Healthcare Reform And Its Impact On Contact Center Workforce Management

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1 Healthcare Reform And Its Impact On Contact Center Workforce Management WHITEPAPER

2 Healthcare Reform and Its Impact on Contact Center Workforce Management TABLE OF CONTENTS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY... 2 Understanding the Impact of the Affordable Care Act... 3 The Challenge for Contact Center Employers... 3 Contact Center Strategies to Survive Healthcare Reform Implement a Two-Tier Wage Structure Get Creative with Work Rules Offer Work-At-Home Opportunities... 5 CONCLUSION... 5 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Large contact center employers not currently offering healthcare coverage for their full time workers breathed a huge sigh of relief when the Treasury Department announced that the ObamaCare Employer Mandate would be delayed until Contact center leaders are advised, however, to use the additional time wisely and to start planning for healthcare reform now. This paper provides strategies each employer should consider when preparing to minimize the impact the Affordable Care Act will have on their contact center SOLUTIONS 2

3 speculation regarding rising healthcare costs in general). Contact centers that don t meet the affordable criteria, however, are considering alternatives such as dropping existing coverage in favor of pushing employees to the exchanges or migrating most of their full time workers to part time status. Understanding the Impact of the Affordable Care Act The impact the Affordable Care Act of 2010 will have on the contact center industry is largely dependent upon the following three factors: Number of full-time-equivalent employees (FTE) at the contact center Whether health insurance is provided to full time workers Whether that insurance is considered to be affordable Contact centers employing more than 50 full time workers who do not provide affordable health insurance will be mandated to pay assessments / penalties to offset the cost of tax credits given to workers who purchase insurance through an exchange (approximately $2,000 per full time employee beyond the first 30 workers). In order to be considered affordable, the employer-provided insurance must pay for at least 60% of covered healthcare expenses. Another factor impacting the definition of affordability is that a family s out-of-pocket healthcare expenses must not exceed 9.5% of their income. Many large contact center employers already provide healthcare insurance for their full time workers, so for them and their employees the mandate will have little effect (apart from The Challenge for Contact Center Employers In reaction to healthcare reform, some contact center employers are considering making the shift from a workforce primarily comprised full time workers to one made up mostly of part timers. A move like this is a viable option in that it will enable the employer to avoid daunting assessment / penalty costs mandated by ObamaCare. It comes, however, with its own set of challenges. Consider a contact center transitioning from a 40-hour per week full time workforce to a 20- hour per week part time workforce. Covering the same customer demand would now require twice as many employees, driving increased costs for recruiting and training. Workforce managers would also face a dramatic increase in scheduling administration as they deal with larger numbers of workers and more complex shift scenarios. A contact center shifting from a primarily full time workforce to one that is primarily part time is also likely to face reduced levels of employee engagement, lower call quality and increased attrition as experienced employees desiring full time work choose to seek opportunities with other employers. These are not minor considerations for an industry that already contends with low levels of employee engagement and where 100% plus attrition rates are not unusual. SOLUTIONS 3

4 Contact Center Strategies to Survive Healthcare Reform Before migrating agents to part time in reaction to healthcare reform, contact center employers need to consider their alternatives. Here are three strategies that have the potential to offset employer costs associated with healthcare reform. 1. Implement a Two-Tier Wage Structure In most call center environments entry-level wages are pre-defined and adjusted over time based on seniority and performance. As a result, employees who have been with a company for the same amount of time make approximately the same amount of money. When it comes to increasing operational efficiency, however, an employee s value often lies in his scheduling flexibility. A two-tier wage structure is one whereby a lower wage rate is paid to employees who have fixed schedules based upon their preference and a higher wage rate is paid to employees who are more flexible with their time. Employees with external scheduling constraints are happy because they get their preferred shift. Employees who are more flexible are happy because they re compensated for working variable shifts that are less desirable to their colleagues. The net effect is greater employee satisfaction, lower attrition and increased operational efficiency. 2. Get Creative with Work Rules There s only so much you can do with a 40- hour workweek. Five 8-hour days with two days off ( 5 by 8 ) is the standard scheduled offered at most contact centers, with some allowing employees to work four 10-hour days with three days off ( 4 by 10 ). Contact centers that employ a large number of part time workers, however, have a lot more opportunity to get creative (and efficient). Consider some of the options for a 20-hour week part time schedule: Five 4-hour days Four 5-hour days Two 10-hour days Two 5-hour days and one 10-hour day Two 8-hour days and one 4-hour day In addition to the potential efficiency gains more scheduling options can offer, it is generally easier to get agents to extend a shift than it is to bring an agent in on call. Employing part time workers who may only work a half-day shift makes it easy to extend shifts when needed to deal with staffing shortfalls. In reaction to healthcare reform, some contact center employers are considering making the shift from a workforce primarily comprised full time workers to one made up mostly of part timers. SOLUTIONS 4

5 3. Offer Work-At-Home Opportunities A major challenge for call center operators in shifting to a part time workforce is accommodating employees who would prefer to work fewer hours every day versus long hours 2 to 3 days a week. A major deterrent to this kind of scenario for the employee is the cost associated with commuting to work. For example, an employee facing a 45-minute commute each way is less likely to make the drive for a 3-hour shift than they would be for an 8-hour shift. A viable solution is to offer part time workers the opportunity to work from home. Modern PC-over-IP call routing technology makes delivering calls to at-home workers possible, affordable and secure. In addition, the same workforce optimization tools used to monitor and manage on-site employees working at brick-and-mortar centers are just as effective when used to monitor and manage at-home workers. At-home work programs are a proven strategy used at many of today s largest contact center environments and are an excellent way to increase employee satisfaction while minimizing operational costs. CONCLUSION Healthcare reform provides a compelling financial incentive for many contact center employers to shift some, or all, of their workforce from full time to part time. Before making this significant transformation, workforce managers and operational leaders should first evaluate existing work rules, processes and technologies and consider alternative approaches and their associated costs. Doing so will enable them to make more strategic decisions when attempting to mitigate the impact the Affordable Care Act will have on their contact center. Whichever strategy you choose to deal with healthcare reform, WorkFlex Solutions can help MANAGER SOLUTION SUITE INTELLIGENT AUTOMATION & OPTIMIZATION SCHEDULER Our powerful yet flexible solutions maximize the effectiveness of your center s administrative and agent resources by making the most optimal use of their time. The result is greater operational efficiency, improved performance and increased agent satisfaction. WorkFlex picks up where your WFM system leaves off For more information or to schedule a demonstration, go to: SOLUTIONS 5

6 ABOUT SOLUTIONS WorkFlex Solutions is the Industry Leader in Intelligent Intraday Management Automation for contact centers. Our award-winning technology is designed to easily integrate with existing Workforce Management (WFM) and Automated Call Distribution (ACD) systems enabling clients to leverage their existing enterprise software investments, and quickly generate a positive ROI. WorkFlex deployments span multiple industry sectors including financial services, communications, SOLUTIONS healthcare, cable/sat and technology WorkFlex Solutions LLC

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