What is Intraday Scheduling? The definitive explanation

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Natasha Ratanshi-Stein , Founder & CEO

One of the core components of the Surfboard product is activity scheduling, or intraday scheduling. We’ve written previously about how Surfboard handles activity scheduling. In this blog, we define activity scheduling and talk about why it matters for customer support teams. 

What is intraday scheduling?

Intraday scheduling, or activity scheduling, refers to planning the “tasks” that team members spend their time on during the day. This means it goes beyond planning when people work and specifies what they work on across the day. For a support team, this could mean distributing time spent on channels such as phone, email, chat, or callbacks. For many teams, it also extends to non-support related time, including training, meetings and breaks. 

For support teams, if you’re offering live channels (phones and live chat) it’s imperative that you plan who is working on these channels at the right time in order to meet your service level targets (how quickly you pick up phones and respond to messages). Without scheduling enough people to cover these channels, your customers will be left waiting and your team will experience long phone queues and sizeable backlogs. 

Equally, a support team needs to spread the tasks or channels across a team evenly. Having someone cover phones all day causes burnout, resulting in higher absenteeism and attrition. Within a given day, schedules need to be balanced creating enough time for surfers (agents) to work on different channels in addition to non-inbound related work. If your support team offers callbacks, these also need to be considered in intraday scheduling. 

Intraday or activity scheduling allows you to plan ahead, prescribing who is working on what tasks at what point in the day. You might know your phones are busy at 9AM on a Monday and you need all hands on deck, but afternoons are clearer. This means that within a given afternoon you can decide who is working on clearing the email backlog, who is responding to Facebook and Instagram direct messages and who uses the downtime to complete ongoing training activities. 

By having intraday scheduling connected to forecasts, you can identify how many people you need to cover your various tasks and schedule accordingly. 

Intraday scheduling vs. real time scheduling

Intraday scheduling refers to planning the specific tasks someone will work on during their working hours. Often this is done in advance so managers are assured that their channels and workflows are taken care of and team members come into work with clarity on how they will spend their day. 

Real time scheduling on the other hand is reacting at the time to changes in circumstances. This might mean ticket volumes are different from forecasted volumes and you have more calls, chats or emails coming in. It might mean you have less capacity than expected through sickness or shrinkage. Or it might mean that you haven’t cleared a backlog as fast as you had predicted. When any of these events happen, it impacts your service levels and based on your tolerance for lower performance you may need to adjust accordingly. That adjustment is real time scheduling. 

Real time scheduling often results in moving team members to different activities, shifting breaks, or in some cases shifting working hours. In the latter example, if you have less ticket volume than you had expected you might suggest to your team that they take the remainder of the shift off or cancel any flexible shifts or overtime you had previously scheduled. The most popular form of real time scheduling is amending the tasks or activities that your team members are working on to better optimise for the new circumstances you are encountering. 

The value of intraday scheduling

Better planning

Fundamentally, intraday scheduling is the best way of ensuring your service levels are met. Through scheduling enough people on the right tasks at the right time, you create the best way of ensuring your customers aren’t left waiting on the phone to get through to your team or with chat conversations pending. 

Real time scheduling is a weapon that is used in emergencies, it should not be the norm. It’s disruptive for the team and causes a headache for managers. To avoid these last minute changes, investing time and effort into intraday scheduling in advance is well worth it. 

Beyond just the basics of covering your channels, a flexible activity planning software allows you to plan when your team spends time on training, meetings, and non-inbound tasks such as project work and admin tasks. This means you can much more accurately calculate how your team is spending their time and ensure the various tasks are accounted for.

Many support teams require their team to partake in ongoing training but don’t schedule time for this, resulting in a breakdown of trust. Intraday scheduling is a great way of making schedules work for managers, teams and customers. 

More productive teams

Intraday scheduling allows teams to account for the training, development, and coaching of surfers. Managers can avoid spending all their time on making last minute schedule changes, while surfers have the necessary development and coaching that will empower them to be great at their jobs. This leads to an obvious improvement in team productivity and effectiveness. It also points to something more profound, surfer happiness. 

Happier Teams

Intraday scheduling enables managers to plan ahead and provide their teams with the schedule further in advance. This not only sets aside time for training and development, but crucially, it leads to flexibility. This means that surfers can plan their lives ahead of time. Instead of fitting their life around an ever-changing work schedule, they can fit their lifestyle around work. It’s been proven beyond doubt that a lack of input and pre-knowledge of working shifts has a negative impact on surfers. Hence the importance of intraday scheduling, so that teams can be happier in their roles and in their lives. 

If you’d like to learn more about intraday scheduling and how it can benefit support teams, leave some details below and we’ll be in touch in no time.

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