Workforce Management Hints, Tips & Best Practices
Workforce Management (WFM) software has played a vital role in helping contact centers improve customer service. Those that utilize WFM have discovered how it has boosted the accuracy of forecasts and schedules, and calculates necessary resources based on historical data and other variables that would be very difficult to assess any other way.
However, contact centers are also impacted by such back-office functions as sales, marketing and shipping, which may fall outside the purview of the company’s WFM solution. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
More companies are now discovering the benefits of WFM for the back office, which delivers more precise data and analytics on typical back office operations. Now, it’s possible to achieve the same level of transparency and statistical accuracy on any manual tasks, processes and work times. Please also see our previous post on this topic.
When the back office is in sync with the front office, the result is a streamlined operation that is better for management, contact center agents and customers.
Want some tips for back office WFM strategies? Check out this
by Call Centre Helper, which offers more information on how to set up a consolidated view of all functions, and how to involve key personnel throughout the organization in this effort.
Read More About Strategies and Tips for Back Office Workforce Management
Precise planning can make the difference between contact centers
operating at optimal efficiency, and those with personnel and resources
that are not properly utilized. A proactive approach is
necessary to formulate such detailed plans, especially when working with
a workforce management solution such as Monet’s WFM Live. Here are 3
tips that should help make staffing more efficient and reliable:
Plan outbound calls for case management as non-call work Run roster performance simulations several days in advance Hire flexible part-time and full-time agents When it’s Important to be Reactive?
So does that mean being a
reactive analyst is somehow less important? There are times when it is
vital to ensure schedule coverage and streamlined workflow. Once again,
having the right technology in place can make all the difference.
How can you spot an effective, reactive analyst? He or she is the one who:
Creates employee templates for standard agent types (such as
customer service 9-5, cross-skilled overnight, escalations & level 2
afternoon shift) to build a roster that achieves different coverage
patterns quickly Schedules meetings in advance with a meeting planner function during times when coverage is acceptable Facilitates schedule change requests and agent shift swaps Creates roster shifts when there are coverage gaps for agents to bid
on. Agents submit requests which supervisors can approve, to fill and
re-balance the “required vs. assigned” figures
All of these services are more easily and accurately provided with the
right tools. Find out more about how Monet can help managers and
analysts achieve their service goals.
To get more tips and best practices, please
or check out our
workforce management resource library
Read More About Tips for Proactive and Reactive Contact Center Management
Give almost any company an unlimited budget, and it will probably
succeed. Unfortunately, few companies can rely on such generous
resources. The challenge for today’s businesses, including contact
centers, is to get the most out of what’s available.
center managers have become experts at doing more with less, and
prioritizing goals. This means keeping the primary focus on customer
service in the front office. Too often, that leaves the back office,
which also performs several vital functions, at a disadvantage. Is it possible to bring the same tools that benefit the front office to the back office, and stay within budget? Workforce Management is the Key Fortunately,
the same workforce management (WFM) solution that has made your front
office more efficient can have the same impact on back office tasks.
Workforce Management helps contact centers better align and manage their
resources so that service levels continue to be met, while costs are
controlled. Back-office tasks are often manual and complex,
making it difficult to automate, manage and forecast workload. With WFM,
contact centers can improve service levels. And with WFM in the cloud,
the company further reduces both costs and headaches, as it avoids the
upfront expenses and IT requirements of traditional workforce management
software. With workforce management for the back office, it’s possible to: Improve forecast accuracy of manual back-office tasks and activities Deliver more efficient resource planning and scheduling to consistently meet service levels and control costs Increase employee productivity by monitoring adherence, backlog and
other metrics in real-time, allowing for more immediate actions Track and analyze key metrics to optimize service quality and back-office performance
Let’s take a closer look at what is possible with the right tools in
place and extending contact center workforce management to the back
Forecasting Use back office WFM to run simulations that
will calculate a precise forecast for future call volume, agent
requirements and average handle time for any time interval of the day,
based on historical data from ACD. Scheduling WFM can
incorporate all call types and other activities to generate staffing
schedules that optimize a wide range of factors, including agent
availability, work rules, skills, holidays, breaks, service levels and
Intra-day Management Real-time updates are as critical
here as they are in front office management. WFM can help to require and
assign agents instantly, and display surpluses and shortages for each
time period of the day. Exception Planning While
exception planning is often a challenge, there are workforce management
solutions with integrated exception calendars to simplify this task. Now
managers will always know when agents are off, or in training meetings.
Performance Analysis Easily report and analyze all
agent activities including their schedule adherence and key performance
indicators. Managers can review service level results, costs and
revenue. All of these capabilities can make a critical difference
in back office operations. But while adherence was previously
referenced, it deserves closer attention, as staffing remains the single
biggest cost facing any contact center. Schedule adherence in real time
allows managers to compare planned agent activity to actual activities
throughout the day, to determine whether staffing decisions were
appropriate for any given shift. When every minute counts, WFM
can monitor and record the real-time status of agents in the call
center, and deliver alerts when agents are out of adherence, so
schedules can be adjusted accordingly.
Choosing a Back Office WFM Solution Different contact centers
may have different priorities, but (in addition to those previously
described) here are some of the attributes that should be part of your
next workforce management solution. Multi-Channel Efficiencies The
same WFM solution that forecasts, schedules and assigns resources for
your front office should provide the same functionality to the back
office. Clear and Organized Dashboards It should be
possible to track and monitor key performance metrics for both front
office and back office from one dashboard. Doing so delivers greater
insights in resource needs and allocation, resulting in better customer
service. Intra-Day Visibility Visibility into backlogs,
workforce availability, employee activities and efficiencies throughout
the day makes it easier for a contact center manager to take a
proactive approach in managing back-office activities. Integration The
system should easily integrate with the contact center’s ACD or PBX
systems, through pre-built adaptors. Adherence and call history should
be enabled when these systems are able to talk to each other in real
time. WFM in the Cloud Compared with traditional workforce management software, a cloud-based WFM solution allows companies to: Reduce upfront costs: Eliminate
the significant investment just to get started, which would typically
require the purchase of hardware, databases, and software licenses, as
well as additional costs for installation and IT staff to support the
system. Cloud-based WFM saves both time and money because there are no
infrastructure costs. Get started faster: Rather than
having to ramp-up to a six- to twelve-month (or more) implementation,
WFM solutions enable companies to start managing their workforce in the
cloud within a matter of weeks. Connect anywhere: With
the cloud, WFM can be accessed anywhere—whether on the other side of
town or the other side of the world, with a computer and a standard web
browser. Minimize ongoing costs: Cloud-based WFM software
doesn’t just save money during the implementation phase. Contact
centers save time and money in the long term as well. The WFM firm
supports all maintenance of the system, including free software upgrades
and troubleshooting. Companies also benefit from the ability to quickly
customize or add modules via a single, web-based interface. Pay-as-you-go:
Contact centers pay only for the capacity and infrastructure that are
actually used, typically based on number of users. This usage-based,
pay-as-you-go subscription pricing approach saves money while also
delivering the flexibility to quickly scale to manage the demands of
changing contact center sizes. Conclusion Back office
workforce management offers the benefit of extending front office
operational efficiency into back office processing environments. It
automates manual processes, improves forecast accuracy, enables managers
to view and manage resource capacity and adherence to scheduled tasks,
and empowers employees to self-manage scheduling and time-off requests.
Please talk to us if you would like to learn more about back office workforce management.
Read More About Workforce Management for the Back Office
Accurate forecasting, scheduling and staffing for a Helpdesk can be a
more difficult challenge than doing so for standard contact center
Many calls to contact center agents cover basic ordering, returning,
questions etc. that can be handled in a few minutes. But the typical
helpdesk call may incorporate several complex activities that must be
handled by different people with different skill sets.
An effective workforce management solution is the key to making a
helpdesk run smoothly and efficiently, so cases get closed as quickly as
possible with a positive outcome.
Forecasting, scheduling and assigning activities more effectively can
optimize case resolution. WFM makes this possible. Managers can match
available resources to the specific requirements of each case. By
integrating workforce optimization in the WFM solution, case and
activity assignment is further optimized, and managers will always be
confident that their resources are being allocated in the best way
Best of all, the data is available in real-time, so managers will always
have insight into case handling and activity assignments as they occur.
Make adjustments as needed, whether that involves adding or reassigning
agents, to improve turnaround time.
A helpdesk is there to take on the tougher challenges. With a Workforce
Management system in place that support helpdesks, even the most
difficult cases can be resolved in a way that customers will appreciate.
You can learn more about Workforce Management for Helpdesks on our website, or just contact us and we are happy to show you how it works.
Read More About Workforce Management for the Helpdesk
“Planning for the unexpected” may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s an important aspect of contact center management.
It’s possible to do because activities that could be classified as unexpected would not be surprising to a manager – breaks, vacations, training sessions, days off. The only aspect of these activities that is unexpected is when they might happen. Planning for them is made much easier by utilizing the
intra-day management and exception management
capabilities of a workforce management solution.
Using a graphical display of agent schedules, a manager can drag and drop breaks, lunches and other exceptions to adjust the contact center schedule as needed. Real-time updates are instantly recorded, and any surpluses or shortages are displayed for any part of the day. When the unexpected occurs, managers will instantly know the best way to react without sacrificing customer service.
The best workforce management solutions, such as Monet WFM Live, provide a fully integrated Exception Planner, with the ability to schedule exceptions such as vacations, training meetings, jury duty, etc. These can be scheduled far into the future or recorded as recurring exceptions.
While many of these activities can be documented days or weeks in advance, the Exception Planner also supports mid-day exceptions as they occur, taking them into account while choosing shifts and scheduling breaks.
Read More About Planning for the Unexpected In the Contact Center
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.
Read More About Intra-day Workforce Management? It’s as Easy as “Drag and Drop”
Proactive contact center managers focus on staying ahead of the curve.
That means careful, strategic planning, calculating all of the variables
and delivering accurate forecasts and schedules that are flexible
enough to accommodate last minute changes.
Sounds like a challenge, but with Monet WFM, the process becomes easier,
more precise and more flexible. Managers now have the capability to
track intra-day trends for immediate adjustments, and for optimal
schedule creation, which helps contact centers consistently meet service
levels and control costs.
Here are a few additional tips that will help managers striving to become proactive. Enter time off exceptions, meetings and training before the roster
is generated to close gaps in roster assignments or shift placement; but
if you must enter them afterward, the WFM system can automatically
optimize them in a way that reduces manager overhead Impromptu training sessions are easier to schedule with little to no impact by using the meeting planner function Wider lunch and break windows are made possible by flexible shift profiles Enter the maximum allowable time in the Exception Calendar/Time off
Manager – this provides more visibility for agents and prevents
schedulers from over-committing to time-off, which could impact contact
These and other tips make staffing more efficient and more reliable
through better results for agents, supervisors and administrators.
Can Monet help you get more from your WFM solution? Contact our Customer Success team and let’s talk.
Read More About How to be a Proactive Workforce Management Analyst
As many companies have discovered in recent years, the Cloud model of
delivery has numerous advantages over the traditional hosted or ASP
models of the past. These offerings are often confused but, not
addressing the fundamental differences, have a huge impact on your call
center business. The traditional hosted model is simply
hosting a client server or web application on a server at the vendor’s
or 3rd party data center. The vendor then provides an application that
was not originally designed to be hosted, over the web, with a few
changes, and delivers it to each customer via a single, dedicated
server. It lacks a multi-tenant architecture and requires separate
servers and installations for each customer. Much more costly and less
scalable, it also requires support for multiple releases, which is very
resource intensive. Typically, vendors who sell on-premise software may
offer a hosted model for on-demand options and sometimes misleadingly
call it SaaS or Cloud. The Cloud-based model uses a
totally new multi-tenant architecture that was designed to efficiently
and securely deliver web-based applications at the lowest possible cost.
It focuses on fast set up, low operating costs through shared services,
highest security for web-based deployment and high performance and
scalability through instant and seamless scaling of computer resources
(also called “elastic cloud computing”). This ensures available
computing capacity when you need it and only when you need it, at the
lowest possible cost. Both models are offered through subscriptions and often seem to be similar, but they are not. In previous blog post about the true cloud we list key questions you should ask vendors before making a decision.
Read More About Workforce Management Software: Cloud or Hosted?
Forecasting and scheduling are vital components in the success of every
call center management. Achieving consistent results requires a little
art and a little science, but is impossible without concrete data.
For decades, that data was gathered through spreadsheets, and would take
hours to compile. Even then, the results were not always accurate, or
flexible enough to accommodate last minute changes or other staffing
An automated workforce management (WFM) and optimization (WFO) solution
can help you to implement Best Practices. You can easily improve
forecast accuracy and in turn, optimize schedule assignment, making sure
all the necessary resources are always in place. An integrated WFO
solution allows a manager to check KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)
against historical data. In a typical call center a manager will ask
such questions as:
“When I see that my agents’ Average Talk Time has exceeded the target,
does this result in more abandons and a poor service level?”
“If a longer talk time is causing more abandons, are there agents that
are still able meet all of their quality monitoring goals while keeping a
low talk time?”
By analyzing data in an integrated WFO tool, a manager can then
reference what processes allowed some agents to have a lower talk time
while meeting their quality targets, and then train the rest of the
workforce using these processes. At that point, a lower Average Talk
Time goal may be set for the entire center, resulting in happier
customers getting their calls answered more quickly and less overall
“Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling: Best Practices” details how WFO
improves the likelihood of creating reliable forecasts and accurate
schedules. There are also sections on how WFM impacts agent
productivity, and which criteria are most important when selecting a WFM
Click here to download Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling: Best Practices.
Read More About How effective is your call center forecasting and scheduling process?
Staffing is the most expensive resource in the call center budget, so
any improvement in productivity can have a significant impact.
What if there was a way to cut your staffing costs by as much as 20%,
while also reducing the amount of time you now devote to forecasting and
It’s possible – just by switching from spreadsheets to a Workforce Management solution.
Spreadsheets were a great idea for call center staffing, forecasting and
scheduling – last century. Today, there are faster, easier ways to
handle these vital functions that are also more accurate, more
agent-friendly, and more economical for call centers of all sizes.
With a WFM solution such as Monet WFM Live, managers have the
flexibility to adjust to unexpected events, manage exceptions more
efficiently, and reduce shrinkage by as much as 15 minutes per agent per
WFM Live offers a number of additional benefits as well, including:
• Easier skill-based scheduling
• Real-time adherence monitoring and analysis
• Less time required for scheduling
• Improved service levels
Isn’t it Time For a Better Solution?
Monet WFM Live represents a quantum leap forward from spreadsheets, at a
cost within reach of any size call center. We invite you to watch a
short workforce management video so you can see yourself how the solution might help you reduce costs in your contact center.
Read More About Can You Reduce Contact Center Staffing Costs by 20%?
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? Each
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? WFM
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? For
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? Call
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? Call
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?
Read More About Is it Time for a Workforce Management Health Check?
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.
Read More About Is Your Workforce Management Software on the Most Current Version?
At some call centers, periods of call volume stability are followed by
days or weeks where the numbers will fluctuate more noticeably. And
that’s the best-case scenario. With other contact centers
attached to companies where new special offers, seasonal promotions and
other aggressive marketing tactics are employed, fluctuations are more
commonplace and even more difficult to predict. How can a manager create
an accurate forecast and schedule in these circumstances? Here are 5
tips that might help. 1. Analyze call history Very few
events in a call center are completely unique. Whatever is happening
this week or next week has happened before, and by using 1-2 years of
call history, it is easier to anticipate the impact of an approaching
event, based on what happened when a similar event occurred previously. 2. Run scenarios Forecasting
simulations based on 2-3 potential outcomes can help managers analyze
routing policies and incoming call volume. That leads to more accurate
forecasts and schedules. 3. Include all activities Call-related
activities are the primary data source, and it’s important to get a
handle on incoming call load, average handle time, etc. But non-call
related activities such as breaks, training sessions and meetings must
also be considered – something that is much easier to do with an
automated system (as opposed to spreadsheets). 4. Track internal and external events. You
know about the big sale coming up, and what that is likely to do to
call volume. You can see the holiday approaching on the calendar and can
foresee its impact by what happened last year. But there are other
factors that will be unique to the day for which you are forecasting and
scheduling. For instance, if the weather is supposed to be bad more
customers might shop from home, which would require more call center
resources. 5. Stay flexible The more rigid the
schedule, the more likely it will fall short of expectations. Built-in
flexibility allows managers to be prepared for unforeseen fluctuations.
Read More About Forecasting and Scheduling When Call Volume is Inconsistent
How accurate are your call center forecasts? If they’re consistently
missing the mark, then chances are the business is constantly dealing
with overstaffing or understaffing, customer service issues and
budgeting problems. Thus, forecasting becomes one of the most
significant daily challenges on a manager’s schedule. But it’s a
challenge that becomes manageable with a workforce management (WFM)
solution that handles much of the processing and calculations
automatically. Unfortunately, many call centers are still working
with Excel spreadsheets to create forecasts. And these spreadsheets
simply do not have the same functionality as WFM solutions. Below is a
list of key points, but if you would like to get the full story, please
download the whitepaper: The Real Cost of Spreadsheet Based Forecasting and Scheduling. What aren’t you getting with spreadsheets?
Call volume history – this can play a significant role in
determining forecasts and schedules, and WFM delivers it automatically.
Simulations – by running automated simulations, managers can
discover flaws in a forecast and correct them before it’s too late.
Excel does not provide that capability.
Coverage of other customer contact points – today’s call centers are
really contact centers, accessible not just by phone but email and
online chat as well. Forecasting staff needs for all of these channels
is difficult with spreadsheets, but manageable with WFM. Forecasting by call type – predicting the types of calls coming in
makes it easier to staff a shift with the agents best qualified to
handle them, and to make sure you don’t have too many or too few at the
same time. Not possible with Excel, but simple with WFM.
For some contact centers with very limited call volume fluctuation, a
spreadsheet may suffice. But how many of these businesses experience the
same call flows all the time? Better to be prepared for whatever
tomorrow has in store, with an automated workforce management solution.
Read More About The Limitations of Call Forecasting in Excel Spreadsheets
“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. 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.
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.
Read More About Workforce Management Software vs. Scheduling Spreadsheets
There are innumerable responsibilities inherent in call center
management, but the most significant is the delivery of satisfactory
customer service. This is the only basis on which customers will assess
their experience, and figures prominently in both client retention and
the acquisition of new business.
Thus, one of the manager’s primary tasks is to create a model that
correlates all of the call center’s operations that affect the customer
experience, to best determine the drivers for effective service
delivery. In most cases the result will list three major areas:
• Call Center Personnel
• Call Center Processes
• Call Center Technology
While each of these categories is important in and of itself, call
center management also explores whether they interact in a complementary
manner, or if there is a disconnect that can result in service
interruption. The most sophisticated technology will not be as effective
without agents who know how to use it properly; conversely, the most
qualified and courteous agent can be limited by technology that does not
process calls efficiently.
Call Center Personnel
A call center agent is on the front line of the company’s customer
service effort. Thus it falls to the call center manager to make sure
that agents receive the proper training, are monitored regularly and
receive additional coaching as needed.
Once qualified, motivated agents are in place, another key component of
call center management is retaining their services, in an industry where
high turnover is all too frequent. The decisions made by a manager and
human resources team will have direct impact on this effort,
particularly in how agents are empowered to resolve customer issues, and
how much freedom they are allotted within the forecasting and
scheduling practices of the call center.
In general, organizations that have fewer empowered employees have
higher turnover. This suggests that agents prefer having more
responsibility, without being directed by company policy to transfer a
high percentage of calls to a specialist or supervisor. If training is
implemented correctly, agents should feel comfortable dealing with a
broad range of customer issues.
Turnover is to be avoided not only from a customer service perspective,
but also because of the higher costs associated with recruiting and
training new personnel. Call centers with higher average tenures tend to
also have lower turnover. These numbers are also lower in organizations
that offer opportunities for advancement and preferred schedule shifts.
And while money is also a factor, turnover is impacted more by work
environment than compensation. Call center management must take into
account whether the call center is a pleasant, professional and
supportive place to work.
Call Center Processes
Processes specify, in simplest terms, how things will be done. A partial list of these functions would include:
• Forecasting and scheduling
• Problem resolution
• Root cause analysis
• Scripting and call guidelines
• Agent performance management
• Hiring and training of agents
• Coaching and agent development
• Compliance with government and industry regulations
• Quality assurance
It is the manager’s responsibility to implement internal processes that
effectively utilize all of a call center’s resources and operations.
While “process” implies a system that is put in place and then demands
rigid adherence, managers must be aware of shifts in needs or attitudes
and be willing to change accordingly. Such flexibility can affect
customer satisfaction and employee turnover.
Call Center Technology
The right call center workforce solution,
perhaps more than any other component in a center’s operations, can
deliver the customer service results that a manager strives to achieve.
It has a profound and direct link to both the effectiveness of employees
and the efficiency of every call center process. The right technology
can make service delivery faster and more flexible, while achieving more
consistent results day after day, month after month, and year after
Investment in new or upgraded technology should be made with the
customer’s needs in mind. Will this investment impact capacity? Will it
shorten average wait time? Will it route calls to the most qualified
agents? Will it deliver the call recording and monitoring capabilities
necessary for effective coaching and training?
System complexity must also be taken into account, as the capabilities
of sophisticated technology can be limited by an agent’s ability to
understand them and utilize these assets to their full potential.
For smaller call centers with limited budgets and resources it’s
imperative to select the right technology solution that is both
cost-effective, and also provides the same benefits and advantages
traditionally enjoyed by those with larger IT budgets.
Cloud computing offers companies the option of transferring their IT
operations into a virtual environment, where they can develop, deploy,
and manage applications, and pay only for the time and capacity that
they need. For a smaller call center, this means the ability to
significantly lower upfront costs, while maintaining the option of
scaling up as needed.
There are environmental benefits to cloud computing as well. Information
can be stored in a climate that minimizes energy usage (and lowers
energy costs). And because servers can be shared in a virtual
environment, the result is fewer servers and a reduction in the power
required to operate and cool them. This helps to minimize a company’s
The Never-Ending Quest
Once personnel, processes and technology are in place, call center
management demands that each be reviewed to maintain standards and
improve customer satisfaction. Doing so will require the gathering of
both objective data (measurement of KPIs) and subjective data (feedback
from customers through surveys and focus groups, as well as quality
The closed-loop structure offers a guideline for quality management, and
helps the manager to establish links between technology, processes and
personnel, so that everyone is working from the same approved
procedures, and with the same goals in mind.
Step One: Formulate the Plan
What do you, as the manager, want the call center to achieve? What are
the goals for the next three months, six months, or year? Write them
down. Solicit input from agents.
Step Two: Create a Schedule
Executing the plan will require scheduling and staffing decisions that
will impact the customer experience. Having the right number of agents
on every shift, based on the day, the time of day, or other factors
(data collected by a call recording software system can guide these
decisions) should make it easier for customers to have their calls
answered without prolonged delays.
Step Three: Gather Data
Once the plan has been implemented, review the results after a
sufficient period of time has elapsed. Measure the performance
Step Four: Close the Loop
With this data in hand, analyze and explore additional opportunities to
improve customer service and retention. Then formulate a new plan based
on these objectives, and repeat the process. With each journey around
the loop, the call center delivers better service and better results.
Call center managers face enormous pressure to provide excellent
customer service. The keys to success in this endeavor are hiring and
nurturing qualified personnel, introducing processes that are efficient
and effective, and acquiring the technology that expedites call center
processes and makes it easier for employees to reach their full
potential. If you have questions about call center technology, please contact us or watch any of these videos to learn more.
Read More About Call Center Management Tips and Tools
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
Read More About 5 Tips for Getting More out of Workforce Management Software
If your contact center is still using spreadsheets, you might lose
money. Two of the key drivers for cost savings are schedule adherence
and optimization of daily agent rituals like breaks and lunches.
Spreadsheets are extremely limited in the impact they can have on these
crucial challenges. Schedule Adherence With
spreadsheets only limited spot-checking is possible. When you can’t
monitor adherence in real time, there is bound to be higher shrinkage
and either over- or understaffing. Result? Missed service levels, and
wasted resources. By switching from spreadsheets to workforce management
software, real time adherence and monitoring is possible. That restores
service levels to projected levels, while reducing shrinkage by as much
as 15 minutes per agent day. You can even get alerts on your mobile
device if agents are out-of-adherence based on custom thresholds. Optimizing Downtime How
managers schedule lunches and approved breaks, and how well agents
adhere to the time allowed for them, can have a tremendous impact on
staffing costs and productivity. At most call centers, these shrinkage
rates fall somewhere between 20% and 35% with an effective WFM solution,
depending on the size of the business. And when shrinkage rates fall,
productivity and profits increase. When workforce management
software is deployed in a way that increases schedule adherence and
optimizes downtime, the savings to an average call center can add up to
10% or even 20%. Find out more in this customer case study and learn how a contact center of a credit union reduced costs and improved service levels with workforce management software.
Read More About Cutting Contact Center Costs by 20% – in 2 Easy Steps
Many small and midsized contact centers still rely on spreadsheets for
daily forecasting and scheduling. It’s an imperfect system that could be
improved by workforce management (WFM) software. However,
what’s surprising is that some larger contact centers, those with 100
agents or more, are also still using spreadsheets for scheduling. Here,
the inefficiencies of the system are multiplied, resulting in much lower
customer service (under-staffing) and higher costs (over-staffing) -
often both, based on the time of day. 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. One of these areas is
flexibility – the limitations of a spreadsheet result in fixed schedules
that can produce higher shrinkage and overstaffing. 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 – that time can now be used for additional agent training
or to attend to other matters. There are many additional
advantages as well, from reducing the number of agents needed for a
particular shift to improving agent morale by making it easier to match
employees with the hours and shifts they prefer. Find out more in the Monet whitepaper “ The Cost of Spreadsheet Based Forecasting & Scheduling.”
Read More About 100 Agents and Still Using Spreadsheets for Scheduling?
Of all the factors involved in operating a successful, cost-efficient
call center, staffing may be the most significant. Out of every dollar
spent in call center costs, about 75 cents is related to labor. That
makes these decisions pivotal to the operation of the business. While
different call centers have different priorities and different
functions, the challenge of staffing remains relatively consistent
regardless of size or specialty. These six steps can help a call center
manager successfully traverse the staffing minefield. 1. Gather and Analyze Data The
most accurate and reliable guide to staffing, as anyone who studies
workforce management can tell you, is to look back at past performance
and call center history. Review the reports generated by the automatic
call distributor for data on average handle time, number of incoming
calls and other key performance indicators. To create a staffing
schedule for, say, the first week of April, the obvious place to start
is with the data for the first week of April of the previous year, and
the year before if that information is available. The more historical
data used, the better the chance of an accurate forecast. Variations
should also be considered – where does Easter fall this year? Will that
impact call volume? Will more students be on spring break? When
consulting previous weeks/months/years of information, the two numbers
that will most strongly impact forecasts are call volume and average
handle time, either calculated per hour or per half-hour. 2. Crunch the Numbers for a Workload Calculation There are three methods typically employed by call centers to translate historical data into a staffing forecast: Point Estimate With
this system the call center relies on a basic apples-to-apples
comparison of a future point in time with that same point in the past.
For example, forecasting next June 15 based on traffic numbers from June
15 of last year. While this is a good starting point, it will not be
precise as it does not account for more recent calling trends or new
products or promotions. Averaging With this method a manager
would average relevant past numbers to predict call volume, preferably
while relying more heavily on recent data (by creating a formula that
uses these numbers more prominently). However, this may still not take
into account some changes or events that would have figured into older
data. Time Series Analysis With time series analysis,
historical data is calculated alongside monthly or seasonal changes, as
well as more recent events and other variables. It is a more
comprehensive approach that typically results in better forecasts. 3. Staffing Calculations Steps
#1 and #2 are used to create the forecast. Now it’s time to formulate a
schedule. The call volume forecast numbers are factored into workload
predictions, workload being the number derived from multiplying the
amount of forecasted calls and the average call handle time. Most
managers will add additional staff to whatever number of agents is
deemed appropriate, both to compensate for unexpected absences and to
maintain customer service levels should call volume be higher than
anticipated. The unproductive hours designated as “shrinkage” – breaks,
training time, tardiness, meetings – must also be considered. At most
call centers, shrinkage rates fall somewhere between 20% and 35%,
depending on the size of the business. In general, larger call centers
can absorb these variables more easily because of a more favorable
staff-to-workload ratio. Another factor is how busy each agent
will be during a shift, referred to as agent occupancy. The goal is to
achieve an optimum balance between not sitting around for extended
periods of time between calls, and not having a long queue of calls
waiting that might result in rushing a customer call, to the detriment
of that engagement. As a percentage, 85-90% is considered an acceptable
occupancy range. 4. Create Assignments Creating a
staff schedule is all about getting the right number of the right people
in position to handle the customer service needs of the call center.
Once the calculations from the previous step have been completed, the
manager should know how many agents would be needed for the shift in
question. As some call centers operate with full-time agents and
others use part-time and telecommuting employees, this is when shift
lengths and resources must be defined, days off specified and personnel
scheduled. Depending on the size of the call center, there may be
dozens, if not hundreds, of scheduling possibilities. If skill-based
routing is also a priority, this will also affect staffing decisions.
Once personnel have been selected, the manager also has the option of
staggering start times by 15 or 30 minutes, which can reduce instances
of too many agents taking lunch breaks or other diversions at the same
time during a shift. 5. Management and Adjustment There
is no way to know if a plan is going to work until it is executed. Even
with the preparations and calculations already described, staff
schedules will likely still have to be adjusted every day. This ongoing
management of staff and schedule is referred to as performance tracking.
The main components of performance tracking are call volume,
AHT and staffing levels. Deviations from forecasting predictions may
require staffing adjustments, assuming enough flexibility has been built
into the schedule to make the necessary changes. If not, call center
service goals may be in jeopardy. Tracking the number of a calls in
queue may also require some “instant forecasting” to adjust the
remainder of the shift accordingly. However, over-reaction should also
be avoided, lest a random surge be mistaken for a full-day trend. 6. Review, Analyze, and Adjust
end of a shift is the beginning of preparation for the next one. The
challenge of staffing is ongoing, but each day’s results deliver data to
analyze that may result in ways to improve performance, both for each
individual agent and the entire team. Conclusion Many
of the most persistent challenges of staffing can be mitigated when call
center managers know what to look for, when they have the information
they need, when they need it, and when they can act upon it quickly. No one every said predicting the future was easy. But an effective, automated workforce management solution
can make the necessary calculations, remove much of the guesswork and
improve the accuracy of schedules and forecasts. Through real-time
measurement of call center metrics, agents and managers gain the data
visibility necessary to deliver the service that customers expect, and
can react more quickly to issues and resolve them before they impact
Read More About Six Steps to Improved Call Center Staffing
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. 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.
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.
Read More About Introducing Workforce Management to Agents
After so many years, and so much attention paid, why are scheduling and
adherence still a challenge at so many contact centers? One reason,
perhaps, is that each of these objectives incorporates a number of
moving parts, and a wide range of variables that must be calculated in
advance. If these calculations are off, even by a little bit, it can
bring the whole plan crashing down.
Consider the contact center manager’s ongoing challenge:
Inaccurate forecast? There goes the schedule. If a manager schedules 20
agents on a shift and call volume is higher than expected, average wait
time increases, other KPIs are impacted, and customer service suffers.
If call volume is lower, agents are at their desks with nothing to do.
The customers are happy, but accounting is not – no one likes to pay
agents when they aren’t doing anything.
Sudden call volume change? It can happen. Sometimes unforeseen
circumstances, even a change in the weather or a news story about a
company’s product, can spike calls.
Then there are exceptions, and agents who call in sick at the last
minute, and other KPI predictions that don’t pan out. Any one of these
can make scheduling a frustrating process.
Do your agents understand the impact of adherence? It was covered at
hiring and reinforced during training sessions, but even the best agents
sometimes forget. Are those that regularly fall out of adherence held
accountable? If not, they have no reason to change their behavior.
Having a system in place to track adherence would be helpful, but some contact centers have yet to make this investment.
What’s the Solution?
Fortunately, one solution is available to address the wide array of
scheduling and adherence challenges: Workforce Management (WFM)
software. It’s the fastest and easiest way to track status, progress,
and real-time activity at a call center. Dashboards provide a visual
display of call center data, providing insight into every key WFM
Both daily and long-term forecasts can be checked quickly through tables and charts on forecasting dashboards.
Review past call volumes to create tomorrow’s schedule. Find out who’s in, who’s on break and who’s on vacation.
Adherence alerts on the call center dashboard identify instances where
scheduled activities vary from the current call center status.
Besides forecasting, scheduling and adherence, other key WFM metrics
that can be reviewed via dashboard include call answer times, first call
resolutions and transfer rates.
Of course, the wealth of information provided by WFM isn’t much good if
it is not presented in a way that is clear, concise, and accessible to
changes as needed. Choose a WFM system that allows for real-time changes
to be easily implemented, that shows summaries of all agent statuses,
including exceptions. If you can’t find the data you need quickly, look
for another system.
Read More About The Enduring Contact Center Challenge: Agent Scheduling and Agent Adherence
Key performance indicators provide a snapshot into how a call center is
functioning. They deliver numbers that denote whether customer service
is outstanding, acceptable, or in need of improvement.
However, sometimes the numbers create new questions just as they answer
older ones. Many call center managers have found themselves wondering:
“When I see that my agents’ Average Talk Time has exceeded the
target, does this result in more abandons and a poor service level?”
“If a longer talk time is causing more abandons, are there agents
that are still able to meet all of their quality monitoring goals while
keeping a low talk time?”
Fortunately, it’s easier to find the answers with an integrated workforce optimization (WFO) solution.
Now managers can check these KPIs against historical data, and figure
out the answers by discovering not only what is happening, but also why
it is happening that way.
How are some agents lowering average talk time while still delivering on
customer service? Once these processes are discovered, they can be
codified and taught to the rest of the team and put into practice
throughout the call center.
Check the results in 30 days – chances are the new KPIs will indicate
that this change has resulted in greater efficiency and less abandons.
Read More About Call Center Management Tips: Can you answer these questions?
In several previous blogs we weighed the benefits and drawbacks of a
cloud delivery system vs. on-premises hardware and software
installation. However, while these examinations focused on an
“either-or” scenario, there are many call centers now employing a
combination of the two options.
This is especially true with Automatic Call Distribution (ACD). Some
contact centers have jumped on hosted ACD or a cloud ACD system,
recognizing the efficiency advantages of skill-based routing of incoming
calls. The cloud system is particularly beneficial for contact centers
with a decentralized workforce, as they can be connected to the system
from home or anywhere without additional hardware installation.
However, if a contact center is employing an ACD system without a proper
planning of an overall cloud strategy, it may be missing out on the
cost and convenience benefits gained from a more comprehensive cloud
Many traditional on-site WFM and WFO systems might not take full
advantage of hosted or cloud ACD. When all of these vital functions are
planned and handled based on on a complete cloud solution model, the
result is a more simplified, streamlined operation, lower costs,
improved reliability and scalability, and 24/7 security and management.
Monet’s WFO Live,
for example, incorporates workforce management tools to improve
scheduling and service levels, call recording capabilities for
compliance, and quality assurance to help managers better evaluate the
performance of their agents and the call center as a whole. All of these
functions deliver the data that makes automatic call distribution more
From forecasting and exception planning to call tagging, reporting and
analytics, WFO Live is a one-stop source for call center efficiency,
accessed through the cloud for better convenience and lower upfront
If you have questions regarding an overall cloud strategy for your contact center, please feel free to contact us. We are happy to share our cloud expertise.
Read More About Hosted ACD in the Cloud – Now What?
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:
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
needed Decreasing agent turnover by enabling agents to manage their own
schedules and empowering them to improve performance by reviewing their
Cutting Costs with the Cloud
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: 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
performance. Create a presentation for management that shows how you can transform the company’s call center strategy with 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.
Read More About How to Convince Management to Buy Workforce Management Software