Workforce Management Software Hints, Tips & Best Practices
“Is it in the budget?”
Some variation of that question is always asked when any changes to contact center procedures are proposed. And it’s a valid question. Economic realities have forced businesses of all kinds to do more with less, and contact centers are no exception.
But there comes a point when inaction can be more costly than a beneficial investment. And when it comes to the use of spreadsheets vs. workforce management software, that time has come.
Yet many small and midsized contact centers still rely on spreadsheets for daily forecasting and scheduling. Even larger contact centers, those with 100 agents or more, are still making due with an inefficient system that lowers customer service, and can actually increase costs.
When an increase as low as 1% in productivity can significantly impact the contact center budget, it is imperative to identify areas where efficiency can be improved. Ditching spreadsheets should be at the top of that list.
Spending Money to Save Money
The limitations of a spreadsheet result in fixed schedules that can produce higher shrinkage and overstaffing, or understaffing and a low service level. But with WFM it is easier to manage start times, end times and breaks with an ease of flexibility that dramatically improves service levels.
Managers can also consult more detailed and accurate call histories with WFM, resulting in better forecasts. Scheduling is also faster – some managers can save as much as 25% of the time once devoted to filling in spreadsheets – time that can now be used for additional agent training or to attend to other matters.
Is increased efficiency worth the investment? One of our clients, the Texas credit union GECU, found out first-hand. Their call center, staffed by 85 agents, selected Monet’s cloud-based WFM Live as a way to improve customer service. Affordability was a key component in the decision, as WFM Live provides such benefits as reduced IT investment, low implementation service fees and a more cost-effective per-user license model.
Just a few months after implementation, GECU was able to save money by reducing its number of agents by 14, while delivering better customer service. With the more accurate scheduling made possible by WFM Live, there was a 30% reduction in unscheduled breaks. Costly overtime scheduling was reduced, while call volume spikes were managed more easily.
“In terms of ROI, Monet has already paid for itself after a few months. The cost of the 3 year subscription I've already saved in salaries, overtime and administrative costs.”
--Joshua Gomez, GECU Assistant Vice-President, Call Center
Today, the quality and service levels at GECU are solidly placed in the top 97% tier.
The Better Solution for Managers, Agents and Your Customers
A spreadsheet can be used to calculate workforce percentages, but precise forecasting requires more in-depth analysis. And when forecasts are wrong, stressed agents cannot deliver the service level you and your customers expect – or, they’re sitting in their cubicles with nothing to do, and earning money for it.
One of the reasons we hear most often from companies reluctant to change is, “But this is the way we’ve been doing it for 10 years.” Change can indeed be intimidating. What we tell them is they are not really changing the things they do – they are just going to be able to do them more easily and efficiently.
Forecasts rely heavily on historical data – daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal – to determine call volume. Contact center managers may start with monthly and weekly stats, and then delve deeper into daily and hourly numbers, perhaps even examining work periods as short as 15 minutes.
This can be done with spreadsheets, theoretically, but with WFM it is significantly easier to analyze call types, call volume and call patterns, and then to note past variations, determine their cause, and forecast accordingly. With WFM it is also much easier to forecast special days or other events that impact call volume. “Special day” provisions can be created for any factor, from marketing campaigns or events to weather patterns.
Scheduling is yet another area where WFM offers enhanced capabilities. Spreadsheets can handle fixed schedules, but in 2015 how often do contact center schedules stay fixed?
With a WFM system managers have the flexibility to automatically manage start times, end times and break times. Now, agents can work the hours that work best for them, and happier agents are far more likely to excel at customer service. They are also more likely to stay with the company longer, a consideration that should not be minimized considering the average employee turnover rate in this industry.
Intra-day adherence tracking is another significant component of a best practices approach that is practically impossible with just a spreadsheet. WFM also provides insight, through dashboards and real-time alerts, into which agents are meeting their schedule obligations, and which may require additional guidance or training.
The annual budgeting process presents a familiar challenge – cut costs where necessary while maintaining (or improving) the customer experience. Since labor forces rank among the highest cost items, it is essential that they be managed properly. With WFM, a manager can always be confident that he or she is scheduling the right agents with the right skills at the right time.
Those still using spreadsheets for these functions are missing out on the convenience, efficiency, flexibility and functionality of workforce management.
The calculations necessary for optimal forecasts and schedules are very difficult to do with Excel. WFM has sophisticated simulation processes that tell a call center how many people it will need and when it will need them.
“But we can’t afford it.” That might have true ten years ago, but today with cloud-based WFM, even smaller and medium-sized contact centers can reap the benefits of automated workforce management at an affordable cost. A lower investment also means a more rapid return on that investment.
When call volume changes, spreadsheets are insufficient. With WFM, managers can get back to managing people, instead of spending hours on Excel planning forecasts and schedules. To learn more about this, download our whitepaper "The Real Cost of Spreadsheet-based Scheduling".
Is your contact center ready for spring break?
Certainly many of your agents are looking forward to this annual celebration. If that means taking additional time off, managers will need to have a plan in place for potential attrition.
This time of year can also mean increased business in certain industries – travel, hospitality, entertainment – creating the perfect storm at some contact centers of more calls coming in and less agents there to handle them.
How can a business negotiate this impending crisis? A workforce management (WFM) solution is the answer.
When a manager needs to know what type of calls, and call volume, to expect on a certain week or day or even during a particular hour, WFM collects and analyzes historical call data to help predict future workload. That makes it easier to forecast needs and schedule staff accordingly.
This is also a time when the flexible schedule creation made possible by WFM delivers additional benefits. Now you can take foreseen and unforeseen variables and agent exceptions into account, as well as make intra-day changes to both forecasting and scheduling.
With WFM, costly instances of overstaffing and understaffing are reduced, schedule adherence is improved, and more flexible scheduling is possible. If you try to achieve the same results with spreadsheets, you’ll be the one that needs a spring break vacation.
If you see a building going up or being renovated in an office park or commercial area near you, don’t be surprised if it turns out to be a call center.
Enter “contact center jobs” into a news search engine and you’ll see story after story about companies adding positions – 682 in Hamilton, Ohio; 600 in Clearfield, Utah; 750 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Part of this can be attributed to a steadily growing economy, but the trend toward insourcing these jobs from overseas, rather than shipping them out to India and The Philippines, is also significant factor. Today, there are approximately five million Americans employed in contact centers, and many of them are working in positions that were outsourced more than a decade ago.
Why the switch? Labor costs are going up in other parts of the world, so companies aren’t saving as much money; security has also become a concern, considering the uncertainties in data privacy laws outside the United States.
There has also been a renewed appreciation for the central role the contact center plays in customer service, whether that entails order processing, payment processing, market research or addressing customer concerns. Given how contact center agents are on the front line of customer communication, CEOs now acknowledge, maybe this isn’t the best place to cut corners.
But the real issue may be the escalating numbers of complaints from callers, who are tired of speaking to agents that are poorly trained and difficult to understand. Not only are outsourced personnel not trained as thoroughly, they are thousands of miles away from management personnel, who are thus unable to monitor and interact directly with these employees.
Not Just Jobs: Good Jobs
Since businesses originally outsourced to save money, it’s encouraging to see that as these contact center agent jobs come back to the U.S., they are doing so in most cases with a salary that will attract intelligent, capable employees.
S&P Data LLC, which provides contact center solutions to Fortune 500 companies in the United States and Canada, has announced plans to bring 425 new contact service representative jobs to Rio Rancho, NM, with annual salaries averaging $38,000 plus benefits.
This is reflective of one way that call centers have changed since the outsourcing boom – with basic company information accessible through social media and order processing available online, the responsibilities of the contact center agent has changed.
“The types of calls that are coming through to our agents today, regardless of the client, are more complex, and it’s requiring that higher caliber associate,” said
Richardo Layun, director of operations at the Melbourne eBay Enterprise center.
One Success Story: Colorado
Colorado has been in the national news often of late, mostly for its legalization of marijuana and that decision’s impact on the state’s culture and economy. But in La Junta, a city in the southeast part of the state, a less controversial means of economic recovery is underway.
The city converted an old Air Force training facility into a 1,500-acre industrial part that is already home to two call centers: the first employs 180 agents in a 10,200 square foot building. Nearby a 300-seat center is housed inside a 33,750 square foot brick building with ample space for additional departments and meeting facilities. Amenities for both include a restaurant, day care facility and golf course all located within the park itself.
The influx of new business is the result of a community effort that also includes The Colorado Workforce Center, which provides recruitment and training programs, and the local junior college, which offers preparatory classes in computers, software and technology training. The La Junta City Council has shown its support for new business by approving a relocation incentive that allows contact centers to operate for five years rent-free.
Things Have Changed Since We’ve Been Away
That may be the reaction of agents and managers when they realize how the contact center industry has evolved in the years when companies were shifting positions overseas. The technology and use of spreadsheets that was sufficient to stay competitive in the industry has been surpassed by more sophisticated solutions. For these new contact centers, it is important to equip agents with the tools they need to prosper.
That starts with an automated workforce management (WFM) solution, which delivers a means to improve the productivity and cost-efficiency of the contact center by making so many vital tasks easier. These includes running simulations for more accurate forecasting, and scheduling that incorporates all call types and other activities. Exception planning, performance analysis, intra-day management, and other practices are streamlined through the real-time data generated by today’s WFM systems.
An investment in such technology might have been counterproductive, as companies would be reluctant to add a $100,000 equipment investment on top of other development and personnel costs. Even if you are relocating to rent-free La Junta, that’s a lot of money. But with a cloud WFM system, a unified solution can be implemented quickly without a large upfront cost. Instead, users pay only a low monthly subscription fee.
In addition to cost savings, a cloud platform also provides maximum flexibility and scalability, and is more easily deployed even across multiple locations. Since all data is stored “in the cloud,” it can be retrieved at any call center workstation. If you are interested in this topic, please also read the article "5 Reasons Why Contact Center Jobs are Coming Home" that was published by Contact Professional.
While customers now have other options when it comes to interacting with a company, such as email and online chats, surveys show that the majority still picks up the phone when they want to ask a question or place an order.
To take better care of these customers, companies that outsource their contact centers are now shifting their focus to centers within the U.S., which can provide a higher quality of care. But that investment can quickly escalate if a large technology investment is required.
Cloud computing can reduce these costs. In this model, contact centers pay only for the time and capacity that they need.
There are many challenges to success and improvement at the contact center, and one of the most persistent is stagnation. The best contact center managers are never satisfied; they are always in search of ways to improve every aspect of their business.
One factor that should always be part of such discussions is the contact center’s service level goal. Anything that can be done to raise service levels should be explored, though too often this requires additional investment that might not be possible. Still, such considerations should not be a barrier to exploring options.
As always, the process begins by asking the right questions.
• Do you know what your service level costs?
• How would higher or lower service levels impact your costs?
• How would a change impact customer satisfaction?
• How did you decide on your service level goal?
All good questions, but the last one may be the place to start. Was the contact center’s service level defined before you joined the company, and that is the way it has always been? Was it set because the competition is trying to hit the same level? There are times when assumptions take on the guise of decrees, and that puts them beyond questioning. It’s a trap that no contact center manager should fall into.
The Myth of the Service Level Standard
What are the variables that will impact the optimum service level? Start with the so-called seven factors of caller tolerance, which include the customer’s expected service level, available time, motivation for the call and whether other options exist for achieving what the customer wishes to do.
To these, we can add contact center labor costs, equipment costs, and the relative value attached to different calls. It would be impossible for one standard service level to meet all these criteria across different contact centers, meeting all customer needs and expectations while maximizing revenue and minimizing expenses.
Perhaps that is why so many contact centers settle on the 80/20 objective (80% of calls answered in 20 seconds) as a reasonable balance between staffing and customer expectations. Others will tweak those numbers as they investigate how low they can be adjusted before they start losing business. The problem here is the assumption that if a caller will stay on the line for five minutes, acceptable service has been provided. Abandonment rates, of course, don’t tell the whole story.
Customer surveys are another popular method for reviewing and adjusting service level. However, when some calls are answered immediately and other takes 90 seconds or more, responses are likely to vary based on individual experience.
Perhaps the best option is to combine elements from all of these methods – track what others are doing, review customer feedback, and run calculations based on current staffing and scheduling capabilities. Then, set a service level target based on the result.
Cutting Costs without Cutting Service
Once an appropriate service level has been established, contact center managers can explore options for reducing costs. That means asking how long customers are willing to wait, and how busy you want agents to be. This is known as the occupancy rate: the busier your agents, the lower the service level.
Once that rate has been set, an equivalent service level goal can be determined by reviewing historical data. Look for instances where the new occupancy rate goal was achieved, and collect the corresponding service level data – that will serve as your new service level target.
The right occupancy rate also bolsters service by making shifts less stressful for agents, which allows them to deliver better, more consistent customer engagements.
Most Budget Reducing Tips
Here are some additional ideas for reducing costs while maintaining a practical service level. Some will not be appropriate for every type of contact center, but implementing just one or two could result in significant savings.
• The Audit: Make it call center-wide. Review metrics, productivity, revenue generation and potential process improvements.
• Full, Part or Flex? What makes the most economic sense for your contact center – full time agents, part time or a flexible staff with a mix of both?
• Attrition: Cutting attrition and its associated recruiting and training costs is one of the most direct ways to save money. Review training techniques as well to make sure agents are learning when they should, and not ‘on the job.’
• Quality Assurance: A QA review can uncover inefficient processes and other shortcomings that impact customer service.
• Adherence: Service levels cannot be maintained if agents are not at their desks when they should be.
• Workforce Management Software: Much of the data on forecasting, staffing, adherence and KPIs can be delivered more quickly and accurately with a workforce management solution. And with WFM in the cloud, a contact center can avoid the large upfront cost traditionally associated with such a technology upgrade.
• Telecommuting: Agents that work from home reduce the contact center’s occupancy costs, and can also boost employee morale.
• Reduce Call Volume: Does the contact center receive a lot of calls on subjects that could be addressed another way? Find out why customers are calling and see if some of those unneeded calls can be cut down.
Because contact centers are different in size and scope, it can be difficult to provide a general approach to improving service level, especially when attempting to lower cost at the same time. But the challenge of creating a positive change is no excuse for not taking a fresh look at service level status at your contact center, and questioning whether the standard that was determined or the methods used to maintain it should not be open for discussion.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
These and other tips make staffing more efficient and more reliable
through better results for agents, supervisors and administrators.
- 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
Can Monet help you get more from your WFM solution? Contact our Customer Success team and let’s talk.
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
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.
Does your workforce management system provide all the benefits you need
at a reasonable price? If it doesn’t, it may be time to take a closer
look at your solution, and if there is something that can be done to
bring it back to optimum efficiency. In other words, perhaps it’s time
for a check-up that will provide answers to these questions.
1. Are you using the latest version?
new WFM product adds additional capabilities, improves existing
functionality, and corrects issues with previous versions. With
traditional software, these upgrades can also be expensive, which is why
many companies delay implementation. But call centers that get their workforce management in the cloud will always be on the most recent version, as it is automatically installed at no additional cost.
2. How do employees work with this system?
is designed to make the agent’s job easier, but if personnel are not
properly trained, or if the system is too complicated, your call center
may not be getting the most out of its potential.
3. What are its ongoing costs?
years, the only WFM solutions worth acquiring were those that also
required hardware upgrades, ongoing IT support, and yearly (even
monthly) costs for maintenance and operation. Call centers still in this
situation must make a decision on maximizing their investment, or
perhaps switching to the more economical option of WFM in the cloud.
4. How have our needs changed?
centers are still evolving into contact centers. Some may expand, some
may contract based on other factors. It’s vital that WFM scales with the
needs of the business.
5. Is it delivering as promised?
centers step up to a WFM solution to access real-time metrics and
reports that impact forecasting, scheduling and day-to-day operation. Is
the system providing the information you need to make better decisions?
Companies that make quality products are always striving to make them
better, and that’s a good thing. But when the customers for these
products have to spend a lot of time and money to get these enhancements
implemented, that can put a strain on a company’s resources.
With traditional, on-premises workforce management (WFM) software,
vendors always seem to be rolling out new versions, fixing bugs and
upgrading features. But contact centers have to pay for these new
versions, through maintenance fees, re-customization projects,
re-integration projects, IT resources and sometimes hardware upgrades,
and even if it’s a free fix to a problem, it can disrupt productivity
and result in costly downtime.
As a result, many contact centers may not be working with the latest
version of their software system, preferring to postpone another
complex, costly upgrade.
Of course, if upgrades were free, automatically implement over night and
did not disrupt the workday, there wouldn’t be any holdouts. And that
is exactly how upgrades are delivered with Workforce Management in the cloud
When they are ready to deploy, it happens automatically, during the
overnight hours, and without adding a penny to the monthly subscription
fee paid by the contact center.
Those not in the cloud might say, “We’ll get there eventually.” But in
the meantime, how much productivity may be sacrificed with a system that
is out of date?
Also, consider the advantage to call center users when upgrades are
introduced incrementally, so any new functionality is more easily
digested and soon becomes routine. Contrast this with a call center that
schedules major upgrades every 2 or 3 years, which often require a much
steeper learning curve to get up to speed on the new system.
These are just a few of the many reasons cloud solutions are set to grow
six times faster than all software in 2014, according to IDC. But if
you shop around for cloud vendors, please make sure you don't fall for a
WFM cloud pretender
- click the link to learn more.
“That’s the way we’ve always done it.”
How often do you hear
these words in an office, when managers would rather stay with what is
familiar than change to something that will make their lives easier and
their business run more efficiently?
Why else would so many
contact centers still use spreadsheets for scheduling, rather than
switch to an automated workforce management (WFM) solution? The
advantages to doing so are many – and will be obvious from the first day
with the new system in place:
- Flexibility – Spreadsheets are fine for fixed schedules, but what
happens when the schedule refuses to stay fixed (which, let’s face it,
is most days)? With WFM, it’s easy to manage flexibility with start, end
and break times. Result? Less idle agents, and better customer service.
- Skill-based Call Routing – Customers appreciate when their calls are
received by the agents most qualified to handle them. Inclusion of
skills is handled automatically by WFM, so it’s easier to fill each
shift with fewer agents, but with those who have the requisite
specialties to handle every customer encounter. Spreadsheets can’t keep
- Tracking Adherence – With a spreadsheet a few limited spot checks
are possible, but WFM delivers real-time adherence monitoring and
analysis. That results in lower shrinkage and improved service levels.
- Exceptions – They happen every day, but they complicate the
spreadsheet process to the point where most requests will be turned
down. Agents at a call center with WFM will find their exception
considerations handled more graciously. That means happier agents – and
happier agents mean happier customers.
Spreadsheets simply cannot compete. If you’re still using them, isn’t it
time for a change? If you are still not convinced watch this video about a call center supervisor explaining the difference.
- Saving Time – With WFM, managers can save as much as 25% off the
time they devote to creating schedules with spreadsheets. That’s 2 hours
from every 8-hour day.
Workforce management (WFM) software provides the best means of
optimizing personnel resources through more accurate forecasting and
scheduling. Here are 5 tips that can help call center managers get the
most out of their workforce management system.
1. Include all Activities
more specific the plan, the better the chance of its success. That’s
why it is imperative to include meetings, breaks, coaching sessions and
all non-call activities into WFM calculations. To learn more about this,
please read our whitepaper Seven Tips for more Effective Scheduling.
2. Continuous Learning
A WFM software vendor will provide initial training during installation.
However, managers should request additional information based on the
specific needs and objectives of the call center. With a quality system
like Monet WFM, there will always be ways that the system can be further
leveraged to achieve better results.
3. Think Outside the Box
The old adage about expecting the unexpected certainly applies to call
centers, given the high turnover in agent personnel and the abundance of
unforeseen factors that can throw a schedule into turmoil. While a
manager cannot anticipate every possibility, use the WFM system to run
“What if?” scenarios, analyze the results and then forecast, schedule
and plan accordingly.
4. Work in Real-Time:
Customer communication happens in real-time, so the WFM system should
also be used in real-time to its fullest potential (for adherence,
alerts, dashboards, etc.) to ensure optimal performance. Now, when
changes inevitably occur throughout the day, managers can respond more
quickly. Fore more information, please download our whitepaper Strategies for Improved Agent Adherence.
5. Include Agents in Planning Process
Agent preferences should also be considered and incorporated whenever
possible into forecasts and schedules. Many WFM systems, such as the one
offered by Monet, also offer an easily accessible and streamlined
procedure for shift swapping and bidding, that can motivate agents to
As call center workforce management has evolved over the decades, its
methods have become more refined, more specific and more advantageous.
In doing so, however, it has also become more intrusive, at least from
the perspective of some agents.
When it was all hard copy spreadsheets, or even after the advent of
Excel spreadsheets, its tentacles seemed more distant. But with today’s
workforce management software, it really seemed like “Big Brother” had
finally arrived. It can generate fear and confusion, as well as concern
over being controlled by a super-computer that will monitor what they
are doing every moment of every shift.
This can pose a challenge to call center management when introducing
this new technology into the workplace. How can the transition be eased
into a system that will change the way schedules are created, shifts are
assigned, exceptions are considered and hours are calculated?
Here are two approaches that might help.
- The first focuses on reassurance. Whether this is done individually
or collectively, let the agents know that the customer service goals of
the call center have not changed – just the methods for helping to
achieve them. Managers should be available to answer questions and
address concerns. Most agent trepidation is rooted in a fear of the
unknown – once the system is explained and demonstrated, many of these
fears will subside.
Once agents have bought into the system as well, WFM software can
deliver dramatic service improvements as well as agent motivation. If
you have question or would like to learn from other call centers, please
feel free to contact us - we are happy to share our experience in rolling out workforce management systems.
- Next, stress that the benefits of workforce management software are
not limited to management. Now, it will be easier for agents to request
shift swaps or days off, so they can better balance work with their
personal lives. Walk them through the process until it becomes familiar.
While the economy is steadily improving according to most measurements,
companies are still taking a very cautious approach when it comes to new
investment. That is one reason why some contact centers have hesitated
when it comes to workforce management (WFM) software.
However, making the case for this purchase should not be difficult given
the inherent benefits derived from its installation, not the least of
which is a net cost savings within months, and a boost in efficiency
that will also have a positive impact on the yearly budget.
Saying Goodbye to Spreadsheets
Workforce management software is used instead of spreadsheets for
forecasting and scheduling. These critical tasks can now be performed
more quickly and more accurately, with data that is automatically
collected and organized, rather than having to be entered manually into a
With Workforce Management solution contact centers realize a high ROI by:
Cutting Costs with the Cloud
- Providing more accurate forecasting and scheduling to reduce agent understaffing and overstaffing
- Improving agent schedule adherence to reduce shrinkage
- Enhancing supervisor efficiency by spending more time coaching and
allowing agents to use the software’s self-service scheduling features
- Reducing overtime expenses of agents by monitoring intra-day
statistics and anticipating when additional agent resources will be
- Decreasing agent turnover by enabling agents to manage their own
schedules and empowering them to improve performance by reviewing their
Still, even with so many potential benefits, some companies simply
cannot afford the significant upfront investment required by a
traditional WFM solution. But with cloud-based WFM, these costs are
dramatically reduced. Plus, there are no maintenance or upgrade costs
later on, and no need to have an IT professional on the payroll to
handle system installation or repairs. Instead, contact centers pay a
monthly subscription cost, and pay only for the capacity and
infrastructure they need.
How to get started
Here are a few simple steps to take to convince management that your call center can benefit from a WFM solution:
When these facts and the actual numbers involved in acquiring
cloud-based WFM are presented to management, there is a much better
chance of approving the investment. For additional information, please check out our whitepaper How to calculate cost savings and ROI of Workforce Management Software.
- Identify the key challenges you face in your call center. What takes
up too much time? What processes are bleeding money? What is the most
frustrating and easily fixable thing you can do right now to make more
money for the organization?
- Gather and analyze the data that impacts your performance and
demonstrate how automated WFM will improve your call center’s
- Create a presentation for management that shows how you can transform the company’s call center strategy with a WFM solution.
Credit unions are typically not-for-profit organizations, however, to
stay in business and deliver great financial services at low fees to
their members they have to micromanage every investment, in both
technology and personnel, while trying to maintain a sufficient level of
Inevitably, this leads to challenges,
particularly at smaller credit union call centers. Where a larger
contact center might be able to absorb the traffic if one agent
unexpectedly calls in sick, that same scenario can significantly impact
wait times at an organization with 50 agents. An unforeseen spike in
call volume can result in similar struggles to keep up with desired
service levels. Both, forecasting and scheduling is often more
challenging in smaller call centers than in larger centers because the
performance, adherence and absenteeism of every agent has more impact.
In this situation, a more accurate forecast, a more flexible schedule
and increased schedule adherence become even more important.
type of call center can benefit from workforce management solutions
(WFM), but credit union call centers often don’t choose to invest in
what is seen as a costly, top-tier solution to a nagging but still
tolerable problem. The resources simply aren’t there to add the kind of
technology that will make forecasting and scheduling more efficient – or
Cloud-Delivered Efficiency from Monet
cloud-delivered workforce management solution doesn’t require a
substantial upfront IT investment, and delivers rapid improvements
within months. We’ve worked with credit union call centers of all sizes
and types that have discovered the benefits of WFM. The flexibility of
the system makes it ideal for small or midsize call centers, and there’s
no intimidating learning curve – Monet WFM Live is easy to set up and
incorporate into every day business practices. And all these time
saving, cost-saving benefits are available for one low monthly
Credit Union Success Story
Read this case study and learn how a Texas based credit union call center boosted its service and saved money with Monet’s WFM Live.
In our last workforce management blog post, we took a closer look at one customer’s experience with Monet’s WFM Live.
Texas-based credit union GECU sought to improve efficiency and customer
service at its contact center. Following an exhaustive search, GECU
selected Monet and its cloud-based workforce management solution.
Just a few months after implementation, the results were in: Because of
improvements in forecasting methods, GECU was able to reduce its number
of agents, while delivering better customer service. With the more
accurate scheduling made possible by WFM Live, there was a 30% reduction
in unscheduled breaks. Costly overtime scheduling was reduced, while
call volume spikes were managed more easily.
Today, the quality and service levels at GECU are solidly placed in the top 97% tier.
Best of all, these changes were all made through an economical solution
that reduced upfront investment while achieving rapid ROI. One GECU
executive reported that the system paid for itself after just a few
months, with three years of subscription costs offset by savings in
salaries, overtime and administrative costs.
There’s a reason why contact centers and businesses like GECU choose
Monet to meet their forecasting, scheduling and budgeting challenges.
Read the full GECU workforce management case study here.
We’ve devoted many blogs to explaining why we think Monet’s WFM Live
provides an outstanding workforce optimization software solution for
call centers. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the experiences
of one company who needed such a solution, and did their homework before
making a purchase.
GECU is a credit union that has been serving customers in Texas since
1932. They provide a wide range of financial products, from loans to
credit cards, through several channels, including a call center.
Making sure their members receive the best service is a significant
concern. So when it came time to take a closer look at their contact
center operations, and whether better member services could be delivered
with fewer resources, GECU investigated software solutions from several
workforce management vendors.
Ultimately, GECU selected Monet’s cloud-based WFM Live as the best
available option. Affordability was a key component in the decision, as
WFM Live provides such benefits as reduced IT investment, low
implementation service fees and a more cost-effective per-user license
model. GECU was also impressed by Monet’s technical support and
post-implementation training services.
The product itself delivered the enhanced functionality that the credit
union desired to achieve its goals. And with the easy to use interface,
the company’s employees were able to boost their workforce optimization
expertise even faster.
Implementation was completed within two months, an accelerated pace that
would likely not have been possible with a non-cloud based solution.
What happened next? Check out our next blog to learn more about the
dramatic changes at GECU since the implementation of WFM Live, or
download the complete workforce management customer case study right now.
When it comes to technology, the only constant is change. If you
purchased workforce management software several years ago, it may be
time to consider an upgrade. However, as anyone who purchased a
first-generation iPad knows, sometimes technology advances so quickly
that some upgrades are no longer possible to keep up with new
capabilities, and the only option is replacement.
“upgrade or replace” decision about WFM at your call center? Here are
five reasons why replacement might be the better option.
the dramatic advancement and widespread acceptance of cloud computing
over the past five years, this could be the time to determine if the
yearly cost to maintain, upgrade and operate your current software is
higher than a new subscription-based or cloud-based solution. Do the
Is your current WFM system not
being utilized to its full potential, because it is too difficult to use
or no longer able to meet your new business needs? An upgrade may
expand its capabilities, but at some point such upgrades will no longer
be effective or even possible.
most effective, WFM software should be connected to your other
operations. For example, it should be combined with call recording data
to impact quality of scheduling. But if you cannot launch a call
recording session from WFM when you see that call times are too long,
all the moving parts in your technology are not working together. Watch
these Workforce Optimization videos to see how all pieces come together.
is key in WFM, particularly when it comes to scheduling. If your system
is not flexible enough to adapt to your changing business needs, or
would require too large an additional investment for customizing or
upgrade, replacement is the better option.
5. Customer Service
ultimate purpose of every call center technology investment is to
improve customer service. An outdated WFM system can put your agents at a
disadvantage, and can impact all the metrics that determine what
constitutes a successful customer engagement. Though these customers
will never see the new technology you select, they will recognize the
difference it makes.
For more information on this, please get our whitepaper "How to select a Workforce Management Solution".
Over the past 12 months we’ve published dozens of blogs focusing on the
importance of workforce management (WFM) and the difference it can make
at a call center. We’ve selected the top five of these blogs, based on
popularity and feedback. If you missed them the first time, here they
are once again:
1. Workforce Management Visualized With Dashboards
Find out how dashboards provide valuable insight into forecasting, scheduling, adherence and metrics.
2. Five Tips for More Accurate Call Center Forecasting
call center customer service begins with an accurate forecast. This
blog describes five workforce management activities that will result in
3. Use Workforce Management to Engage Employees, not Control Them
can you break through the “Big Brother” mindset to create a positive
impression of WFM among call center agents? By including them in the
4. What is Cloud-Based Workforce Management Software?
you haven’t converted to a cloud-based system yet, you’ve certainly
heard of the inroads this technology has been making in call center
systems. This blog details why such solutions have become popular, with
benefits ranging from cost savings to increased flexibility.
5. What is Call Center Shrinkage, and How to Minimize It
schedule adherence goes awry, shrinkage is often to blame. And when
that happens, reduced service levels almost inevitably follow. Find out
more about shrinkage and how to manage it at your call center.
Still have workforce management questions? New to call center
forecasting and scheduling? Need a better workforce management system?
Interested in the latest cloud-computing solutions for contact centers?
Want to learn about workforce optimization best practices? Now there’s a
new place to go for answers.
In addition to the blogs and other resources found on this site, Monet has also created Workforce Management Resource
in partnership with the media company TMCnet. It has been designed for
call center managers and other decisions makers as an information source
on effective workforce management solutions.
Workforce Management Resource can find valuable insight into new and
trusted efficiency solutions via feature articles, industry news,
whitepapers, videos and e-demos.
This is not a one-time addition
to TMC; Workforce Management Resource will be continually updated with
tips and information that will boost best practices at call centers of
all sizes and types.
To check out this exciting new window into the latest WFM technologies and how they can help your business, visit the featured articles of Workforce Management Resource.
What is your definition of workforce management? It probably depends on the type of business you are in.
provides this general statement: “In many markets and industries,
workforce management is all about assigning the right employees with the
right skills to the right job at the right time.”
For contact centers, that definition is a great place to start. If a
manager schedules the right agents with the appropriate call-handling
skills on the shifts where those skills will be most needed, he or she
is certainly on the best track to an efficient operation.
However, knowing what to do and how to get there are two separate challenges. That’s where workforce management (WFM) software can play a critical role.
A manager needs to know what type of calls, and call volume, to expect
on a certain week or day or even during a particular hour. With WFM,
historical call data is collected and analyzed with the goal of
predicting future workload. With the more accurate predictions provided
by WFM, a manager can forecast needs and schedule staff accordingly.
Finding the best agents for the needs of a shift or a certain type of
customer? Again, past performance of agents can be reviewed for how
quickly different types of calls are handled, and which percentage were
brought to a successful conclusion.
The best WFM solution will include accurate call volume forecasting from
historical data and ACD integration, flexible schedule creation that
incorporates foreseen and unforeseen variables, agent exceptions,
intra-day changes to both forecasting and scheduling, and performance
For even more information, please visit our new Workforce Management resources website - it provides workforce management tips, industry news and other resources.