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How Do You Teach “The Power of One” to Your Agents

Published: September 20, 2012 | By: Vicki Herrell

As workforce management professionals, we all know the difference that just one agent can make in our net staffing. Unfortunately, the agents don’t necessarily understand that concept. They may be thinking, “What difference can it make that I come back late from lunch? There are 50 other agents out there on the floor.” Sometimes it falls to the workforce management team to teach them just what a difference they make.

While we all know the benefits to the call center when agents adhere to schedule – improved service level, better customer service, and cost savings for the company – sometimes these benefits are not enough to motivate agents.

So what can we do to teach “The Power of One” to our agent population? Well, there are lots of different ways, and in this article, we’ll explore several options.
One way to get the information to the agent is through an interactive, fun activity. Here are some examples:

Tennis Ball Activity

Pull together a group of agents and ask them to line up in two groups facing each other. One side represents the customers and the others serve as call handlers. Give each of the “customers” a tennis ball, which represents a phone call. Then ask the customers to begin throwing the ball back and forth to the person across from them, the “agent.” This is very comfortable as long as there is a one-to-one ratio of customers to call handlers. Now send one call handler on break but leave all the customers. Send another call handler on an “unscheduled break” and leave all the customers. Keep throwing the balls back and forth to the remaining call handlers. The participants can easily see the impact of losing one agent, and then they really feel the impact of losing additional agents. This is also an excellent illustration to employ when talking about average handle time (how long the call handler holds the ball before pitching it back), schedule adherence, queue times, and service level/ASA.

Bucket Activity

You might want to do this one outside! Have one volunteer slowly pour water into a bucket (one from KFC works well). The water represents incoming calls/orders. After the bucket is full, start to poke holes into the bucket. Let the first holes represent someone leaving for a break or lunch according to their schedule. Agents can come up to plug these holes to stop the water flow. But then poke some holes to represent agents out of adherence – late to work or from a break, for example – and do not plug those holes. As the water drains down, so goes the service level! The draining water can also represent lost orders or lost customers who have waited too long in queue.

Perfection Game Activity

Perfection is the battery-operated game where you set a timer and attempt to place differently-shaped pieces into their respective slots before the timer runs out, which causes the spring-loaded board to pop up suddenly and scatter the pieces. For the illustration to the agents, have three people placing the shapes simultaneously, and they will finish at a leisurely pace before the timer expires. Then remove an agent from the mix because they were signed off unexpectedly and not adhering to their schedule. Then reset the timer for the exact amount of time it took for three people to finish the job. Without fail, the two remaining people work frantically but are never able to complete the task before the timer expires and the pieces pop up. Then explain that the shapes represent calls, and the time it takes to place these shapes into their slots represents handle time. Also explain that when you had the right number of people in place to handle the task, everyone was able to work at a comfortable pace and get the job done. With the unexpected absence of just one agent, the remaining agents were forced to work much harder and still couldn’t get the job done.

There are many ways to teach “The Power of One” to your agents. Try some of these ideas and see what works for you!


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