:37 AM  By

As the peak season approaches, you need to make sure your contact center is up to staff. Our last article covered returning staff (http://multichannelmerchant.com/opsandfulfillment/advisor/0721-seasonal-staffing-alternatives-for-your-contact-center/index.html); now we’ll discuss shared staff arrangements.

Some catalog centers with a busy seasonal holiday pattern look to local businesses that may slow down in the fall. Some recruit workers directly with great success from businesses that have a summer peak. You can choose to try to reach these potential staff with wide and well-timed advertising, or you can elect to go directly to the source and work with those businesses directly.

For example, one Illinois-based call center with a holiday peak season from October to January works with the local Home Depot and Lowe’s building supply stores to find a base of staff. With shoppers having reduced building supply and gardening center needs in the fall and winter, the retailers don’t need as many staff in their stores.

The call center works with these companies to advertise open positions from October through January for those staff that wish to stay employed, but might be laid off temporarily or cut back to part-time hours in these retail stores. Some staffers choose the call center option, knowing their store position will be saved and waiting upon their February return.

The call center benefits by having a ready supply of candidates with great customer service training, and the stores benefit by having a way to ensure employment for all its workers during the slower months.

Another call center has a partnership with a neighboring call center in the same city that happens to have peak calling times at different times of year. Each guarantees employment for six months of the year, but during the off-peak time, workers have the option to go to the other call center.

Both centers benefit by having staff bringing experience and skills to the job from the other company, as well as existing expertise in that call center position.

Making arrangements like this work require creativity and some “outside the box” planning, processes, and compensation arrangements. You’ll want to determine what types of regional companies or call centers have an opposite peak time than your business. It may be worth pursuing these businesses to see if you can forge a staffing arrangement that benefits you both.

Home-based agents
You don’t have to stick with local companies for call center workers. You may want to evaluate staffing agencies that may not be in your local area, but can supply staff on an as-needed basis.

Companies such as Willow CSN or Alpine Access have a network of agents in a wide geographic area that primarily work from home. These agents are independent contractors with the agency serving as a broker for their services.

Home-based agents are trained in the area of customer service and handle a wide variety of sales and service calls. They can generally be trained quickly and can be available for whatever length of service your company requires.

Penny Reynolds (penny.reynolds@thecallcenterschool.com) is a founding partner of The Call Center School, a company dedicated to the education and development of call center professionals.