Workforce Management Hints, Tips & Best Practices
There is still a misconception that cloud computing is best suited only for small and medium-sized contact centers, because of concerns over security and scalability. Whether this was ever accurate, it is certainly no longer the case.
Cloud computing is not only ready for the enterprise, it is now the preferable option over traditional on-premise software.
Monet has created a new whitepaper that analyzes this topic, at a time when more companies of all sizes and types are exploring their technology options.
Use of cloud applications is increasing rapidly every year, which is not surprising given the array of benefits intrinsic to this service:
• Scalability – Cloud service providers allow clients to increase or decrease existing resources as needed to accommodate changing needs on demand.
• Flexibility – Cloud applications are available from any computer or any device—any time, anywhere. That allows enterprise personnel to be more flexible in and out of the workplace.
• Cost – With a cloud system, larger companies can take advantage of scaled maintenance in a specialized data center, while investing the money saved in capital expense into other aspects of the business.
• Ease of Use – Since the cloud provider manages all updates and upgrades, there are no patches for customers to download or install.
• Security – The cloud offers a much higher grade of security than most internal IT departments.
Monet is always available to help address the concerns of companies considering a cloud solution, and to identify the many ways in which the cloud can benefit your enterprise.
We’ve devoted a number of blogs to the challenges of finding the best contact center agents, from hiring and training to ongoing coaching and providing incentives for exceptional performance.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to assemble a team of outstanding agents, this is the time of year to make sure they feel appreciated. Answering phones or conducting online chats in a contact center is a challenging job, and managers who appreciate what goes into a good day’s work already know how important it is to acknowledge professional contributions that make the team and the company better.
At Monet, we are pleased and proud to provide contact center technology solutions that can make the agent’s job a little easier, a little more predictable, and hopefully a little more fun.
We want to take a moment to say Happy Holidays to all of the contact center teams that show up every day with professionalism and positive attitudes, even when dealing with customers who seem to have misplaced their holiday spirit. Thank you for a job well done.
Scheduling is a vital component in the success of every call center. And concrete, reliable data is vital to achieve accurate, consistent scheduling results.
For decades, that data was gathered through spreadsheets, and would take hours to compile. Even then, the results were not always accurate, or flexible enough to accommodate last minute changes or other issues.
And yet, hundreds of contact centers continue to handle forecasting and scheduling the same inefficient way they did 20 years ago, which is why the data generated sometimes proves insufficient.
It’s time for a change, and technology has made that change possible. An automated workforce management (WFM) solution can improve scheduling accuracy, making sure all the necessary resources are always in place.
A WFM system provides the flexibility to automatically manage start times, end times and break times. Spreadsheets cannot match this speed and efficiency, which results in unhappy agents and higher shrinkage. And wouldn’t you rather spend the hours now devoted to compiling schedules to focusing on other aspects of your business – or just getting out of the office on time for a change?
If so, perhaps it’s time to add a WFM solution to your holiday list. To find out more about this important investment, read “The Real Cost of Spreadsheet Based Scheduling
” to find out if you should put WFM on your holiday wish list.
While different contact centers have different needs, it’s hard to imagine a call center that could not benefit from a workforce management (WFM) solution. Whatever the specific goals of your business – lowering costs, improving efficiency, better customer service – workforce management can help to achieve them.
If you missed any of these 2014 posts about contact center workforce management, here’s another chance to review them.
1. Video: Workforce Management and Optimization in the Cloud
With this video you can see for yourself how Monet’s cloud-based solutions can help gain more insights and improve the performance and service quality of your contact center.
2. Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling Best Practices with WFO
The quality of call center customer service is largely dependent on accurate forecasting and scheduling. So why do so many call centers still rely on spreadsheets for this most important of daily tasks?3. 15 Tips on Contact Center Scheduling
The right workforce management system streamlines the process and provides more consistent, accurate data.4. The Call Center Choice: Cloud or Software?
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between a cloud-based delivery model, and one that requires on-premises hardware and software installation.5. Six Steps to Improved Call Center Staffing
Out of every dollar spent in call center costs, about 75 cents is related to labor. That makes staffing decisions pivotal to the operation of the business.
The holiday season means good food, good friends and good will toward men. But at some contact centers, it also means a significant increase in the need for customer service support. And by the way, your customers are busier during this season as well, and they expect the same response time and personalized service they receive at any other time of year.
If your contact center is about to get deluged with call volume that may be five times higher than usual, the time to start planning is now (especially if you haven’t been anticipating this for the last 1-2 months).
Increased staffing means more job interviews. The pace will be accelerated but the objective here is not just to fill empty seats. These new hires must be as motivated and as qualified as the agents you’ve had for years. Some contact centers maintain a database of potential hires so there is always a supply of qualified candidates that can step in with less training and get the job done. Forecasting and scheduling
are also crucial components to achieve adequate service levels and provide great customer service. Reviewing historical data is the best place to start this process, and then take a moment to think about what has changed since the holiday seasons of last year and the year before. These variables must also be taken into account.
Finally, with so many new faces in the contact center and so many more calls pouring in, quality monitoring
and control will be more difficult, but must be maintained. That means assigning more veteran team members to the quality control effort, so you have enough agents monitoring calls, emails and chats.
By taking these steps, you’ll have a much better chance to deliver a positive and memorable holiday shopping experience.
“Planning for the unexpected” may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s an important aspect of contact center management.
course we can’t see into the future. But sometimes making an educated
guess at future events is an important part of the contact center
manager’s job. The crucial functions of forecasting and scheduling can
help to eliminate uncertainty, by using available intelligence to
predict the resources that will be necessary for customer volume. Unexpected, or Just Poor Planning?
a contact center experiences relatively steady calling patterns or
frequent periods of uncertainty, a workforce optimization solution is
the key component of forecasting future call volume. The access it
provides to historical call history can help managers navigate the
scheduling challenges posed by seasonal promotions, special offers and
new, aggressive marketing tactics.
These regular practices, of
drawing upon 1-2 years of call history, and uncovering call patterns
that can predict future patterns, is the best way avoid unexpected
circumstances. Such calculations are rendered more precise by including
non-call activities as well, such as breaks, training, after-call work
and internal communication.
A workforce management solution can
also employ skill teams (skill sets, or skill groups) based on each
agent’s capabilities to handle certain skills/queues/competencies. This
allows the forecast process to select the best skills combinations for
either blank shifts to be filled later, or to place existing
agents. It’s another way to plan ahead for whatever the next shift or
Visibility into agent activity is another priority.
The contact center is made up of many employees. While the overall
performance is driven by processes, and efficiencies, it is the
individual performance of each employee that drives the engine. Knowing
that, it is obviously very important and critical to have better
visibility into the performance and activities of each agent.
many contact centers still have not installed the tools that makes this
possible, such as adherence dashboards, reports, status alerts and an
AUX Setup to track overuse of ACW, lunches, breaks, or other
non-productive or limited statuses.
What about factors outside
the company and the contact center? Historical data may not exist for
some of these, but it’s too simple to categorize them as “unexpected”
and hope for the best.
Perhaps you don’t know exactly what the
weather will be like tomorrow or next week, but you should recognize how
it can impact call volume. If it’s bad, more customers are likely to
stay home and shop. If it’s sunny and clear, call volume may be reduced.
How will call volume be changed by an election day, or a
championship series with a team in your city? How is the national
economy faring? Are the products or services your company sells more in
demand when times are good, or when a recession looms?
multiple simulations and gauging the outcomes can better prepare contact
centers for almost anything that comes along. Most surprises can be
avoided this way. When You Can’t Predict Everything
unexpected events do occur: One of the top agents calls in sick at the
last minute. There’s a glitch in the system that could not have been
foreseen. There’s an increase in call volume that was not anticipated by
the historical data. While a proactive approach to forecasting and
scheduling always pays dividends, there are times when a manager will
have to be reactive to a situation no one could see coming.
this happens, it’s vital to have the tools to monitor activities and
receive alerts, so managers can react quickly and make changes as
necessary (and make sure those changes are communicated to all
personnel). The two best weapons available to meet these challenges are
utilizing the intra-day management and exception management capabilities
of a workforce management solution. Intra-day Management
schedule adherence for a shift or a day after they have ended is a
missed opportunity to correct an issue more quickly. Monitoring intra-day activities
, from lunch breaks to training sessions, helps to maintain service levels.
the unexpected occurs, managers will instantly know the best way to
react without sacrificing customer service. Using a graphical display
of agent schedules, a manager can drag and drop breaks, lunches and
other exceptions to adjust the contact center schedule as needed.
Real-time updates are instantly recorded, and any surpluses or shortages
are displayed for any part of the day. Exception Planning
best workforce management solutions, such as Monet WFM Live, provide a
fully integrated Exception Planner, with the ability to schedule
exceptions such as vacations, training meetings, jury duty, etc. These
can be scheduled far into the future or recorded as recurring
While many of these activities can be documented
days or weeks in advance, the Exception Planner also supports mid-day
exceptions as they occur, taking them into account while choosing shifts
and scheduling breaks. Conclusion
The first step in
planning for the unexpected is differentiating between those occurrences
that are truly unexpected, and those that are not.
events you can plan ahead by learning from the past, using ACD call
history, running scenarios in forecasting, training people on multiple
skills and creating flexible staffing schedules. Such precautions make
it easier to overcome certain challenges as they occur.
events that cannot be anticipated because they happen outside your
control (such as call volume spikes or a flu bug infecting multiple
agents) real time intra-day alerts to dashboards
and mobile devices quickly notify managers, so they can make changes that will have an immediate impact.
Schedule adherence plays a significant role in the efficiency of your contact center. It is a time saving and money-saving practice that impacts both agent performance and customer service.
To be effective, however, it must be executed correctly.
That starts with real-time schedule adherence
, which gives you the opportunity to react immediately to address problems. A workforce management system monitors agents in real time, and delivers instant alerts when adherence is not achieved. It also provides a means to analyze KPIs and compare forecasted, scheduled and actual contact center statistics.
Still, even with these capabilities, the cause of an adherence lapse is not always apparent at first glance. But the answers are there, all that is needed is a few moments to run the appropriate drill down reports. This allows the contact center manager to view different aspects of a workday in isolation, which makes it easier to identify where the schedule is not lining up with the reality of the situation.
Perhaps a certain time of day always seems to have lower adherence. By drilling down it’s possible to measure where goals are not being met, and communicate this to the team. Whether the issue is not enough schedule flexibility, or agents simply taking too many unscheduled breaks, there is now a chance to implement a satisfactory solution.
One may also discover that the adherence breakdown is centered on specific departments, sites or skill teams. Once the issue has been identified, it is incumbent on the manager to educate the agents involved on the importance of adherence on service levels, and how even a minor deviation can have a significant negative impact.
When it comes to forecasting, past activity is always the best predictor of future activity, especially when broken down via workforce management data analysis into ever-smaller increments of time. This makes it easier to identify anomalies and prepare accordingly.
The challenge, of course, is factoring in all of the variables to which forecasts are subject – it’s no wonder that creating consistently accurate contact center forecasts is both an art and a science.
But with the right workforce management system, one capable of predicting future call volume and agent staffing needs, you have everything you need to make the tasks of forecasting and scheduling more accurate and more efficient.
Here are some additional tips to get the most from your WFM solution.
- Detailed Data Analysis: Use work history data to anticipate future call volume, agent requirements, average call handling time and other performance indicators.
- Flexibility: Gather necessary data through analysis of call types and routing policies, and review updates throughout the day so you’ll always know when changes are necessary.
- Testing: Generate and analyze alternative scenarios based on changes in staffing or call volume, so you can better anticipate issues before they arise.
When forecasting is done right, the result is the right number of agents at their desks, handling call volume without long wait times. For more tips on call forecasting, please also visit our blog post from last week.
Accurate forecasts produce accurate schedules. But what is the secret formula to generate forecasts that are consistently on the money?
It starts with an automated workforce management solution that delivers the necessary historical data. If that sometimes isn’t enough, here are 5 additional tips for utilizing WFM in forecasting.
1. Select More Weeks of Historical Data.
Use the WFM system to generate additional historical data, which should more accurately average out handle times and return a more even distribution of calls when things get too “spiky.”
2. Make Granular Edits to Call Volume
After viewing a forecast, edit call volumes by queue and by interval. This can be especially useful if you’re changing hours of operation or just need to edit smaller ranges of data.
3. Override Agent Numbers
After viewing a forecast, use WFM to override the required number of agents, or adjusted agents, for times when you wish to reduce the degree of variance from one interval to the next.
4. Adjust Total Day Changes
Use the Total Day changes to deliver more sweeping changes to call totals, AHT, service levels, abandon targets, and staffing numbers.
5. Edit Current Day Forecasts
Use intra-day functionality to edit the current day’s forecast, so it matches the current trends of collected data for today.
These steps would be difficult, if not impossible, with spreadsheets or a home-grown system. If you are ready to step up to a Workforce Management solution, make it sure it has the functionality to accomplish all of these objectives and more. To learn more, we invite you watch any of the foreasting and scheduling videos on our website.
Skill-based scheduling is a practice where incoming calls at a contact
center are routed to specific agents based on the type of service
requested. If customers can be connected with an agent that excels at
the service they require, the odds are much greater of achieving a
This practice can take many forms, from simply routing calls from
Spanish-speaking customers to bilingual agents, to routing angry callers
to those agents with the personality and people skills to calmly
resolve the situation.
Generally, the implementation of a skill-based scheduling process
requires four steps, starting with a detailed knowledge of why customers
call. By classifying these contacts, a manager can define the necessary
agent skill sets, and gather some of the information needed to set up
an effective schedule.
The next step is to identify staff skills and resources. This can be
achieved in a number of ways, but call recording should play a key role.
Most well trained agents have more than one skill, which can make the
process somewhat easier, while reducing the number of agents needed to
handle call volume. Productivity can increase 5-15% from agents with at
least two skills.
Step three requires a review, and perhaps an upgrade, of the contact
center’s technology. Choose a system capable of skill-based routing and
scheduling in a multi-channel environment.
Finally, conduct a gap analysis to compare your current business environment with how that environment will changed under a skill-based scheduling system.
This will uncover any risks incurred during the transition period, and
help to make certain that the system is working as designed to benefit
customers and improve contact center efficiency.
Workforce management (WFM) software provides the best means of optimizing personnel resources in a contact center.
When a contact center decides it is ready to make the move to a workforce management software system,
it now faces another decision when reviewing the range of available
products. One way to improve the odds of choosing the right system the
first time is to make a list of the qualities and capabilities that are
most important. Such a list might include the following:
using historical data, and through simulations to calculate future call
volume, WFM generates forecasts for appropriate staffing, call handle
time and other factors to maintain optimum call center performance for
any time interval of the day.
forecasts create accurate schedules. A WFM scheduling engine should
incorporate all call types and other activities. A staffing schedule is
only valuable when it is optimized for all necessary factors, including
agent skill sets, staff availability, holidays, breaks and service
Scheduling an agent for a
shift is not enough – WFM should provide a graphical display of
variances in agents’ schedules during the workday for breaks, lunch and
other exceptions. Real-time updates allow managers to compensate during
surpluses or shortages for each time period.
a WFM solution with an integrated exception calendar that simplifies
the scheduling of agent exceptions for training, time off and other
Use WFM to compare
planned agent activity to actual activities throughout the day, while
also reviewing forecasts for key performance indicators such as call
volume and handle time.
should adjust to your call center regardless of how it is organized.
Choose a system that lets you build an unlimited number of center splits
or agent groups with separate service objectives and guidelines. Use
WFM to manage multiple sites and time zones, and set service level goals
down to 15-minute intervals.
WFM provides actionable insights on all agent activities through dashboards, key performance indictors and real-time alerts.
Implementation: The Forgotten Attribute
of these qualities pertain to the day-to-day usage of WFM, but contact
center managers should not overlook the importance of implementation.
Technology cannot benefit a business if it is not easy to use, and if it
cannot be incorporated into the center with minimal training. It should
also be possible to implement a workforce management solution to
deliver break-even status in a matter of months, as opposed to years.
But that will take some foresight.
While every company and
corporate culture is a little different, these guidelines should prove
valuable to any contact center in the process of a WFM transition.
Upfront planning – that incorporates both technical requirements and business processes, is critical.
Include all Departments
of the contact center’s functional groups, including agents, managers,
supervisors and trainers, should be involved in the process. The
implementation of WFM software is going to represent a change for the
center. It’s important for all those involved to know why the change is
needed, how it will improve their business processes and how they all
benefit from shared data and metrics.
Appoint a Liaison
all voices should be heard, there should also be one project
coordinator – usually a manager – with the experience and knowledge to
work with personnel, answer questions and address concerns.
will take time and patience to adjust to today’s feature-rich workforce
management systems. But the last thing a contact center wants is to
make the transition and then discover that employees are only using 20%
or 50% of the system’s capabilities. Comprehensive training will be
necessary to ease the culture shock and ultimately arrive at a place of
optimal functionality. The faster agents in particular realize the
benefits of a WFM solution, the faster they will take to its advantages.
What to Expect from a WFM Provider
Up to this point
we’ve described the implementation process from the end-user
perspective. But few of these steps can be taken without the support and
expertise of the software provider.
For the contact center, WFM
implementation is (ideally) a one-time process. For the provider, this
is what they do every day, and they should have a system in place that
will make the transition as easy as possible.
At Monet, our
implementation plan and timeline begins with a kick-off call of about
60-90 minutes. This consists primarily of a discussion of roles and
required data necessary to get started.
Once that is completed,
the initial set up can begin. This process typically involves the
creation of workgroups, shift profiles, skills and skill teams and the
selection of service level targets. While the provider initiates these
processes, they are then completed and customized by the client team.
collection set-up is next, which incorporates configuration and
historical data import and verification. Depending on the contact center
and the specific situation.
Once this is completed, training of
personnel can begin. The procedure will start with the basics –
forecasting, scheduling, rosters – and then examine the more advanced
features of WFM, from assigning exceptions and analyzing reports to
After implementation and training are
complete, the provider should continue to be accessible for questions or
concerns, and provide follow-up checks to make certain everything is
running smoothly. And since Monet's complete suite of workforce optimization is cloud based,
there are not a lot of resources and money required for purchase and
installation of hardware and software. Therefore, the implementation
team can focus on the business needs and business processes, and less on
technology. And the whole set up or implementation can be done in 30 to
When a contact center makes the
significant decision to install workforce management software, it is
critical that the system be implemented and configured properly, since
management will be making key decisions on operations and staffing based
on the information it provides.
A successful implementation
requires not only software integration and configuration skills, but
also a solid understanding of the customer environment and of the
multiple ways of addressing and solving the specific requirements of the
contact center. It should also be completed as efficiently as possible
to shorten ROI.
With a little research, contact centers stand a
much better chance of not only selecting the right WFM solution the
first time out, but the right software provider as well.
When choosing the best workforce management (WFM) solution for your call
center, there are a number of considerations to review based on that
center’s specific needs.
From capabilities and implementation to
cost, usability, scalability and ROI, it’s a decision that will require
advance research and feedback from the key members of your management
team. Of course, one of the main objectives should be to increase
efficiency and service levels, while also reducing costs.
you’re near the beginning of this process, or have been using it for a
while, here is a checklist of considerations that may be helpful in
getting more out of your WFM software to maximize the performance of
your contact center.
In the area of process design and improvement, run reports and do analysis in the following areas:
- Call Handling Analysis
- Benchmark Analysis
- Activity Summaries and Details
- Work Standards
- Quality Form Review and Feedback
- Evaluation of Coaching Techniques and Calibration
- Staff Flexibility
In the area of management discipline, take a look at these areas:
- Intraday Reviews, Adherence and Exception Management
- Forecasting and Scheduling Best Practices
- QM and PM Coaching, Training and Role Playing
Finally, if you need help, be sure to assess the software provider as
well, to make sure they will deliver the necessary training and
follow-up so your agents, supervisors and managers can get up to speed
quickly with the new technology and getting the most value from your
investment. If you have any questions, please contact us
and we are happy to share some of our best practices with you.
Are there any contact center managers who are not overworked? It’s a
challenging job with many responsibilities that requires the ability to
plan ahead and then make adjustments accordingly when those plans go
However, with Workforce Management (WFM) software in
place, it becomes easier to manage the most important daily tasks, and
keep customer service levels consistent even when the unexpected
Here are 5 tips for contact center managers that, with a little help from WFM, can make their work days less stressful.
1. Start with an Accurate Forecast
you get the forecast right, everything else tends to fall naturally
into place. With WFM forecasting every activity and running simulations
to check accuracy, managers can work from a forecast that will result in
fewer surprises during the day.
2. Schedule All Activities
Incorporating non-call activities into schedule calculation delivers more predictable and management results.
3. Set Notifications
alerts and triggers so you are notified right away if something is not
going as planned. That gives you more time to make corrections, while
shortening the time that the variance can adversely impact customer
4. Daily Recap
Review results at the end of
each day, to determine what worked as planned and where improvement
might be possible. Don’t dwell on mistakes – just learn from them.
5. Take a Break
modern WFM solutions allow you to monitor key metrics from a handheld
device, so you can step outside without missing important metrics. You
may be surprised at the difference just a few minutes outside the office
Workforce Management (WFM) software has played a vital role in helping contact centers improve customer service. Those that utilize WFM have discovered how it has boosted the accuracy of forecasts and schedules, and calculates necessary resources based on historical data and other variables that would be very difficult to assess any other way.
However, contact centers are also impacted by such back-office functions as sales, marketing and shipping, which may fall outside the purview of the company’s WFM solution. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
More companies are now discovering the benefits of WFM for the back office, which delivers more precise data and analytics on typical back office operations. Now, it’s possible to achieve the same level of transparency and statistical accuracy on any manual tasks, processes and work times. Please also see our previous post on this topic.
When the back office is in sync with the front office, the result is a streamlined operation that is better for management, contact center agents and customers.
Want some tips for back office WFM strategies? Check out this article
by Call Centre Helper, which offers more information on how to set up a consolidated view of all functions, and how to involve key personnel throughout the organization in this effort.
Precise planning can make the difference between contact centers
operating at optimal efficiency, and those with personnel and resources
that are not properly utilized.
A proactive approach is
necessary to formulate such detailed plans, especially when working with
a workforce management solution such as Monet’s WFM Live. Here are 3
tips that should help make staffing more efficient and reliable:
When it’s Important to be Reactive?
- Plan outbound calls for case management as non-call work
- Run roster performance simulations several days in advance
- Hire flexible part-time and full-time agents
So does that mean being a
reactive analyst is somehow less important? There are times when it is
vital to ensure schedule coverage and streamlined workflow. Once again,
having the right technology in place can make all the difference.
How can you spot an effective, reactive analyst? He or she is the one who:
- Creates employee templates for standard agent types (such as
customer service 9-5, cross-skilled overnight, escalations & level 2
afternoon shift) to build a roster that achieves different coverage
- Schedules meetings in advance with a meeting planner function during times when coverage is acceptable
- Facilitates schedule change requests and agent shift swaps
- Creates roster shifts when there are coverage gaps for agents to bid
on. Agents submit requests which supervisors can approve, to fill and
re-balance the “required vs. assigned” figures
All of these services are more easily and accurately provided with the
right tools. Find out more about how Monet can help managers and
analysts achieve their service goals.
To get more tips and best practices, please contact us
or check out our workforce management resource library