Workforce Management

Tips for more effective call center forecasting, scheduling and agent adherence

Workforce Management Hints, Tips & Best Practices

Contact Center Leadership: Easy as 1-2-3

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Leadership is an often-overlooked trait in any business, including the contact center. Every company has a boss, but not every boss is a natural leader. 

One way to establish leadership, according to this article, is to adopt a set of best practices that help managers lead agents and achieve goals. But with so many other responsibilities (coaching, preparing management reports, dealing with unexpected occurrences), doing so can be a challenge. 

Here is one three-step process for cutting through the clutter and focusing on what is most important. More...


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Defining – and Improving First Call resolution

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In the old days it was simpler – first call resolution (FCR) at the call center was a simple measurement of how often a customer’s issue was settled within one call. No standard definition was required. 

Today it’s a little more complicated. If a caller is transferred from an agent to a technical support expert, that’s still one call but two separate conversations – does that still qualify? What if a call is made after an attempt to resolve the issue via web chat proves unsuccessful? That’s just one call as well, but it was also the customer’s second effort to achieve a goal. 

While definitions might change, one thing is certain – FCR is the most highly correlated metric to customer satisfaction. A CFI Group study surveyed customers whose issues were not resolved in one call; it found that 43% said they would take their business elsewhere. 

Keep These Customers with WFM

An automated workforce management (WFM) solution is one way to improve first call resolution and encourage customer loyalty. 

With WFM it’s easier to implement a skills-based schedule so calls are answered by agents with the talent and experience to resolve them. It also allows managers and agents to use recorded calls to learn from mistakes and train new agents in proven company procedures. 

These recordings can subsequently play a role in your quality monitoring efforts. Score each one based on specific criteria and overall success, and it’s easier to discover the best way to address different types of customer questions and concerns. 

Finally, if you have a WFO system with speech analytics, you can use this resource to identify important recurring words and phrases, and how an agent should react when receiving a call that fits their criteria. 

However you choose to define FCR, one fact is certain: the better prepared your agents can be for any eventuality, the more likely they will be able to end a call knowing they have just said goodbye to a satisfied customer.


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Does your Workforce Scheduling Software Deliver these Reports?

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Optimal resource scheduling requires accurate forecasting of work volume and staff requirements. Workforce management (WFM) software makes it easier to specify shift patterns and daily duties, and factor in the skill sets and preferences of individual agents. 

This information should be delivered via reports. But if your system is not delivering the information you need, or is providing that data in a way that is difficult to decipher, it might be time to consider a new WFM solution. This is particularly important since the responsibility of WFM does not end with the production of an accurate schedule. 

If you are ready to consider a new WFM system, be sure to ask about the reporting options that can make a positive difference at your contact center. These include: 


The Hours Worked Report: this report makes it easier to observe the breakdown and summary of assigned activities, balance multiple types of work, and handle other backlog issues

The Agent Status Report: Compare this report with the Hours Worked Report for new insights into workload distribution and productivity 

The Service Performance Report: Compare “How we did” results to “What we expected” numbers. 

The Coverage Report: Reveals gaps in staffing. 


These are just some of the capabilities of Monet WFM. Find out why we call it “Call Center Workforce Management Made Easy.” 


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Cloud WFM for the Enterprise – A New Monet Software Whitepaper

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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. 



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Happy Holidays to your Contact Center Team

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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.
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Still Scheduling with Spreadsheets? Put WFM on Your Holiday List

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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.
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Best of Workforce Management 2014

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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.

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Contact Center Staffing for the Holiday Season: Are you Ready?

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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.
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How to Prepare your Contact Center Workforce for the Unexpected

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“Planning for the unexpected” may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s an important aspect of contact center management.

Of 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?
Whether 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 day brings.

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.

Surprisingly, 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?

Running 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
Still, 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.

When 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
Tracking 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.

When 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
The 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 exceptions.

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.

For some 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.

For other 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.



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Drilling Down for Better Schedule Adherence Tracking

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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.
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How Accurate are your Call Volume Forecasts?

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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.


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Five Tips to Help Achieve More Accurate Call Center Forecasts

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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.


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The Advantages of Skill-Based Scheduling

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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 satisfactory result.


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.


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Successful implementation of Workforce Management Software

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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:

Forecasting
By 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.

Scheduling
Accurate 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 levels.

Intra-day Management
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.

Exception Planning
Choose a WFM solution with an integrated exception calendar that simplifies the scheduling of agent exceptions for training, time off and other variables.

Real-Time Adherence
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.

Configuration/Administration
WFM 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.

Performance Analysis/Metrics
WFM provides actionable insights on all agent activities through dashboards, key performance indictors and real-time alerts.

Implementation: The Forgotten Attribute

All 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.

Plan Ahead
Upfront planning – that incorporates both technical requirements and business processes, is critical.

Include all Departments

All 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
While 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.

Training

It 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.

Data 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 intra-day management.

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 60 days.

Conclusion
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.


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Getting More from your Workforce Management System

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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.

If 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.

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5 Tips for the Overworked Contact Center Manager

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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 awry.

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 happens.

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
When 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
Set 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 service.

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

Many 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 can make.


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Strategies and Tips for Back Office Workforce Management

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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.
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Tips for Proactive and Reactive Contact Center Management

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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:

  • 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
When it’s Important to be Reactive?
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 patterns quickly
  • 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.
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Workforce Management for the Back Office

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Give almost any company an unlimited budget, and it will probably succeed. Unfortunately, few companies can rely on such generous resources. The challenge for today’s businesses, including contact centers, is to get the most out of what’s available.

Contact center managers have become experts at doing more with less, and prioritizing goals. This means keeping the primary focus on customer service in the front office. Too often, that leaves the back office, which also performs several vital functions, at a disadvantage.

Is it possible to bring the same tools that benefit the front office to the back office, and stay within budget?

Workforce Management is the Key
Fortunately, the same workforce management (WFM) solution that has made your front office more efficient can have the same impact on back office tasks. Workforce Management helps contact centers better align and manage their resources so that service levels continue to be met, while costs are controlled.

Back-office tasks are often manual and complex, making it difficult to automate, manage and forecast workload. With WFM, contact centers can improve service levels. And with WFM in the cloud, the company further reduces both costs and headaches, as it avoids the upfront expenses and IT requirements of traditional workforce management software.

With workforce management for the back office, it’s possible to:

  • Improve forecast accuracy of manual back-office tasks and activities
  • Deliver more efficient resource planning and scheduling to consistently meet service levels and control costs
  • Increase employee productivity by monitoring adherence, backlog and other metrics in real-time, allowing for more immediate actions
  • Track and analyze key metrics to optimize service quality and back-office performance
Let’s take a closer look at what is possible with the right tools in place and extending contact center workforce management to the back office:

Forecasting
Use back office WFM to run simulations that will calculate a precise forecast for future call volume, agent requirements and average handle time for any time interval of the day, based on historical data from ACD.

Scheduling
WFM can incorporate all call types and other activities to generate staffing schedules that optimize a wide range of factors, including agent availability, work rules, skills, holidays, breaks, service levels and center budgets. 


Intra-day Management

Real-time updates are as critical here as they are in front office management. WFM can help to require and assign agents instantly, and display surpluses and shortages for each time period of the day.

Exception Planning
While exception planning is often a challenge, there are workforce management solutions with integrated exception calendars to simplify this task. Now managers will always know when agents are off, or in training meetings.

Performance Analysis

Easily report and analyze all agent activities including their schedule adherence and key performance indicators. Managers can review service level results, costs and revenue.

All of these capabilities can make a critical difference in back office operations. But while adherence was previously referenced, it deserves closer attention, as staffing remains the single biggest cost facing any contact center. Schedule adherence in real time allows managers to compare planned agent activity to actual activities throughout the day, to determine whether staffing decisions were appropriate for any given shift.

When every minute counts, WFM can monitor and record the real-time status of agents in the call center, and deliver alerts when agents are out of adherence, so schedules can be adjusted accordingly.

Choosing a Back Office WFM Solution
Different contact centers may have different priorities, but (in addition to those previously described) here are some of the attributes that should be part of your next workforce management solution.

Multi-Channel Efficiencies
The same WFM solution that forecasts, schedules and assigns resources for your front office should provide the same functionality to the back office.

Clear and Organized Dashboards
It should be possible to track and monitor key performance metrics for both front office and back office from one dashboard. Doing so delivers greater insights in resource needs and allocation, resulting in better customer service.

Intra-Day Visibility

Visibility into backlogs, workforce availability, employee activities and efficiencies throughout the day makes it easier for a contact center manager to take a proactive approach in managing back-office activities.

Integration

The system should easily integrate with the contact center’s ACD or PBX systems, through pre-built adaptors. Adherence and call history should be enabled when these systems are able to talk to each other in real time.

WFM in the Cloud
Compared with traditional workforce management software, a cloud-based WFM solution allows companies to:

Reduce upfront costs: Eliminate the significant investment just to get started, which would typically require the purchase of hardware, databases, and software licenses, as well as additional costs for installation and IT staff to support the system. Cloud-based WFM saves both time and money because there are no infrastructure costs.

Get started faster: Rather than having to ramp-up to a six- to twelve-month (or more) implementation, WFM solutions enable companies to start managing their workforce in the cloud within a matter of weeks.

Connect anywhere:  With the cloud, WFM can be accessed anywhere—whether on the other side of town or the other side of the world, with a computer and a standard web browser.

Minimize ongoing costs: Cloud-based WFM software doesn’t just save money during the implementation phase. Contact centers save time and money in the long term as well. The WFM firm supports all maintenance of the system, including free software upgrades and troubleshooting. Companies also benefit from the ability to quickly customize or add modules via a single, web-based interface.

Pay-as-you-go: Contact centers pay only for the capacity and infrastructure that are actually used, typically based on number of users. This usage-based, pay-as-you-go subscription pricing approach saves money while also delivering the flexibility to quickly scale to manage the demands of changing contact center sizes.

Conclusion
Back office workforce management offers the benefit of extending front office operational efficiency into back office processing environments. It automates manual processes, improves forecast accuracy, enables managers to view and manage resource capacity and adherence to scheduled tasks, and empowers employees to self-manage scheduling and time-off requests.

Please talk to us if you would like to learn more about back office workforce management.

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Workforce Management for the Helpdesk

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Accurate forecasting, scheduling and staffing for a Helpdesk can be a more difficult challenge than doing so for standard contact center traffic.

Many calls to contact center agents cover basic ordering, returning, questions etc. that can be handled in a few minutes. But the typical helpdesk call may incorporate several complex activities that must be handled by different people with different skill sets.

An effective workforce management solution is the key to making a helpdesk run smoothly and efficiently, so cases get closed as quickly as possible with a positive outcome.

Forecasting, scheduling and assigning activities more effectively can optimize case resolution. WFM makes this possible. Managers can match available resources to the specific requirements of each case. By integrating workforce optimization in the WFM solution, case and activity assignment is further optimized, and managers will always be confident that their resources are being allocated in the best way possible.

Best of all, the data is available in real-time, so managers will always have insight into case handling and activity assignments as they occur. Make adjustments as needed, whether that involves adding or reassigning agents, to improve turnaround time.

A helpdesk is there to take on the tougher challenges. With a Workforce Management system in place that support helpdesks, even the most difficult cases can be resolved in a way that customers will appreciate.

You can learn more about Workforce Management for Helpdesks on our website, or just contact us and we are happy to show you how it works.


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Planning for the Unexpected In the Contact Center

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“Planning for the unexpected” may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s an important aspect of contact center management.

It’s possible to do because activities that could be classified as unexpected would not be surprising to a manager – breaks, vacations, training sessions, days off. The only aspect of these activities that is unexpected is when they might happen. Planning for them is made much easier by utilizing the intra-day management and exception management capabilities of a workforce management solution.

Intra-day Management
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. When the unexpected occurs, managers will instantly know the best way to react without sacrificing customer service. 

Exception Planning
The 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 exceptions.

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.


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Intra-day Workforce Management? It’s as Easy as “Drag and Drop”

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Wouldn't it be nice to check your contact center status and quickly review agent activities on a single color-coded dashboard? If you see green, you know everything is as it should be. If you see red, you know that action has to be taken, and you are then able to make real-time schedule changes that have an immediate impact on contact center performance. 

Thankfully, this isn’t one of those scenarios like “Wouldn’t it be nice if chocolate was good for you?” In this case such quick and easy status checks and schedule adjustments are certainly possible, with a technology solution like Monet WFM Live. 

When changes need to be made, the graphical schedule generated by Monet WFM Live allows managers to drag and drop breaks, lunches and other changes. The real-time updates provide an up-to-the-minute picture for agent surpluses and shortages throughout the day. 

In addition, reports, organized as easy to read charts, provide managers with the data necessary to create individualized shifts for a particular agent (based on exceptional skills, special needs or other variables), as well as extensive employee-level configuration options for non-call work assignment. 


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How to be a Proactive Workforce Management Analyst

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Proactive contact center managers focus on staying ahead of the curve. That means careful, strategic planning, calculating all of the variables and delivering accurate forecasts and schedules that are flexible enough to accommodate last minute changes.

Sounds like a challenge, but with Monet WFM, the process becomes easier, more precise and more flexible. Managers now have the capability to track intra-day trends for immediate adjustments, and for optimal schedule creation, which helps contact centers consistently meet service levels and control costs.

Here are a few additional tips that will help managers striving to become proactive.

  • Enter time off exceptions, meetings and training before the roster is generated to close gaps in roster assignments or shift placement; but if you must enter them afterward, the WFM system can automatically optimize them in a way that reduces manager overhead
  • Impromptu training sessions are easier to schedule with little to no impact by using the meeting planner function
  • Wider lunch and break windows are made possible by flexible shift profiles
  • Enter the maximum allowable time in the Exception Calendar/Time off Manager – this provides more visibility for agents and prevents schedulers from over-committing to time-off, which could impact contact center operation
These and other tips make staffing more efficient and more reliable through better results for agents, supervisors and administrators.

Can Monet help you get more from your WFM solution? Contact our Customer Success team and let’s talk.

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Workforce Management Software: Cloud or Hosted?

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As many companies have discovered in recent years, the Cloud model of delivery has numerous advantages over the traditional hosted or ASP models of the past. These offerings are often confused but, not addressing the fundamental differences, have a huge impact on your call center business.

The traditional hosted model is simply hosting a client server or web application on a server at the vendor’s or 3rd party data center. The vendor then provides an application that was not originally designed to be hosted, over the web, with a few changes, and delivers it to each customer via a single, dedicated server. It lacks a multi-tenant architecture and requires separate servers and installations for each customer. Much more costly and less scalable, it also requires support for multiple releases, which is very resource intensive. Typically, vendors who sell on-premise software may offer a hosted model for on-demand options and sometimes misleadingly call it SaaS or Cloud.

The Cloud-based model uses a totally new multi-tenant architecture that was designed to efficiently and securely deliver web-based applications at the lowest possible cost. It focuses on fast set up, low operating costs through shared services, highest security for web-based deployment and high performance and scalability through instant and seamless scaling of computer resources (also called “elastic cloud computing”). This ensures available computing capacity when you need it and only when you need it, at the lowest possible cost.

Both models are offered through subscriptions and often seem to be similar, but they are not. In previous blog post about the true cloud we list key questions you should ask vendors before making a decision.


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How effective is your call center forecasting and scheduling process?

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Forecasting and scheduling are vital components in the success of every call center management. Achieving consistent results requires a little art and a little science, but is impossible without concrete data.

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 staffing issues.

An automated workforce management (WFM) and optimization (WFO) solution can help you to implement Best Practices. You can easily improve forecast accuracy and in turn, optimize schedule assignment, making sure all the necessary resources are always in place. An integrated WFO solution allows a manager to check KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) against historical data. In a typical call center a manager will ask such questions as:

“When I see that my agents’ Average Talk Time has exceeded the target, does this result in more abandons and a poor service level?”

“If a longer talk time is causing more abandons, are there agents that are still able meet all of their quality monitoring goals while keeping a low talk time?”

By analyzing data in an integrated WFO tool, a manager can then reference what processes allowed some agents to have a lower talk time while meeting their quality targets, and then train the rest of the workforce using these processes.  At that point, a lower Average Talk Time goal may be set for the entire center, resulting in happier customers getting their calls answered more quickly and less overall abandons.

“Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling: Best Practices” details how WFO improves the likelihood of creating reliable forecasts and accurate schedules. There are also sections on how WFM impacts agent productivity, and which criteria are most important when selecting a WFM solution.

Click here to download Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling: Best Practices.


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