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Workforce Management

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

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Workforce Management Hints, Tips & Best Practices

Call center schedule adherence best practices summary

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One of the most challenging jobs related to managing any call center, is ensuring there is the right number of staff with the right skills available at the right times of the day. Over the last 12 months we haven written a few articles about schedule adherence and received a lot of interest about this topic. Therefore, we thought it would be a good idea to create a summary of the top articles about schedule adherence:

We hope you find these articles useful, and please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about call center scheduling, forecasting or adherence.


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Workforce management: How to move from "reactive" to "proactive" call center performance management?

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Performance management is a critical part of managing call centers and is essential to help you align your people, processes and systems to your goals and objectives, such as customer satisfaction, cost control and revenue goals. Many call centers lack the means to measure and track their key performance indicators (KPI) necessary to improve forecasting, staffing, scheduling and adherence. There is a trend of transforming call center performance management from a reactive to a more proactive approach. Scorecards, key performance indicators, real-time alerts, agent analytics, dashboards, and customizable reports deliver a constant stream of actionable intelligence helping managers and supervisors make more informed decisions faster, resulting in higher customer satisfaction, more cost control and better utilization of resources. Here are just a few benefits:

  • Better decisions through actionable intelligence and flexible real-time dashboards: Gives management a unified view to monitor and analyze key performance metrics, such as agent adherence, service levels, labor costs and staffing resulting in more informed decisions.
  • Improved productivity and agent motivation through scorecard capabilities:Motivates agents to self-manage their performance and take action with coaches and supervisors based on real data and KPI’s (key performance indicators) to meet business objectives, creating a culture of accountability and self-motivation.
  • Easy and fast access to key performance indicators: Frees up time for supervisors and managers to focus on working with agents, coaching, training and planning, instead of collecting and analyzing data.

To learn more about agent analytics and performance management please take a look at our website or download our Monet Metrics brochure as part of the WFM Success Kit. 


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What is schedule adherence and why is it important in the call center?

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Schedule adherence is the degree to which agents stick to their schedules, measured as a percentage. Considering that staffing is the single biggest cost facing any call center – and that every minute counts when it comes to meeting customer service levels – it’s easy to see why call center managers are putting an increasing emphasis on improving it and are looking to their workforce management software for solutions.
 
If you run a small call center with 5 to 20 agents, you might think schedule adherence isn’t all that important. But if you take a closer look at all the different junctures throughout the day where agent time is “lost,” you’ll realize that it can add up to a serious loss of revenue over the course of a year.

Call center workforce management schedule adherence strategy whitepaper
Download whitepaper

Schedule adherence is particularly important for ensuring smooth transitions between shifts. Call center schedules tend to be very complex – which means there can be a lot of junctures during a shift where an agent will go out of adherence. For example, an agent might show up for his shift five minutes late; log on to the ACD seven minutes late; show up for a training session eight minutes late; and go over their break time by 10 minutes - resulting in the agent being a total of 30 minutes out of adherence for that one shift. Multiply these “out of adherence” events across a center with dozens if not hundreds of agents - and then multiply that by the total number of shifts - and its easy to see how schedule adherence can quickly become a serious problem.

Keeping track of schedule adherence using manual systems such as spreadsheets can be incredibly time-consuming and challenging. This is where today’s web-based call center scheduling solutions are playing an increasingly crucial role. They track schedule adherence in real-time and and automatically send you alerts.

When implementing a new program for improving schedule adherence in your call center - perhaps through the deployment of a workforce management system - it’s a good idea to discuss those changes with your employees first. The one thing you don’t want is a negative backlash from your valued employees, who might not be all that thrilled to be working under the watchful eye of “Big Brother.”

In order to reduce any negative backlash from your agents when implementing a new program to improve schedule adherence, you must first “inform and educate.” Agents need to understand the relevance of schedule adherence, how a mere 10 minutes here and there impacts other agents and the entire call center performance.

Then you should “measure and manage:” Measure and track adherence using workforce management tools and solutions, tracking adherence in real-time and running reports. Share these adherence reports with your agents and discuss how they are doing. It is important to give regular feedback regarding adherence statistics.

Finally, you can provide “incentives.” Reward agents that adhere to their schedule (95 percent within adherence scores) through recognition within the team and tie bonuses to good scores. It is also critical that all agents are aware of the consequences for out-of-adherence behavior, as this establishes their responsibility towards the success of the call center.

For more information, please read our 5 Strategies for improved Schedule Adherence whitepaper.

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Workforce management unified with call recording

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It’s common knowledge that call recording software is a powerful tool for businesses to accurately capture voice conversations with their customers. However, when  combined with call center workforce management, call recording makes it easy and efficient for call centers to optimize operational efficiencies, employee satisfaction, and the overall customer experience—a combination that takes call recording to a whole new level. Here are the key benefits:

Improve service quality
One of the most critical differences call recording software can make is improving the quality of customer service. It is impossible hover over each individual agent at all times to ensure the service they’re providing is up to company standards. Even if this were feasible, the discrepancy of how agents handle themselves while knowingly being monitored would be ever-present.

More effective and personalized training
With call recordings, managers and call center trainers have the means to not only measure their agents’ ability to adhere to company-approved responses, but to gauge how they’re performing in terms of efficiency, courtesy, and conversational style.With call recording, the training can be personalized and customized to the needs of every agent, making it more effective and efficient. Call monitoring also allows for ongoing, situation-specific training that will guide agents through best practices for a range of customer interactions. Recorded conversations can also be compiled into groups for training purposes.

Increase revenues and profits
With improved training comes improved service, and with improved service, it only makes sense that a boost in profits is close behind in the form of more up-sells, customer loyalty, repeat business, and new sales, less employee turnover, and faster training.

Ensure compliance and avoid lawsuits
Compliance is an important requirement for many businesses, especially those in the financial services industry that are continuously monitored by private and government entities whose job it is to regulate the handling of private financial information.

Improve customer satisfaction
The ability to monitor, score, and dissect past and current calls gives managers more control over how their agents engage customers. Managers can monitor conversations on the spot and address any issues that may be negatively impacting performance metrics. Call recording also allows unhappy customers to be addressed immediately, before they may want to file a complaint.

For more information about this topic, please also see our call recording blog.


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Workforce management software for call centers: How to convince your executive team

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Persuading senior management to change “business-as-usual” call center systems can be a difficult undertaking. A challenging economic environment puts pressure on all areas of the organization to implement solutions that reduce costs and increase revenues—all while improving performance and productivity. As each solution competes for investment dollars, only a select few offering the highest ROI will obtain funding.

Here are three key steps to make your case:


If you need help presenting the benefits of an automated WFM solution to your management team please see our workforce management ROI white papers or contact us and we are happy to answer your questions, share some ROI tools and provide guidance.

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Contact Center Scheduling and Forecasting Functionality

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What are the key functional components of a scheduling and forecasting solution for a contact center? Here is a quick overview:

  • Forecasting: Ability to run simulations to 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 your ACD system.
  • Scheduling: The scheduling module should incorporate all call types and other call and non-call related activities to generate staffing schedules that optimize a wide range of factors, including agent availability, skills, holidays, breaks, training and service levels.
  • Exception handling: Integrated exception calendar to simplify scheduling of agent exceptions such as time off and one-time or recurring training meetings.
  • Real-time adherence: Ability to compare planned agent activity to actual activities throughout the day, as well as real-time views of forecast and actual call volumes, handle times and other key performance indicators.
  • Intra-day management: Graphical display of agents' schedules with drag-and-drop functionality to quickly manage breaks, lunches and other exceptions. Real-time updates can be made to required and assigned agents instantly, and display surpluses and shortages for each time period of the day.
  • Agent - supervisor collaboration: Enables easy and efficient agent-supervisor interaction and collaboration, such as exceptions, schedule bids or swap requests and critical reports. Agents get empowered to be more directly involved in the scheduling process by entering exceptions or bids and viewing their schedules at any time.
  • Configuration & administration: Ability to set up unlimited number of center splits or agent groups, each with its own set of service objectives and guidelines. Management of multiple sites and time zones. Ability to set hours of operation by day of week, and service level goals down to 15-minute intervals if desired.
  • Metrics and reporting: Ability to report and analyze all agent activities including their schedule adherence and key performance indicators. Managers need to get actionable insights through tools such as call center dashboards, Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and real-time alerts.
If you are interested in seeing a solution in action, please take a look at a contact center forecasting and scheduling demo on our website.

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Extend the value of workforce management software with call recording

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The goal of workforce management is to create a more productive work environment through the planning, management tracking and analysis of such vital activities as agent performance, forecasting, scheduling, and adherence. 

With call recording software solutions, it’s possible to capture valuable intelligence from agent-customer interactions, and thus improve both service levels and service quality / sales conversions. Data gathered from customer contacts makes it easier to forecast the length of future calls, find out why some calls take longer, and respond accordingly with training or changes in procedure. Call recording software can also assist with assessment of agents’ skills and performances, allowing for skill-based routing and scheduling. Please read more about this topic on our call recording and monitoring blog.


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Impact of Call Recording Software on Workforce Management

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One of the areas where call recording software can have a positive impact is workforce management. In fact, there are several crossover elements to workforce management systems that incorporate, or are complemented by call recording software solutions. When properly leveraged together, the result in improved communication between management and agents, and more efficient performance.

The goal of workforce management is to create a more productive work environment through the planning, management tracking and analysis of such vital activities as agent performance, forecasting and scheduling, schedule adherence, training efforts and the configuration and administration of multiple groups and sites. The addition of contact center recording software offers a means to more effectively achieve these objectives.

With call recording software solutions, it’s possible to capture valuable intelligence from agent-customer interactions, and thus improve both service levels and service quality / sales conversions. Data gathered from customer contacts makes it easier to forecast the length of future calls, find out why some calls take longer, and respond accordingly with training or changes in procedure.

Call recording software can also assist with assessment of agents’ skills and performances, allowing for skill-based routing and scheduling.

The ongoing goal of every call center management team is higher service levels, favorable customer interaction, and more efficient services and profitable sales. Call recording software combined with workforce management are essential tools in these efforts. For more information about workforce management, please see also our Call Center Workforce Management blog.



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Call Center Scheduling Methods, Tools and Techniques

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Over the years we have provided a list of practical call center scheduling techniques, methods and tips in this blog. In order to make it easier to find those, we created this post with all of them listed in one place. We hope you find it useful:
If you are interested in web-based tools, please also watch the call center scheduling demo on our main website.

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Workforce Management Software Selection Guide for Call Centers

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Every call center has different needs. Size, structure, industry, type of calls and many other factors determine your unique requirements. However, there are some guidelines and key questions you should consider when selecting workforce scheduling software for your call center:

Key Functionality:

  • Forecasting: Ability to run simulations to 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 your ACD.
  • Scheduling: The scheduling engine should incorporate all call types and other activities to generate staffing schedules that optimize a wide range of factors, including agent availability, skills, holidays, breaks and service levels.
  • Exception handling: Integrated exception calendar to simplify scheduling of agent exceptions such as time off and one-time or recurring training meetings.
  • Intra-day management: Graphical display of agents' schedules with drag-and-drop functionality to quickly manage breaks, lunches and other exceptions. Real-time updates can be made to required and assigned agents instantly, and display surpluses and shortages for each time period of the day.
  • Real-time adherence: Ability to compare planned agent activity to actual activities throughout the day, as well as real-time views of forecasted and actual call volumes, handle times and other key performance indicators.
  • Configuration & administration: Ability to set up unlimited number of center splits or agent groups, each with its own set of service objectives and guidelines. Management of multiple sites and time zones. Ability to set hours of operation by day of week, and service level goals down to 15-minute intervals if desired.
  • Metrics and reporting: Ability to report and analyze all agent activities including their schedule adherence and key performance indicators. Managers need to get actionable insights through tools such as call center dashboards, Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and real-time alerts.

Implementation and user adoption -
Questions to ask when evaluating the implementation:
  • Implementation and setup: How long does it take to implement and configure the solution to your unique needs.
  • User setup: How much effort is it to set up users in different locations such as remote and home offices?
  • Training: How much effort does it take to learn and productively use the solution?
  • Usability: Is the solution easy to use so that users can leverage the full potential of the software?

Total cost of ownership -
Evaluate key cost drivers of the software:
  • Upfront cost: How much do you have to invest upfront for software licenses, hardware and other software?
  • Implementation cost: Costs for internal staff and consultants to implement the software and train the users.
  • Ongoing cost: Calculate the internal cost of operation, as well as external cost such as ongoing software maintenance fees, subscription and consultant fees.

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Call Center Scheduling Tips - Part 2

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This is part 2 of our list of call center scheduling tips (here is part 1 in case you missed it):

5. Compare ACD logon time to time-clock entries


Make sure agents are logged in and ready for calls coordinating with the clock time.
Consider using the ACD agent log-in and log-out times for payroll – dependent on the culture and procedures you have established


6. Include all activities in schedule

When developing your forecast and schedule make sure to include

  • Breaks and lunches
  • Multiple tasks (calls, email, etc.)
  • Training
  • Time-off
  • Realistic buffer for shrinkage

7. Rank agents and match teams by personality

Rank your agents
  • Creating a schedule by agent rank can be very effective in reducing costs and increasing sales
  • Rank according to call completion time, calls per hour or other performance measures including sales and order size
Match personality and team
  • Studies have shown that a good relationship with colleagues drives motivation and performance
  • Your schedule should leverage this by teaming up the “right people
For more information about call center scheduling, please also see our new and updated corporate website.

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Call Center Scheduling Tips - Part 1

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We have established a list of call center scheduling tips to keep your call center running efficiently, keep service levels increasing, and your customer base and revenues growing.

1. Use a flexible shift model


Fixed start times, lunch breaks, end times, etc. result in

  • Overstaffing = higher costs!
  • Understaffing = lower service levels and revenues!
Gradually implement a flexible shift model by introducing it to some of your agents (existing and/or new hires) first, and over time move the whole center to a flexible shift model.
Increase your service levels by 1 to 2 percent, and result in a similar percentage of savings in personnel costs


2. Track and minimize shrinkage

15 minutes shrinkage per day in a 25 agent center costs you $23,437 per year. How to improve:
  • Better match call volume with agent availability through a flexible shift model
  • Increase forecast and schedule accuracy by including all tasks into forecast and schedule
  • Monitor and improve schedule adherence

3. Track and improve schedule adherence

Inform and educate agents:
  • Agents need to understand the relevance of schedule adherence
  • Explain how a mere 10 minutes impacts the entire center performance.
Measure and manage adherence:
Provide incentives:
  • Reward agents (95% within adherence) – recognition and/or bonus.
  • Agents are aware of the consequences for out-of-adherence behavior

4. Cross train multi-skill agents

Multiple skills and use skill-based routing
  • Reduce # of agents needed to handle your call volume.
  • The productivity gains can be up to 10-15%.
Form overlapping groups
  • One group for call type A and B, and one group for C and D
  • Improve by adding a group that is able to handle B and C

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What is advanced real-time schedule adherence?

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One challenge in tracking and monitoring schedule adherence is that agents can have so many different non-call tasks, exceptions and states that it is difficult to plan for and then monitor those states. That's where Advanced Agent Adherence comes into action. It allows the creation of custom states and rules to match the unique needs of your the call center, such as:

  • Create custom states for any number of activities, such as call wrap-up, special after call work, or outbound preparation
  • Set thresholds for each state, indicating how much time is considered “in adherence” so that time in a particular state can automatically be broken down into acceptable and unacceptable time
  • Define which states are included or not included in the agent adherence calculation
Exceptions and non-call activities will be added by default and will be considered “scheduled activities,” along with available, break, lunch, and logged out states. Call center managers can customize which statuses are allowed and not allowed for each scheduled activity.

Since every call center has unique agent activity types, this flexible approach to agent adherence monitoring gives centers a new level of accuracy in managing call center performance and the potential to dramatically reduce non-productive agent time.

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Call Center Scheduling in the Cloud: It's No Longer "If", It is "When"

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In 2012, "cloud computing" will continue to move full steam ahead. More and more call center software solutions such as CRM, PBX/ACD, and workforce management are delivered through the cloud, and call centers are adopting these solutions. And here are a few compelling reasons why companies move to the cloud:

  • Ease of use: Have you experienced enterprise software that gets hardly used or not used at all, because it is too difficult to learn/use? Think about ROI?! In comparison, cloud-based solutions are designed to be easy to use for fast adoption, without a lot of training.
  • Low investment: Traditional software requires a substantial upfront investment for software licenses, hardware and additional software. The cloud model eliminates or dramatically reduces that investment (and the the associated risk) and is typically based on a monthly subscription (pay-as-you-go model).
  • Fast implementation: Over the years, many companies experienced long and painful software implementation projects. Often, the business requirements have changed before the software was rolled out to the user community. Cloud again, has changed this paradigm. Web- based applications with instant account creation and easy configuration and self-service makes it possible to roll-out and use solutions in weeks.
  • No maintenance: Somebody in your company has to make sure that the software is working, servers are running, do back-ups, etc. - that requires resources and money. Again, with cloud, this is all done by the solution provider.
  • Always latest version: There are probably many companies out there that use an older software version simply because it is too expensive or too painful to upgrade to the latest version. Typically, cloud solutions automatically deploy new features and versions to their customers with minimal or no downtime. Customer can easily take advantage of new functionality.
  • Virtual call centers: Today, many call centers have multiple locations around the world and a higher percentage of flexible home agents. Providing a consistent infrastructure to all agents and centers is a challenge. Cloud computing helps deliver call center software to every agent over the Internet - it's easier to deploy, more consistent and typically easier to use and support.
And there is one more reason for increased interest in cloud-based offerings. Many cloud solutions offer a trial, so you can check out and evaluate the solution before you commit. That's something traditional on-premise software usually cannot provide.

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Schedule Adherence for Call Centers - A Strategy Whitepaper

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Schedule Adherence still seems one of the top challenges for call centers. This new whitepaper talks about the challenges and how to overcome those, helping call center managers and supervisors better manage adherence. The paper discusses the following topics:

  • How to identify the issues that cause out-of-adherence
  • How to monitor and measure adherence
  • How to work with your team on improving schedule adherence
  • How to establish an "adherence culture"
  • How to use tools to better monitor adherence
If you still struggle with out-of-adherence issues, or can’t reach and maintain your targeted adherence level, then this whitepaper is for you.

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Call forecasting and call center scheduling spreadsheets? A few considerations.

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Sometimes, spreadsheets for forecasting and scheduling seem to be just fine. However, one of the biggest challenges in call centers - maintaining schedule adherence - is very difficult or almost impossible to manage using spreadsheets. In addition, there are other forecasting and scheduling tasks that can be very challenging with spreadsheets and might result in sup-optimal performance. And those tasks (listed below) are often key drivers to make your call center more productive and deliver better service to your customers.

Schedule adherence: Spreadsheets don't support this well. Studies have shown that tracking and monitoring agent adherence in real-time has a tremendous postive impact on call center performance.
Exception handling: This is a very manual process and complicated with spreadsheets. Automated exception handling of modern WFM solutions keep agents happy and results in higher productivity.
Schedule flexibility
: Spreadsheets are often limited to fixed schedules. You might not be able to take take advantage of schedules with flexible start-time, end-time & breaks to boost service levels.
Call history: Spreadsheets don't support real-time or automated data import of large amounts of data, potentially resulting in reduced forecast accuracy.
Skill-based routing and scheduling: Very complicated to manage with spreadsheets, therefore, call centers often can't realize productivity advantages of skill-based scheduling.

If you are still using spreadsheets, you should review the above list from the perspective of your call center needs and evaluate the potential for improving call center operation. You can also learn more about WFM by looking at automating forecasting, scheduling and adherence tracking.


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Important call center metrics: Service Level

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There is no "right" service level for a call center. The service level should be defined based on customer needs, behavior and expectation, aligned with the business goals and objectives of your company. Also, the service level is just one element that drives customer satisfaction and positive business outcome. If you answer calls very quickly but cannot address the customer issue, it might be worse than having customers wait a bit longer and get their issues resolved in one call. However, this post focuses on the service level component:

How is the service level calculated? It is defined as the percentage of calls that get answered within a specific time period. Example: 80% of calls should get answered within 20 seconds.

What causes service level issues? There are many reasons that have an impact on services levels, here are just a few:

  • Calls take longer than planned (product issues, training issues, unexpected events, etc.)
  • Forecast inaccurate (higher call volume or different call pattern)
  • Schedule sub-optimal (doesn't include all activities, lack of flexibility, etc.)
  • Call fluctuations during day that could not be planned for
  • Low schedule adherence (often the biggest problem of missed service levels)
  • Exceptions (unscheduled meetings, staff absenteeism, etc.)
How to improve service level?
  • Goal: First, it is important to define a realistic service level that is in line with your overall business objectives and the specifics and needs of your customers and their inquiries.
  • More accurate forecast: It all starts with an accurate forecast - both the overall volume and the arrival patterns throughout the day. Having call history data available, being able to run different scenarios and breaking it down to 15 or 30 minute increments helps to improve accuracy over time
  • Better aligned schedule: There are many aspects to consider when creating a schedule. A previous blog post about call center scheduling 101 talks about those in more detail.
  • Flexible schedule: Building in some flexibility into your schedule is not easy, but can help dramatically. Flexibility regarding start and end time, breaks, training, etc. helps cover periods of irregular call patterns, while still running a cost efficient operation.
  • Schedule adherence: Again, this is one of the biggest issues, but at the same time, has a big potential to improve service levels. You can read more about improving schedule adherence in this whitepaper.
  • Measure: As you know, you can only manage what you can measure. Add the service level as one of you key metrics to your "dashboard" and also track dependencies to discover the issues that have a negative impact on your service level.
  • Learn: As you measure and monitor you will learn more about what causes problems and over time, you will be able to better plan or even avoid service level issues.
  • Educate: Make service level discussions part of team meetings/training session and have your team share their experience. Compare the measured services level with the perception of customers; have agents share their experience of customer behavior and expectations. For example, a service level that looks great on paper might not be perceived well by customers, or the other way round, a presumed low service level might not be an issue with customers because they feel they get great service.

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Contact center scheduling and forecasting overview

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Scheduling contact center staff is the "art and science" of having the right number of employees, with the right skills at the right times to meet anticipated call volumes (and other communication channels such as email, chat , social media). And all this has to happen with a targeted service level and at minimal costs. Contact center forecasting and scheduling is a critical task and poor planning and execution can have a negative impact on revenues and cost, customer satisfaction and also employees motivation. Key tasks of contact center scheduling include the following activities:

1. Call Forecasting - Calculation of call volumes based on key parameters:

  • Call history data
  • Call patterns (day, week, season, etc.)
  • Special day patterns (holidays, etc.)
  • Other event or business drivers that might impact call volume/pattern (sales campaign)

2. Staffing requirements - Calculation of staffing needs based on:
  • Service level, ASA and average handle time
  • Type of calls (required skills)
  • Anticipated workload

3. Schedule - Creation of a schedule for every day based on your unique needs:
  • 15 or 30 minute increments
  • Consideration of all activities (call and non-call)
  • Flexibility regarding start/end times, breaks, etc.
  • Multi-skill routing

4. Schedule Adherence - Monitoring and managing adherence as team effort:
  • Inform and educate about adherence importance and impact
  • Measure and manage adherence throughout the day (real-time adherence)
  • Provide incentives for adherence

5. Exception handling - "Stuff happens", be prepared to manage exceptions and changes throughout the day:
  • Changes in call volume or arrival pattern (campaigns, external events, etc.)
  • Staffing or scheduling issues (training, sick, absenteeism, etc.)
  • Business related exceptions

6. Measure Success - Define what "success" means for you center and measure & adjust accordingly:
  • Analyze hourly/daily/weekly reports
  • What worked, what didn't? Investigate causes for under-performance
  • Apply "learnings" into future forecasting/scheduling process

Every contact center is different, but one of the most challenging tasks from the above list for every center is most likely schedule adherence. If you would like to learn more, please download our whitepaper "How to improve schedule adherence in your call center" and discover new ways that might work for your contact center.

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Best call center forecasting & scheduling articles of 2011

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Happy New year! We just compiled a list of our top blog posts that got the most views by our readers in 2011. It is interesting to see that there was a lot of interest in "schedule adherence". This still seems to be one of the key challenges for call centers. In case you have missed those articles, please take a look:
  1. Important call center metrics: schedule adherence
  2. How to make a call center schedule work for your staff
  3. Workforce management software comparison: cloud versus installed software
  4. 7 tips for improved schedule adherence in your call center
  5. What is real-time schedule adherence and why is it important
  6. The importance of accurate call center forecasting
  7. How to improve call center forecasting with simulation tools

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Call Center Management New Year Resolutions

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As you work on implementing new plans and strategies to further improve call center management and operations for 2012, it might be a good idea to reflect on 2011: What has worked well, and what has worked not so well? Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What were the top 3 call center challenges in 2011?
  • How can you overcome those challenges for 2012?
  • What do you need to do to keep our agents happy and motivated?
  • What do you have to do to better serve your customer?
  • What new technologies and call center software do you need to make your work easier and more efficient?
  • Do you have online sources that provide you with practical tips, ideas and tools (blog, twitter, etc.) for your daily work?
  • What are the top 3 things you should focus on in 2012?

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Adherence to schedule - a big challenge for your call center?

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Managing adherence to call center schedule is one of the most challenging jobs related to running a call center - making sure there is the right number of staff with the right skills available at the right times of the day. Here are some helpful tips and considerations:

  • What does lack of schedule adherence cost a call center? A quick overview of the cost drivers and the potential impact on your center operation.
  • Why is schedule adherence an important call center metric? This article helps identify potential causes for out-of-adherence and ways for improvement.
  • Are you monitoring schedule adherence in your call center? 3 simple tips on schedule adherence: Inform - measure - manage.
  • What is real-time schedule adherence? Learn how real-time adherence can help you finally overcome your adherence challenge.
  • Strategies for Improving Schedule Adherence: A more in depth whitepaper about schedule adherence and how Workforce Management software is a crucial tool to improve adherence. 


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Call Center Forecasting Methods & Techniques

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Accurate forecasting is critical to successfully managing your call center. In order to meet call demand and avoid under- or over-staffing, you need methods that precisely predicts how many agents are needed to handle the center's call volume, and also methods that help you "re-calculate" if the the call volume fluctuates more than anticipated. Here are 5 considerations and methods that should help you improve forecast accuracy:

  1. The importance of accurate forecasting: First, take a look why an accurate forecast is crucial. 

  2. How to improve forecasting with simulation tools: Anticipating the "future" is not easy, therefore, running simulations with different assumptions helps to better predict call volumes.

  3. How to forecast special days: There are certain days that are difficult to forecast, or are important for the business. Here are some tips on how to deal with those.

  4. How to do "intra-day" call forecasting: One of the biggest forecasting challenge is related to unpredictable call volume fluctuations - here are some "intra-day" tips.

  5. How to forecast for multiple channels: As more communication channels open up (phone, email, chat, social media) you have to add those to your forecasting scenarios.

Read More About Call Center Forecasting Methods & Techniques

Spreadsheets for call center forecasting and scheduling?

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The overwhelming majority of ongoing call center expenses are related to staffing (up to 70%). Having the optimum number of staff at the right time in the right place is essential to call center success and profitability. Over-staffing results in needless spending for unnecessary staff, while under-staffing will lower service levels, increase staff turnover and impact your revenues. Two key questions to ask:

  • Can a call center really "afford" to use spreadsheets for forecasting and scheduling, since there is so much at stake?
  • Does workforce management software provide measurable improvements resulting in savings that exceed the cost of the solution?

Here are three things to consider when you evaluate the situation in your call center:

1. More efficient scheduling and agent usage: The savings associated with more efficient scheduling includes reducing overall staff hours and need for overtime and identification of over-staffing. Call centers using WFM systems generally experience a minimum reduction of 2% for staff hours with an average potential savings in the 5 – 10% range.

2. Automation of scheduling tasks: Manual or Excel-based spreadsheet forecasting and scheduling consumes much of a supervisor’s time in many call centers. With WFM it is generally expected that at least 25% of the time currently devoted to manual input can be saved and used for coaching, training, etc.

3. Improved schedule adherence: Many hours of work time are wasted due to excessive non-productive interruptions. A WFM system can provide historical and real-time information on agent schedule adherence and exceptions, for better management and control of staff, reducing workforce shrinkage by 10 to 20 minutes per agent per day. Please read our whitepaper "Strategies for Improving Schedule Adherence" to learn more. Also, there is a related blog post that talks about the "cost of out-of-adherence".


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How to Improve Agent Schedule Adherence in a Call Center

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Adhe
rence: Are You In or Out of It?

One of the biggest challenges of running a call center is making sure that employees stick to their schedules. A strategic approach to improving agent adherence is crucial for call centers struggling with the challenges of rising costs, lower revenues, and frustrated customers. The following whitepaper summarizes five strategies to help boost agent adherence in your call center.

In addition to the five strategies, the whitepaper also explains how WFM software helps call centers implement those adherence strategies more effectively.


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Important call center metrics: Shrinkage

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What's shrinkage?
Shrinkage is the time (or percentage of time) agents are not productive due to breaks, meetings, training, vacation, illness, absenteeism, etc. Most of these events can be build into the schedule, however there is one aspect of shrinkage that cannot be really planned for and it is related to adherence. Adherence is a measurement of the time agents are scheduled to work compared to the time they actually work. If agents leave early, start later or take longer breaks than specified in their schedule, it causes shrinkage that has an immediate impact on service levels and other call center metrics due to under-staffing.

How to reduce shrinkage?
Well, it's not realistic to totally eliminate "unplanned" shrinkage, however, in most cases in can be reduced to an acceptable level. One major reason for "unplanned" shrinkage is out-of-adherence. Often, call centers don’t have the necessary visibility into what happens at any moment in time and what is supposed to happen based on the published schedule. If you are still struggling with adherence issues, please read this educational whitepaper “Strategies for improving call center schedule adherence", and you will learn about proven practices on schedule adherence that have resulted in increased availability and reduced shrinkage.

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A More Efficient Call Center in One Minute?

These are just some of the real-world benefits experienced after implementing Monet WFM software.

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