Call center rules and regulations: Why are they so strict?

Learn the purpose of call center rules and regulations in this tip from Donna Fluss, including how and why call center managers control the number of scheduled agents according to the forecasted call volume, using workforce management (WFM) applications.

I work as a call center agent for a property development company. The internal call center rules and regulations are very strict and almost childish at times. For example, we have to ask our team leaders to take bathroom breaks, and we are not allowed to liaise with other internal departments directly, even though as the "face" of the company, we understand the customer's problems better than anyone else. Is this how most companies treat their call center agents?

I wish I could tell you otherwise, but the answer to your question is yes, this is how most call centers are managed. Call center managers have very good reasons for needing to manage (or control – depending on one's perspective) the number of call center agents seated and available to answer calls at every point throughout the day (and night, if you operate 24/7). Call center supervisors also need to manage the interactions between their call center and the departments that support it.

Call center managers have to make sure that there are enough people available to handle the forecasted call volume. Call center managers generally use workforce management (WFM) applications that tell them how many call center agents will be needed to handle the projected call volume for every half hour of every day. These WFM solutions are also used to plan agent breaks, lunch hours and training sessions. On a daily basis, full-time call center agents are generally assigned two 15-minute breaks – one in the morning and one in the afternoon, one lunch break, and possibly a training period. Agents are usually asked to take care of their personal needs during these breaks. If an agent needs to use the bathroom at a time that is not during a scheduled break, he or she needs to ask permission, so that the supervisor/manager can assure that the center has adequate coverage for calls. While this may not alleviate your frustration as an agent, please keep in mind that management is concerned with achieving an essential goal for the call center – answering all call/emails in a timely manner so that customers do not have to wait. At the same time, of course, good relationships between management and staff are also important for improving agent performance.

Managing interactions between other corporate departments is a different issue. Very often, internal departments ask the call center supervisor to limit the number of people that reach out to them. They ask to have one or two people as the primary contacts in order to improve the flow of information and to speed up their ability to respond. Internal departments might otherwise feel "bombarded" and overwhelmed by the number of requests they receive from a call center. Here is an example – if a customer calls three times about the same issue and speaks to three different call center agents, all three agents may call the relevant internal department. As a result, this department might have three separate people working on the same issue. To avoid this major waste of resources, managers try to implement procedures to control the inquiry process. In some organizations, one person is responsible for managing inter-departmental interactions on an ongoing basis. In other organizations, this responsibility is performed by different supervisors or agents on a monthly or quarterly rotating basis.

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