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Workforce Management

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

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7 Tips for improved schedule adherence in your call center

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How do you get your staff to show up for work on time and stick to their planned schedule and break times? This is one of the most challenging jobs related to managing any 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 seven tips that might be helpful to improve schedule adherence in your call center:

1. Quantify the implications of missing staff
First, you need to understand the effects of schedule adherence in your call center. This starts with measuring adherence and quantifying the implications on service level, costs and other metrics that are critical for your business. Typically, a lack of adherence results in understaffing and decreased service levels. In order to compensate for this, call centers might increase staffing, which results in higher costs. Here is an example of the cost implications of out-of-adherence.
2. Set reasonable adherence goals
Identify adherence goals and objectives based on the unique characteristics of your call center environment and also take a look at benchmarks of other call centers. When defining your goals, please consider the following:
  • Include your staff into this process from the beginning
  • Define minimum expectations
  • Average handle time of calls
  • Identify potential barriers that might prevent adherence
3. Identify the reasons for attendance and adherence problems
Basically, there are three different reasons for adherence problems:
  • Don’t know: the agent may either be unclear about what the expectations are, or they may be unaware of how their behavior is not meeting the expectation. Giving the agent timely feedback can help resolve the problem.
  • Can’t: the agent may require more training, although adherence problems are rarely lack of training. More likely there could be a barrier that prevents adherence.
  • Won’t: the agent may lack motivation or may be receiving improper consequences. The most effective consequences are: Positive, Immediate, and Certain.
For more details please read this post about schedule adherence challenges.
4. Identify rewards and consequences that support adherence goals
Reward agents that adhere to their schedule (e.g. 95% 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; this establishes their responsibility towards the success of the call center.
5. Communicate the “power of one” to all staff
Emphasize the “power of one” to highlight the importance of every agent’s adherence. Using tables or charts available to make “adherence” visually quantifiable can be helpful. So can activities like "Ball Toss" in which six agents are paired off and given a ball which they must toss back and forth. Replace one person in the pair and keep the toss moving. Then take one person away without providing a replacement to show how quickly understaffing can create stress and dropped balls – which, of course, represent "calls".
6. Review your tools to manage and track adherence
Workforce management software helps automate schedule adherence tracking and reporting capabilities. Review the tools you have available in your call center and evaluate if you have the need for more sophisticated adherence tracking tools:
  • Real-time dashboards
  • Alerts and notification
  • Adherence reporting by agent, group and center
  • Exception management
  • Adherence tracking for all activities
  • Accurate forecasting of call center volumes
  • Automated scheduling
7. Measure and monitor
You can only manage what you measure. Make adherence monitoring & reporting and the regular review with your team part of your staff meetings. Over time, the whole team will more and more appreciate the importance of adherence and it will get "internalized" into your service culture.
For more detailed information, please read this whitepaper "Strategies for improving Schedule Adherence".

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What does lack of schedule adherence cost a call center?

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There are three areas that are immediately affected when your call center is out-of-adherence:

  • Speed of answer to customers is reduced (service level and satisfaction)
  • Staff workload and occupancy are affected (productivity and staffing cost)
  • Telephone costs can soar (operational costs).
All three areas are avoidable when you understand the impact of out-of-adherence within the call center. In order to find out the costs associated with call center scheduling and out-of-adherence, you need to measure and quantify the effect. Let’s consider that you have 200 call center agents and due to out-of-adherence activities, they lose 10 minutes per day. At an average of $15 per hour wage for your 200 call center agents, the resulting cost is $130,000 per year.
  • 10 minutes x 5 days x 52 weeks = 2,600 minutes per year = 43.3 hours per year.
  • 43.3 hours x $15 = $650 per person x 200 agents = $130,000.
Take the time and do the math and understand the actual hard dollar costs associated with out-of-adherence for your call center and evaluate the necessary internal changes needed to reduce the wasted time. For ideas and more information about schedule adherence, please read this whitepaper: "Strategies for improved call center schedule adherence".

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Call center workforce management software selection criteria

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Here is a list that should be helpful when selecting a workforce management solution: 

1. Key functionality to consider: 

  • ACD integration for call history
  • Simulation of forecasts
  • Staffing and Scheduling
  • Exception handling
  • Intra-day management
  • Real-time adherence
  • Performance metrics reports


2. Implementation of software: 

  • Time to implement - ready to use.
  • Equipment needed (hardware and software)
  • Resources needed (internal, vendor, consultants)


3. Total cost of ownership: 

  • Upfront cost for software, hardware, integration and implementation?
  • Ongoing costs for subscription, maintenance, support, upgrade fees?
  • Operational costs for IT team, facilities, etc.


4. User adoption: 

  • Ease of use to make sure software gets used to full extend
  • Configurable to meet your unique center needs


5. ROI and Risk: 

  • Payback time: Benefits versus costs/investment
  • Financial risk if solution does not meet your needs

For a more detailed list, please download our Workforce Management Success Kit.


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How to improve call center forecasting with simulation tools

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One of the most critical steps in the workforce management process is forecasting. Based on the work history you need to forecast call volume and agent requirements for desired time frames in the future - a forecast for future call volume, average handling time, and agent requirements for each 15-minute period of the day based on service level objectives.

How can you use forecasting simulation to improve forecast accuracy? A simulator forecasting engine analyzes all call types and routing policies when creating forecasts. This lets you accurately forecast staffing levels to manage all call types within your center, and build scenarios for budgeting and planning purposes. You can even use simulators to produce center budgets by running a costing of all forecasted agent shifts and agent schedules. Here are some tips on how you can benefit from using forecasting simulation:

  • You can quickly generate automatic forecasts for multiple sites, complex routing strategies, and multi-skilled agents.
  • You can accurately forecast staffing levels to manage all call types, as well as build scenarios for planning and budgeting purposes.
  • You get regular intra-day forecast updates, automatically calculating a new forecast based on what has already occurred to establish trends that will aid in proactive decision making.
  • It helps you evaluate and plan current and future workforce requirements.
  • You can develop "what if" scenarios to explore how a change in call volume or service level goals during a specific day or week would affect your center.
  • You are able to simulate routing rules, agent skill assignments, and schedules by date range and see the impact on staffing and scheduling.

For more information about this topic, please watch the call center forecasting video.


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How to improve call center schedule adherence

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Watch this recorded webinar by The Call Center School and learn how to improve schedule adherence in your call center. During the session, call center experts share proven practices such as:

  1. How to quantify the cost and service implications of missing staff
  2. Learn about options for setting adherence performance goals
  3. How to identify the reasons why staff don't adhere to the schedule plan
  4. How to develop reward and consequence programs that support adherence goals
  5. How to effectively track, monitor and measure adherence
Here is the link to the recorded event

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Call center forecasting and scheduling best practices

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In a 2010 survey by DMG, call center managers rated the following 4 tasks as their top call center workforce management challenges:

  • Need to schedule phone and non-phone activity
  • Need to optimize the mix of full-time/part-time/flex workers
  • Poor agent adherence
  • Need to schedule multiple channel: phone, email, chat, etc.

Here are some best practices we would like to share with you that might help you overcome those challenges:

  1. Call Center Scheduling Tip: Include all activities into the schedule
  2. How to schedule full/part time and flex workers in your call center?
  3. Six simple strategies for improved call center schedule adherence.
  4. How to forecast and schedule for multiple channels - calls, emails, chat

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What is workforce management?

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Workforce management in a call center is the art and science of having the right number of employees, with the right skills at the right times to meet accurately forecasted volumes of work and to do all that at a predetermined service level and minimized costs. Workforce management is a critical task for call centers and poor planning and execution can have a negative impact on the business (revenues, cost), customers (satisfaction) and also employees (motivation/burn-out). Key tasks of workforce management include the following activities:

1. Calculation of an accurate forecast

  • Collect call history data
  • Identify call patterns (day, week, season, etc.)
  • Identify special day patterns (holidays, etc.)
  • Identify other event or business drivers that might impact call volume/pattern


2. Calculation of staffing requirements

  • Define Service level, ASA and average handle time
  • Calculate workload
  • Define staffing requirements


3. Creation of schedule

  • Include all activities (call and non-call) into schedule
  • Build in flexibility (start/end times, breaks, multi-skill, etc.)
  • Create schedule for 15 or 30 minute increments


4. Monitoring and managing adherence

  • Inform and educate about adherence importance and impact
  • Measure and manage adherence throughout the day (real-time adherence)
  • Provide incentives


5. Managing exceptions and changes throughout the day

  • Changes in call volume or arrival pattern
  • Staffing or scheduling issues
  • Business related exceptions


6. Measuring and adjusting

  • Analyze daily/weekly reports
  • Investigate causes for under-performance
  • Apply learnings into workforce management process


Many organizations still employ a manual approach to workforce management. By relying on paper- or spreadsheet-generated estimates, they lack any way to accurately measure the degree of adherence to the schedule. Reporting, if done at all, is a nightmare. The end product is too much time and effort spent managing staff for little return.
Workforce management software helps organizations to automate key tasks that have an immediate impact on the bottom line through more accurate call volume forecasting, optimized scheduling and daily performance tracking in real-time.


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What is Cloud Computing?

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Everybody talks about cloud computing, but do you really know what it is, how it works, if it might be something for your business and how it could benefit your call center. There is a great video on YouTube that explains What is Cloud Computing - posted by Salesforce.com. Obviously, this video focuses on CRM, however, the principles are the same for call center software such as workforce management and scheduling.


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Call center shrinkage - why does it get more difficult to manage?

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The increasing complexity of call center configurations with multiple locations, many time zones, more demanding customer interactions, and new communication channels make it more difficult to manage shrinkage. You cannot any longer manage the shrinkage in today’s complex centers just by standing up and looking out across your center or using a manual/spreadsheet based approach. Here are some of the challenges centers need to overcome:

  • Distributed call centers and home agents make it more difficult to manage and track breaks, attendance, exceptions, etc.
  • Multiple communication channels (phone, email, chat, social media, etc.) make it more difficult to manage shrinkage without appropriate tools to forecast, schedule and track adherence for each channel.
  • Some call centers have no effective way to forecast and schedule non-call activities such as breaks, meetings, unplanned discussions – resulting in shrinkage.

Therefore, shrinkage becomes more of an issue for call centers that don’t leverage WFM solutions. Usually, they 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. Learn more about how to reduce shrinkage by watching the on demand webinar "Strategies for improved call center schedule adherence". In this educational webinar, industry expert Penny Reynolds from the The Call Center School, shares proven practices on schedule adherence that have resulted in increased availability and reduced shrinkage.


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Scheduling Spreadsheets: Are they a low cost alternative for your call center?

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Many small to medium size call centers still use spreadsheets to forecast and manage call center schedules and workforce planning, assuming that it is a sufficient tool for fewer agents. Quite to the contrary, it is more difficult to manage fewer agents in a small to medium size center, and here is why:
  • Behavior of individual agents have bigger impact on overall center performance;
  • Fewer agents need to multi-task, making skill-based scheduling more complex;
  • It is more difficult to correct the schedule once it has been upset by unexpected events.
Staffing is the most expensive resource in the entire call center budget (60 to 80%), therefore, even a 1% increase in productivity will significantly impact the bottom line. Read more in this short whitepaper The Real Costs of Spreadsheet Based Scheduling.

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Great online event about Call Center Schedule Adherence

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Yesterday, we hosted an extremely well attended webast with the topic: "Six simple strategies for improved call center schedule adherence." People asked a lot of great questions and we had lots of interactions during this online event about the following topics:

  1. How to quantify the cost and service implications of missing staff
  2. Learn about options for setting adherence performance goals
  3. How to identify the reasons why staff don't adhere to the schedule plan
  4. How to develop reward and consequence programs that support adherence goals
  5. How to effectively track, monitor and measure adherence

In case you missed it, here is the link to the recorded session - enjoy!


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Call center workforce management from anywhere – with your mobile device

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In the ongoing effort to make schedules more flexible and better address fluctuating call volumes and also give agents more flexibility, more call centers implement web based communication tools to collaborate between agents and supervisors in almost real-time. With new wireless, high bandwidth devices, these web-based tools can be literally available from anywhere. Here are few examples:

  • Get alerts on mobile devices based on thresholds (service level, adherence, etc.)
  • Monitor adherence from anywhere and be able to act right away
  • Manage schedule changes on the spot and adjust staffing as needed
  • Manage exception handling between agents and supervisors, especially across multiple locations.
  • Shift bidding: Open up shifts for bidding and assign agents right from the mobile device

With more call center solutions offered in the "cloud", it becomes easier to use those applications on a mobile device through a web browser.


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How to improve schedule adherence in your call center

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One of the most challenging jobs related to managing any call center, is often ensuring there is the right number of staff with the right skills available at the right times of the day. How do you get your staff to show up for work on time and stick to their planned schedule and break times?

Monet Software is sponsoring a free webinar that exactly addresses this topic: "Six simple strategies for improved call center schedule adherence." Please join our special guest speaker and industry expert, Penny Reynolds from the The Call Center School, for this webinar on May 11th. She will share with you proven practices on schedule adherence that have resulted in increased availability. Please register here.


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Upcoming webinar: Best practices in call center scheduling

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If you are a call center manager, supervisor or WFM analyst and face one, many or even all of the following challenges:

  • Need to schedule phone and non-phone activities
  • Need to optimize the mix of full/part-time and flexible workers
  • Experience poor agent adherence
  • Need to schedule multiple channels, such as phone, email, ...

... then you should join us for our upcoming webinar "Best practices in call center scheduling" that will be hosted on March 30, 2011 at 10 am PST. We will talk about the following:

  • Schedule optimization: How to properly handle call, non-call activities and exceptions, breaks, lunches, training, etc.
  • Schedule adjustment: How to deal with call volume fluctuations and adjust schedules
  • Schedule adherence: How to set goals, measure adherence and keep agents motivated to adhere to schedules.

We hope you can join us.


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Six strategies for improved call center schedule adherence

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One of the toughest jobs related to managing any call center may not be the calculations of proper forecasting nor the numerous iterations of coming up with the best schedule mix. The hardest part is often ensuring there is the right number of staff with the right skills in their seats at the right times of the day. So how do you get staff to show up for work on time and stick to their planned break times as well as generally acceptable time on various work tasks?

We are very excited that our special guest speaker and industry expert, Penny Reynoldsfrom the The Call Center School, will share with you proven practices on schedule adherence.

What attendees will learn?

  • Quantify the cost and service implications of missing staff
  • Identify ways to communicate and educate staff on the “power of one” in call center staffing.
  • Describe options for setting adherence performance goals and selling to the staff
  • Identify the reasons why staff don't adhere to the schedule plan
  • Identify reward and consequence programs that support adherence goals

We are looking forward to having you join us for this free webinar.


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How does workforce management software impact call center staffing?

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Granted, you can do basic forecasting and scheduling with a spreadsheet. So, where is the real value of a workforce management solution then? Based on customer feedback, you can achieve improved staffing accuracy; get more visibility into call center operations and schedule adherence throughout the day, faster react to fluctuations in call volumes and better handle exceptions.

  • More accurate forecasting: Starting with an accurate forecast and optimized schedule will more likely achieve the targeted service level (avoid under-staffing) at the lowest possible cost (avoid over-staffing). WFM solutions allows you to easily run different scenarios, forecast special days, and include call history more effectively to achieve high accuracy.
  • Better manage call and non-call activities: One of the top challenges of many call centers is how to forecast and schedule non-call activities. WFM solutions make non-call activities part of the forecasting and scheduling process.
  • Schedule flexibility for higher productivity: With a WFM solution call centers are able to implement a more flexible schedule to address center needs (fluctuating call volumes) and agents needs (flexible start/end time, time off), resulting in higher center productivity.
  • Improved schedule adherence resulting in reduced shrinkage: With real-time adherence and adherence reports you can more effectively work with agents on reducing shrinkage. You can better educate agents about impact of adherence and set measurable goals. You can share adherence reports with agents, discuss causes for out-of-adherence and discover ways for improvement as a team effort. In addition, you are able to provide incentives to motivate adherence behavior.

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Important call center metrics: schedule adherence

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In our recent post about the importance of call center metrics we talked about the need to break down the goals and objectives from an organizational level, to a call center level, all the way down to an agent level. One such metric that is critical for most call centers is schedule or agent adherence. Let's define how it gets measured and discuss ways to improve it.

What call center adherence measures? It can be considered a measure of agent productivity. It measures the percentage of time an agent is actively working on the phone compared to the time the agent is supposed to be on the phone based on the schedule. For a more detailed discussion about adherence, please check out the whitepaper "Strategies for Improving Schedule Adherence".

Potential causes for out-of-adherence and ways for improvement:

  • Agents might not be familiar with the individual impact of adherence on overall service levels: Educate them and explain how a 10 or 20 minutes out-of-adherence can have a big negative impact on the overall service level of the whole group or call center.
  • Lack of clear definition of phone and non-phone activities: Clearly communicate the different types and explain what is included in the schedule.
  • Schedule is too rigid: Can create too much pressure for agents and the need to take extra "breaks". Evaluate the situation and talk to your team.
  • Schedule is too flexible: Lack of accountability might result in out-of-adherence. Again, evaluate and discuss with your team. Also, there are ways to include flexibility into your schedule using tools or software, such as shift bidding.
  • Adherence doesn't get measured and tracked: You can only manage what you measure, therefore, you need to find a way to measure adherence. Set clear goals, communicate to your team, measure adherence and review with your teamon a regular basis. You can also consider using incentives for "good" adherence behavior.
  • Forecast and/or scheduling assumptions and calculations might be inaccurate: Make sure to include all call and non-call activities into your schedule.

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How to make a call center schedule work for your staff

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An optimized call center schedule becomes even better when your team is satisfied or even really happy with their assigned shifts. Of course, that is not an easy task, but here are some tips that might be of help for call center managers and supervisors:

  • Shift bidding: This can be done in different ways. You can either open up for bidding every 6 months, or you can facilitate bidding on a more regular basis and make it part of the scheduling process. This frequent bidding becomes easier when you use a web-based tool that allows agents and supervisor to collaborate on shift bidding and trading.
  • Shift trading: This can be done even without lots of administrative work. Agents can trade their shifts on a day-by-day basis, assuming it only happens a few times per month for each agent. Otherwise, it might get difficult to keep track of who is scheduled.
  • Flexible start- and end-times: Allow agents to come in later (an hour or two) or to work longer hours on certain days (based on the needs of the call center and based on their personal needs). However, this needs to get administered properly to make sure hours don't "get lost". In addition, as posted to this blog, there are other ways to provide more flexibility.

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Workforce Management Software Comparison - Cloud versus Installed Software

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The following section compares the cloud- based and the on premise software model in more detail and illustrates how the different models would impact the cost, implementation, usage and success of the Workforce Management solution in your organization:

Set up and implementation
Cloud: Fast set up, vendor creates new account. Users access the solution through a web browser.
On Premise: Takes time to purchase, install and configure both the hardware and software.

Upfront investment
Cloud: No upfront investment for software/hardware. Subscription fee typically includes support, maintenance and upgrades.
On Premise: Large upfront investment for hardware and software, installation, configuration and implementation.

Operating costs
Cloud: Shared services infrastructure dramatically reduces the cost for operating and maintaining servers.
On Premise: Running your own server operation, including back ups, maintenance, upgrades and hardware replacement result in higher costs.

Scalability and performance
Cloud: Multi-tenant architecture and "elastic cloud computing" platform allows for maximum scalability of data-intensive scheduling scenarios.
On Premise: The purchased/installed server(s) in your environment limit the scalability and performance of installed software.

Software upgrades
Cloud: Automated upgrade procedures ensure customer are always on the latest version without the need for manual upgrade procedures.
On Premise: Upgrading software is often postponed due to the vast effort and costs. New features to improve scheduling won’t get implemented.

Implementation success
Cloud: Vendors have a financial incentive to make customers successful, solve issues and maintain them as a long term customer.
On Premise: High upfront license fees might lower motivation for vendors to help make the solution work and solve your issues; software may not get fully utilized.

Usability
Cloud: The new web-based user interfaces of cloud-based solutions typically focus strongly on usability and are often easier to use and faster to learn.
On Premise: Traditionally, older client-server software was not optimized for usability, making it more difficult for the user to take advantage of the software features.

Investment risk
Cloud: Lower risk - if the customer is not satisfied with the solution they might be able to cancel the agreement or switch to another vendor.
On Premise: Higher risk through a huge upfront investment that "locks" customer in, even if the solution ends up not meeting the their needs.


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Tips for improved contact center agent scheduling

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We have published several tips for more effective call center scheduling on this blog over the last year. We have summarized those tips in a short Call center scheduling whitepaper. If you didn't have the chance to download it, please do. You will learn about:

  • Shrinkage
  • Flexible shift-models
  • Schedule adherence
  • Multi-skilled agents
  • Activities to include into schedule
  • and more

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Checklist for evaluating workforce management software solutions

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When selecting a workforce management solution for a small to medium sized call center you should consider the following criteria:

1. Key capabilities

  • Does it accurately forecast call volumes by supporting the use of historical data and real-time ACD integration?
  • Can you create schedules based on ‘what-if” scenarios, different shift patterns, skill levels and other criteria?
  • Can you easily include agent exceptions (e.g. training, time-off) into the schedule?
  • Can you make intra-day changes to forecast and schedule based on changing call volumes ‘on the fly’ during the work day?
  • Does it give you visibility into agent adherence in real-time?
  • Can you produce performance management reports?

2. Time and resources to implement

  • How long does it take to implement the solution from start to finish? When can you actually begin to get benefits from the solution? (Days, weeks or months?)
  • Can I use the solution over the web without equipment purchase or do I need to buy and install hardware and software?
  • How many people do I need (vendor and own company) to implement the solution?

3. Total cost of purchasing, running and maintaining the solution

  • Upfront: What are the total upfront costs for software, hardware, integration and implementation?
  • Ongoing: What are the ongoing monthly or annual costs such as subscription, maintenance, support, upgrade fees?
  • Other costs: Many solutions have hidden costs that many vendors don’t mention but occur within your company such as: your IT people installing and operating the server, your people helping to implement the solution, integration costs, yearly upgrade costs, etc.

4. Usability

  • Is the solution easy and intuitive for non-IT people to use, making sure that you get the most out of it?
  • Does the solution focus on your call center needs? Many solutions have feature overload that are often contra-productive, especially for small and medium size call centers.

5. Risk

  • Every solution carries a success risk within a given work environment, and you should evaluate that risk. If for whatever reason, the solution doesn’t work for you, can you “return it” or “turn it off” with no or limited financial risk?

6. ROI and payback

  • You purchase a WFM solution to either enhance your ability to grow business or reduce operational costs, or both. So it’s important to clearly understand how long added business or cost savings actually take to recoup the system costs. The sooner the solution begins working for you and the lower the upfront costs, the sooner you realize cost and business operational benefits.

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The importance of accurate call center forecasting

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Accurate forecasting is critical to successfully managing your workforce. In order to meet call demand without under-staffing or over-staffing, you need methods that precisely predicts how many agents are needed to handle the center's contact volume. However, predicting the “future” is challenging. Based on a DMG report in 2010, survey participants listed the following five forecasting challenges:

  • Need to forecast for multiple skill sets
  • Changing business needs negate usefulness of historical volume data
  • Volume driven by external events, not controlled by company
  • Volume is seasonal varies greatly
  • Volume patterns change frequently, making projections difficult

Here are some tips and best practices that might help you:

Develop "what if" scenarios to explore how a change in call volume or service level goals during a specific day or week would affect your center. Read more about “How to forecast special days

Create regular intra-day forecast updates throughout the day, and calculate a new forecast based on what has already occurred to establish trends that will help you in future decisions. Read more about “Intra-day forecasting

Forecast and schedule based on response time and "urgency” of the various channels, such as calls, emails and chat. Read more about “Forecasting for multiple channels


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What is real-time schedule adherence, and why is it important?

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What is real-time adherence?
Real-time agent adherence compares 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. Managers and supervisors can compare agents' actual activities against their schedules, review a breakdown of adherence by activity, and manage exceptions. The also see when agents are available for calls and when they take their lunches and breaks based on predetermined schedules.

Why is real-time adherence important?
A key component to managing adherence is shrinkage, which is the time for which agents are paid during times when they are not available to handle calls. Shrinkage can dramatically affect your center's ability to meet service levels. Real-time adherence provides you the capabilities and tools to manage and reduce shrinkage.

  • Monitor agent status in real-time
  • Receive instant alerts for out-of-adherence states
  • View agent exceptions in real-time and approve or deny right away
  • Monitor and analyze key performance indicators and trends to reforecast, reschedule, and adjust staffing
  • Track and compare forecasted and actual center statistics
  • Schedule overtime or time off during high and low call volume situations
  • Evaluate adherence and take action to improve performance
To learn more about this topic, please read this whitepaper "Strategies for Improving Schedule Adherence".

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How to forecast and schedule for multiple channels - calls, emails, chat

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With more electronic media such as email, chat, twitter, etc. being used in customer communication in addition to calls, the question of forecasting and scheduling resources for those channel becomes more important. Here are 3 suggestions that might help you better manage multiple channels in your service center:

1. Forecast and schedule based on response time and "urgency” of the various channels:

2. Two models for forecasting workload for non-call channels:

  • Use transaction history for each channel: If you have historical numbers, you can forecast based on those:
    =># of emails, average work time for email, efficiency
    => 100 emails/day, 5 min per email, 8.3 hours
    => Apply efficiency factor: 90% => 9.25 hours

  • If you don't have exact numbers, you can use a shrinkage factor: e.g. 10% for email work

3. Potential approaches for scheduling
  • Fully blended: Agents work all channels as work arrives. The danger of this is that agents burn out and is therefore not recommended.
  • Banded work: Schedule time blocks based on agent availability throughout the day. Find time "pockets" in the core schedule where agents are available

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Call Center Scheduling Tip #6: Keep top talent on your team

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How to keep your talent? Make sure you accommodate scheduling needs and provide schedule visibility to your call center team members. Top agents will be more likely to stay loyal and productive because of their understanding of how their needs and your schedule can match up. Here are some ideas and suggestions:

  • Involve your agents: Survey about preferences and personal needs and work with them to match those with the needs of the business.
  • Rank your agents: Creating a schedule by agent rank can be very effective in achieving certain goals of you business (e.g. cost or revenue goals). You can rank agents according to call completion time, call 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 in call centers. Your schedule should leverage this by teaming up the “right people”.

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