24-Hour Service Desk - Now Some Solutions

This is a follow-up to this earlier post which focused on some of the downsides of running in extended hours. This post however will take a more positive stance, with some of the things that can help ameliorate some of the points made in the earlier post.

Examine your budget, because it probably isn't enough. Lots of factors will come into play such as

  • Recruitment Agency Fees (if you use them). Negotiate a realistic rate and refund period, and plan for higher than usual churn.
  • Training budgets. Inevitably higher staff turnover has a double-whammy effect: it reduces your call throughput (less experienced staff), and increases training charges.
  • Don't spend your budget exclusively on bonuses and allowances, it might not be getting you the best value.

"We under-budgeted, or rather budgeted like it was 2 x 9 to 5. The project suffered for months as a result."

Consider the practicalities. Some staff, those without cars, find travelling at unsociable hours difficult. Whilst at the start of their employment in the bright summer months standing waiting for a 10:00pm bus sounds OK, it might not be so nice in the middle of December. See if you have the funds to offer assisted transport - taxis, minibuses and the like. This can help to reduce staff fatigue and churn.

"The change having the free minibus made on the 6:00pm till 11:00pm shift was significant. It was particularly appreciated by women who no-longer had to travel on late night buses, well worth the £6k a year it cost us."

Check how you are selling the jobs. There's no point in painting an overly-rosy picture. If shift working is unavoidable don't make it seem otherwise. If you are using an agency make sure you understand that your objectives and theirs are not necessarily the same - so make sure you have seen how the positions are advertised. If you like, make a test application to see if potential recruits are being soft-soaped.

Offer a career path. This is closely linked to 'how you are selling the job' above. If you offer this as a lure to fill shift-based you need to be seen to deliver this quite quickly (but remember it's a process rather than an event).

"Setting aside some time for training, and having a structured approach, is key. Training for actual qualifications (technical qualifications like MSCE or ITIL) is useful if you can afford it. The worse the job is, the more you've got to have this. Don't forget it's useful as well because you end up with better-qualified people talking your customers."

Flexible working. It's easy to see flexible working as another complication, but it can help in service delivery as well.

"Having had constant problems with retention, we created a pool of staff. We agree to give them a minimum number of hours each month, and I can then call and ask them to come in at different times. So it might be someone's week off, having worked 12 hours the previous week, and I say ' can you work tonight for 5 hours'. If they can they say yes, if they can't they say no. Then there are others who work longer and more regular shifts. I mix the two up to get a full rota.

It's been useful for women trying to get back into support or customer-service type roles after having children. They like the extra income it gives them, and makes childcare less of an issue if they are working evenings. Some people employed this way have been with us over two years. It was a great innovation".