Staffing a call center is a matter of balancing your available staff against the predicted call volumes. It's best to consider each phone line, or queue, as an individual entity that can be handled by more than one employee.
Things You Will Need
Queue answer time goals
Queue statistics (number of calls, answer times, time of calls)
Each queue is an individual, but each employee can cover more than one queue. So, Step 1, is to figure out who is cross-trained if you have more than one queue. Remember, you are scheduling employees to the queue, not the queue to the employees.
Figure out how many hours you need to cover for each queue, and how many agents you are going to need per queue, and which agents you can put in two or more queues at the same time to utilize all your resources. Sometimes, queues have to be isolated due to contractual agreements with customers; however, if employees are cross-trained and your center allows, nothing is stopping you from moving that cross-trained agent to another queue to grab a call if they are available for it.
Determine your call center's peak calling time per each queue. If your peak call times are lunch hours, between noon and two, then you need to schedule lunches around peak calling times. If an agent starts at 5 a.m., then their lunch will be at 10 a.m., because you'll need that early person to cover a lunch before they leave for the day at 2 p.m.
The majority of your staff should be scheduled during peak calling times. Remember, customers are always first -- not the employee or yourself. And if those customers are holding forever, they will not be happy, and you'll get all the supervisor calls that tell you they were on "Eternal Hold."
The easiest format to use is Microsoft Excel to create a spreadsheet. Start with queue hours and schedule shifts a half-hour apart by people versus calls. If you know you need two people at 5 a.m. because you get at least 15 calls between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. then schedule them. You must be able to see the average talk time of a call, and then figure out how many calls your agents can take each based on their average talk time. You'll be able to schedule agents closer together, but far enough apart so that you are covered during your peak times.
Although agents will want to schedule themselves, you control the schedule. You are the schedule master. Once you get the basics down,explain that they don't control the schedule -- the phone calls coming in for their job control their schedule, and you have to make sure there are people there to answer the phones.
Your telecommunications department should have telephone reports available with the statistics for your call center. If you have never gone into in-depth scheduling, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have troubles with scheduling and just can't get it right to cover your queues, there are plenty of call center statistic websites (some are free) and software that can help you determine how many agents you will need. However, if cost is an issue, the software is expensive.
You don't have to spend mega-bucks on software. You can pull reports from your phone system to help you schedule. The best software to learn is your phone reporting software. Once you learn how to pull the reports you need, you can schedule any call center.
Scheduling a call center is a unique task, and does take special organization and time-management abilities. If this is your first shot at call center scheduling, you may want to consult your manager or telecommunications person for assistance in pulling the appropriate phone reports. Some software may be different, but the language is the same. If you understand the language, you'll have no problem scheduling. If you need a quick question answered, or need a few hours of consulting, you can contact an expert for help.