There is a big difference between creating a shift schedule for a manufacturing plant and a call center.
More often than not, manufacturing tends to have steady workloads throughout a shift. While there may be someday to day variations or even seasonality, these are relatively minor compared to what goes on at a call center.
Like all scheduling projects, we need to consider the needs of the workforce as well as the needs of the company.
For call centers, the needs of the company can be complicated. We look for answers to the following types of questions: When do the calls come in? How long do they last? Is it better to staff lean and miss a call or two or is it better to over staff and answer every call on the first ring? Answers to questions like these will create a mathematical model for schedule design.
To fit such a model, we often find that covering 24/7 with a simple 4-crew schedule does not offer a very good fit. Instead, we tend to find that several schedules, sometimes one per person puts the right number of people in the right place at the right time. We frequently resort to a variety of shift lengths that create gaps and overlaps at the appropriate times.
Just trying to do this for a single day can be very complicated. Doing it for an entire week while ensuring the workforce is not over/underutilized can take time, but the payoff will be significant.
If you pay an employee $20 an hour, overstaffing will cost you about $70,000 per year per extra person. At the same time, understaffing will result in either high overtime or poor customer service.
The right schedule can make sure that you are staffed as optimally as possible.
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