Workforce Management Hints, Tips & Best Practices
Workforce management (WFM) software provides the best means of optimizing personnel resources in a contact center.
When a contact center decides it is ready to make the move to a workforce management software system,
it now faces another decision when reviewing the range of available
products. One way to improve the odds of choosing the right system the
first time is to make a list of the qualities and capabilities that are
most important. Such a list might include the following:
using historical data, and through simulations to calculate future call
volume, WFM generates forecasts for appropriate staffing, call handle
time and other factors to maintain optimum call center performance for
any time interval of the day.
forecasts create accurate schedules. A WFM scheduling engine should
incorporate all call types and other activities. A staffing schedule is
only valuable when it is optimized for all necessary factors, including
agent skill sets, staff availability, holidays, breaks and service
Scheduling an agent for a
shift is not enough – WFM should provide a graphical display of
variances in agents’ schedules during the workday for breaks, lunch and
other exceptions. Real-time updates allow managers to compensate during
surpluses or shortages for each time period.
a WFM solution with an integrated exception calendar that simplifies
the scheduling of agent exceptions for training, time off and other
Use WFM to compare
planned agent activity to actual activities throughout the day, while
also reviewing forecasts for key performance indicators such as call
volume and handle time.
should adjust to your call center regardless of how it is organized.
Choose a system that lets you build an unlimited number of center splits
or agent groups with separate service objectives and guidelines. Use
WFM to manage multiple sites and time zones, and set service level goals
down to 15-minute intervals.
WFM provides actionable insights on all agent activities through dashboards, key performance indictors and real-time alerts.
Implementation: The Forgotten Attribute
of these qualities pertain to the day-to-day usage of WFM, but contact
center managers should not overlook the importance of implementation.
Technology cannot benefit a business if it is not easy to use, and if it
cannot be incorporated into the center with minimal training. It should
also be possible to implement a workforce management solution to
deliver break-even status in a matter of months, as opposed to years.
But that will take some foresight.
While every company and
corporate culture is a little different, these guidelines should prove
valuable to any contact center in the process of a WFM transition.
Upfront planning – that incorporates both technical requirements and business processes, is critical.
Include all Departments
of the contact center’s functional groups, including agents, managers,
supervisors and trainers, should be involved in the process. The
implementation of WFM software is going to represent a change for the
center. It’s important for all those involved to know why the change is
needed, how it will improve their business processes and how they all
benefit from shared data and metrics.
Appoint a Liaison
all voices should be heard, there should also be one project
coordinator – usually a manager – with the experience and knowledge to
work with personnel, answer questions and address concerns.
will take time and patience to adjust to today’s feature-rich workforce
management systems. But the last thing a contact center wants is to
make the transition and then discover that employees are only using 20%
or 50% of the system’s capabilities. Comprehensive training will be
necessary to ease the culture shock and ultimately arrive at a place of
optimal functionality. The faster agents in particular realize the
benefits of a WFM solution, the faster they will take to its advantages.
What to Expect from a WFM Provider
Up to this point
we’ve described the implementation process from the end-user
perspective. But few of these steps can be taken without the support and
expertise of the software provider.
For the contact center, WFM
implementation is (ideally) a one-time process. For the provider, this
is what they do every day, and they should have a system in place that
will make the transition as easy as possible.
At Monet, our
implementation plan and timeline begins with a kick-off call of about
60-90 minutes. This consists primarily of a discussion of roles and
required data necessary to get started.
Once that is completed,
the initial set up can begin. This process typically involves the
creation of workgroups, shift profiles, skills and skill teams and the
selection of service level targets. While the provider initiates these
processes, they are then completed and customized by the client team.
collection set-up is next, which incorporates configuration and
historical data import and verification. Depending on the contact center
and the specific situation.
Once this is completed, training of
personnel can begin. The procedure will start with the basics –
forecasting, scheduling, rosters – and then examine the more advanced
features of WFM, from assigning exceptions and analyzing reports to
After implementation and training are
complete, the provider should continue to be accessible for questions or
concerns, and provide follow-up checks to make certain everything is
running smoothly. And since Monet's complete suite of workforce optimization is cloud based,
there are not a lot of resources and money required for purchase and
installation of hardware and software. Therefore, the implementation
team can focus on the business needs and business processes, and less on
technology. And the whole set up or implementation can be done in 30 to
When a contact center makes the
significant decision to install workforce management software, it is
critical that the system be implemented and configured properly, since
management will be making key decisions on operations and staffing based
on the information it provides.
A successful implementation
requires not only software integration and configuration skills, but
also a solid understanding of the customer environment and of the
multiple ways of addressing and solving the specific requirements of the
contact center. It should also be completed as efficiently as possible
to shorten ROI.
With a little research, contact centers stand a
much better chance of not only selecting the right WFM solution the
first time out, but the right software provider as well.
Read More About Successful implementation of Workforce Management Software
When choosing the best workforce management (WFM) solution for your call
center, there are a number of considerations to review based on that
center’s specific needs.
From capabilities and implementation to
cost, usability, scalability and ROI, it’s a decision that will require
advance research and feedback from the key members of your management
team. Of course, one of the main objectives should be to increase
efficiency and service levels, while also reducing costs.
you’re near the beginning of this process, or have been using it for a
while, here is a checklist of considerations that may be helpful in
getting more out of your WFM software to maximize the performance of
your contact center.
In the area of process design and improvement, run reports and do analysis in the following areas:
- Call Handling Analysis
- Benchmark Analysis
- Activity Summaries and Details
- Work Standards
- Quality Form Review and Feedback
- Evaluation of Coaching Techniques and Calibration
- Staff Flexibility
In the area of management discipline, take a look at these areas:
- Intraday Reviews, Adherence and Exception Management
- Forecasting and Scheduling Best Practices
- QM and PM Coaching, Training and Role Playing
Finally, if you need help, be sure to assess the software provider as
well, to make sure they will deliver the necessary training and
follow-up so your agents, supervisors and managers can get up to speed
quickly with the new technology and getting the most value from your
investment. If you have any questions, please contact us
and we are happy to share some of our best practices with you.
Read More About Getting More from your Workforce Management System
Are there any contact center managers who are not overworked? It’s a
challenging job with many responsibilities that requires the ability to
plan ahead and then make adjustments accordingly when those plans go
However, with Workforce Management (WFM) software in
place, it becomes easier to manage the most important daily tasks, and
keep customer service levels consistent even when the unexpected
Here are 5 tips for contact center managers that, with a little help from WFM, can make their work days less stressful.
1. Start with an Accurate Forecast
you get the forecast right, everything else tends to fall naturally
into place. With WFM forecasting every activity and running simulations
to check accuracy, managers can work from a forecast that will result in
fewer surprises during the day.
2. Schedule All Activities
Incorporating non-call activities into schedule calculation delivers more predictable and management results.
3. Set Notifications
alerts and triggers so you are notified right away if something is not
going as planned. That gives you more time to make corrections, while
shortening the time that the variance can adversely impact customer
4. Daily Recap
Review results at the end of
each day, to determine what worked as planned and where improvement
might be possible. Don’t dwell on mistakes – just learn from them.
5. Take a Break
modern WFM solutions allow you to monitor key metrics from a handheld
device, so you can step outside without missing important metrics. You
may be surprised at the difference just a few minutes outside the office
Read More About 5 Tips for the Overworked Contact Center Manager
Workforce Management (WFM) software has played a vital role in helping contact centers improve customer service. Those that utilize WFM have discovered how it has boosted the accuracy of forecasts and schedules, and calculates necessary resources based on historical data and other variables that would be very difficult to assess any other way.
However, contact centers are also impacted by such back-office functions as sales, marketing and shipping, which may fall outside the purview of the company’s WFM solution. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
More companies are now discovering the benefits of WFM for the back office, which delivers more precise data and analytics on typical back office operations. Now, it’s possible to achieve the same level of transparency and statistical accuracy on any manual tasks, processes and work times. Please also see our previous post on this topic.
When the back office is in sync with the front office, the result is a streamlined operation that is better for management, contact center agents and customers.
Want some tips for back office WFM strategies? Check out this article
by Call Centre Helper, which offers more information on how to set up a consolidated view of all functions, and how to involve key personnel throughout the organization in this effort.
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:
When it’s Important to be Reactive?
- 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
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
- Schedules meetings in advance with a meeting planner function during times when coverage is acceptable
- Facilitates schedule change requests and agent shift swaps
- Creates roster shifts when there are coverage gaps for agents to bid
on. Agents submit requests which supervisors can approve, to fill and
re-balance the “required vs. assigned” figures
All of these services are more easily and accurately provided with the
right tools. Find out more about how Monet can help managers and
analysts achieve their service goals.
To get more tips and best practices, please contact us
or check out our workforce management resource library
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
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
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
With workforce management for the back office, it’s possible to:
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
- 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
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.
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
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 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.
Easily report and analyze all
agent activities including their schedule adherence and key performance
indicators. Managers can review service level results, costs and
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.
same WFM solution that forecasts, schedules and assigns resources for
your front office should provide the same functionality to the back
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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. Intra-day Management
Using a graphical display of agent schedules, a manager can drag and drop breaks, lunches and other exceptions to adjust the contact center schedule as needed. Real-time updates are instantly recorded, and any surpluses or shortages are displayed for any part of the day. When the unexpected occurs, managers will instantly know the best way to react without sacrificing customer service. Exception Planning
The best workforce management solutions, such as Monet WFM Live, provide a fully integrated Exception Planner, with the ability to schedule exceptions such as vacations, training meetings, jury duty, etc. These can be scheduled far into the future or recorded as recurring exceptions.
While many of these activities can be documented days or weeks in advance, the Exception Planner also supports mid-day exceptions as they occur, taking them into account while choosing shifts and scheduling breaks.
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.
These and other tips make staffing more efficient and more reliable
through better results for agents, supervisors and administrators.
- Enter time off exceptions, meetings and training before the roster
is generated to close gaps in roster assignments or shift placement; but
if you must enter them afterward, the WFM system can automatically
optimize them in a way that reduces manager overhead
- Impromptu training sessions are easier to schedule with little to no impact by using the meeting planner function
- Wider lunch and break windows are made possible by flexible shift profiles
- Enter the maximum allowable time in the Exception Calendar/Time off
Manager – this provides more visibility for agents and prevents
schedulers from over-committing to time-off, which could impact contact
Can Monet help you get more from your WFM solution? Contact our Customer Success team and let’s talk.
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
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?
new WFM product adds additional capabilities, improves existing
functionality, and corrects issues with previous versions. With
traditional software, these upgrades can also be expensive, which is why
many companies delay implementation. But call centers that get their workforce management in the cloud will always be on the most recent version, as it is automatically installed at no additional cost.
2. How do employees work with this system?
is designed to make the agent’s job easier, but if personnel are not
properly trained, or if the system is too complicated, your call center
may not be getting the most out of its potential.
3. What are its ongoing costs?
years, the only WFM solutions worth acquiring were those that also
required hardware upgrades, ongoing IT support, and yearly (even
monthly) costs for maintenance and operation. Call centers still in this
situation must make a decision on maximizing their investment, or
perhaps switching to the more economical option of WFM in the cloud.
4. How have our needs changed?
centers are still evolving into contact centers. Some may expand, some
may contract based on other factors. It’s vital that WFM scales with the
needs of the business.
5. Is it delivering as promised?
centers step up to a WFM solution to access real-time metrics and
reports that impact forecasting, scheduling and day-to-day operation. Is
the system providing the information you need to make better decisions?
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
Spreadsheets simply cannot compete. If you’re still using them, isn’t it
time for a change? If you are still not convinced watch this video about a call center supervisor explaining the difference.
- Saving Time – With WFM, managers can save as much as 25% off the
time they devote to creating schedules with spreadsheets. That’s 2 hours
from every 8-hour day.
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
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.
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