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CX Blossoms in the Age of AI

Want to retain associates? Give them more control over their schedules

How flexible is your customer support operation, really? It’s probably not as accommodating as you think.

Most BPO leaders believe their organization is flexible simply because it’s agile enough to adapt and pivot quickly as needed to improve customer experience (CX). While agility around CX is important, being truly flexible means keeping employee experience top of mind as well.

To win the war for talent and meet customer needs, brands must strike a careful balance by focusing on customer expectations and prioritizing employee experience (EX). Savvy brands that recognize the importance of EX are starting to experiment with FlexEX, a system that gives associates more autonomy over their own work schedules – and seeing quick results.

How FlexEX works
At some brands currently, the very top-performing associates (top 15%) get first choice of what shifts they want to work, and then other associates’ hours are placed once those top performers’ schedules are set. That’s a good start but doesn’t go far enough to retain talent in this tight labor market.

FlexEX expands the pool of associates who get to bid first, letting the top 15-30% submit their shift requests first. They may ask for certain shifts, in order of their preference, and once their shifts are set the schedule opens up to the broader pool of employees.  

In addition to giving a greater share of employees access to flexible scheduling, FlexEX also gives associates more freedom around how they structure their shifts (within parameters set by the employer).

An employee may want to work one hour in the morning, for instance, and complete the remainder of his shift in the afternoon and evening. Many full-time associates prefer to work four 10-hour shifts instead of five eight-hour ones. With FlexEX, workers can set the schedule that best meets their individual needs.

Attract and retain top talent
Embracing a flexible scheduling approach marks a major shift for most brands and may seem daunting, but the benefits are worthwhile. In a post-pandemic environment where employees value their work-life balance more than ever, this type of flexibility can help companies attract and keep top talent.

Creating a positive associate experience is increasingly important. Associates are a brand’s front line but it’s getting harder to find and hold on to good ones. Research shows 87% of contact center employees experience high levels of stress on the job, and the average turnover rate for associates tops 40%. Attrition can get costly for companies, since it’s more expensive to find, hire, and train new associates than it is to retain existing ones.

When you give associates the power to control their own schedules, they feel valued and listened to, and they’re more likely to take pride and stay engaged in their work.

"I really enjoy being able to choose my schedule that works for me,” said a part-time associate whose employer offers FlexEX. “I'm a single mom of three active kids so this works out great for [being able to attend] appointments and sports.”

A full-time associate said, “The freedom to select my own schedule is really nice and allows us to be more accountable and responsible for our schedule.”

And another full-time employee added: “I have a few things going on in my personal life; I homeschool my kids and run a side business. The work-life balance [with flex] is amazing. I can set everything up perfectly for my conferences and my kids.”

But FlexEX isn’t only a win for employees; it benefits brands by improving associate productivity, occupancy, and performance.

It incentivizes associates to excel, since top performers earn the advantage of choosing shifts first. And it enhances a brand’s value proposition and differentiates it in the marketplace, which can be a major advantage in this competitive labor market.

The ROI of flex scheduling
TTEC has several clients, in various industries, piloting this new type of flexible scheduling model. They’re seeing improvements in associate satisfaction, reliability, occupancy, and performance.

A gaming company that shifted 15% of its staffing requirements to FlexEX saw its adherence rate rise from about 90% in December 2022 to 100% in February 2023. Another company that specializes in frozen food home delivery saw reliability hit 96% among its FlexEX pilot group (compared with 94% among workers not in the pilot), as well as a 1 percent improvement in CSAT among FlexEX workers – all in just one month.

Early feedback shows associates prefer FlexEX, too. In the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines, two-thirds or more of associates would rather have a flex schedule than a consistent one.

How can you know if FlexEX is right for you? Ideal candidates include companies that:

  • Struggle with high absenteeism or attrition
  • Bill per minute verses per production hour
  • Employ a mix of full-time and part-time associates
  • Have some self-paced component to associate work, or training that’s not lengthy
  • Already have a work-from-home component in place

Partner with an expert
Working with an employee experience partner is a great way to explore whether flexible scheduling is a good fit for your brand.
The right partner will not only strategize around how FlexEX can best benefit your company, but also will bring the tools, technology, and processes needed to make it a successful reality – and seamless transition – for your business.

It may feel overwhelming to consider making this shift to FlexEX, but when the back-office processes, technology, and procedures related to scheduling are left in expert hands, you can focus on what you do best.