When you examine how many of the challenges inherent in operating call centers are connected to scheduling and workforce management, it becomes obvious that a consistent, reliable scheduling solution is essential to meeting customer service goals.
The problem, of course, is that scheduling encompasses a lot of moving parts, and requires the precise allocation of human and technological resources. And even when managers find a formula that works, thus achieving a perfect balance of call handlers with times of higher and lower tempo activity, it is not immune from last-minute changes and variables. All it takes is a few agents calling in sick just before the shift starts to render these perfect calculations worthless.
But for every issue that may arise, there is one solution – workforce management (WFM) software. It works because it addresses scheduling challenges before the shift begins, allows for faster reaction times to changes during a shift, and compiles data after each shift that can be used for future forecast and schedule creation.
Before the Shift
The majority of time devoted to scheduling takes place before the day or shift in question. This is when the call center manager will create a forecast for a specified time, then create a schedule based on that forecast.
This is when data will be reviewed based on historic trends dating back months or years. WFM compiles this data, factoring in quantitative judgments that make it easier for managers to build a proper schedule. Forecasts can be created based on both best case and worst-case scenarios, which will reveal opportunities to further improve efficiency.
Other factors to consider when creating a schedule include skill-based routing – to make sure calls are received by the agent best qualified to take them, and agent preferences that should be accommodated whenever possible to boost company morale.
Some call centers still rely on spreadsheets to track scheduled time, agent availability, and such daily occurrences as work breaks and training sessions. The same tasks can be accomplished more quickly and more accurately with WFM software, particularly at call centers with more than 25 agents.
During the Shift
This is when the best-laid plans sometimes fall apart. It’s also when WFM software proves its superiority over spreadsheets. One of its best features is intra-day management, a graphical display of real-time call center activity that lets managers check their schedule accuracy.
If the forecast and schedule is out of sync, customer service is suffering and so is the call center budget. Fifteen minutes a day may not seem like much, but if agents are out of adherence that long every day, the result can be tens of thousands of dollars in additional staffing costs.
Acknowledging adherence issues and addressing them on tomorrow’s forecast is not enough. With intra-day management, managers can review agent schedules and change them by dragging and dropping breaks, lunches and other exceptions. Surpluses and shortages are displayed for each pre-set time period throughout the day, so managers instantly know which resources are available and how they are being utilized.
After the Shift
There is value to the data collected from every shift. WFM software tracks agent performance, achievement of key performance indicators and schedule accuracy, as well as costs and revenue.
Choosing a Workforce Management Solution
There are several factors that can influence the selection of a WFM solution. While all of them will increase efficiency and service levels, it’s important to achieve these goals while also reducing costs and accelerating ROI. Keep these criteria in mind before you start the selection process:
A WFM solution should include accurate call volume forecasting from historical data and ACD integration, flexible schedule creation that incorporates foreseen and unforeseen variables, agent exceptions, intra-day changes to both forecasting and scheduling, and performance management reports.
Implementation and Integration
Does the system work with a call center’s existing hardware? If so, how long will it take to implement, and for agents to get comfortable with the system?
Incorporate upfront costs, ongoing monthly or maintenance costs, and any hidden costs in the budgeting consideration. Can the system be used over the web without equipment purchase? Weigh the advantages of an on-premises solution vs. a Cloud solution.
Besides forecasting, scheduling and adherence, other key WFM metrics that should be able to be reviewed via dashboard include call answer times, first call resolutions and transfer rates. The more metrics that can be tracked, the easier it is to zero in on issues that impact customer service – and the easier it is to correct them.
How unified will the user experience be across solution components? Will the dashboards show everything necessary to monitor a call and discover how and where corrections should be made?
Can the solution grow with the call center? Can modules be added without additional hardware costs?
What happens if the first system purchased doesn’t pan out? Can it be returned without incurring any financial risk?
What will the return on investment (ROI) be, and how quickly will the call center recoup that initial investment?
For more information, please download this Workforce Management Selection Guide
which provides a more detailed check-list and criteria to consider when choosing a WFM system.
WFM Live From Monet Software
The call center is the perfect dance of call volume, agent availability and productive interactions – at least that is the goal for every call center manager. The challenge, however, is turning those goals into reality when trying to implement call center scheduling tools. Workforce Management (WFM) Live from Monet Software can help.
Monet solves contact centers’ two biggest business issues: meeting service levels and controlling payroll costs. Monet’s workforce management software is cloud-based and delivered as a service, avoiding a large upfront investment and painful hardware and software implementation.
Plus, the system is fully integrated into Monet’s Workforce Optimization Suite, which delivers web-based applications for call recording, quality monitoring and performance management a low monthly fee with minimal capital investment.
A simple set up (within 30 days in most cases) has agents and managers up and running quickly, with a level of functionality that meets or exceeds industry standards. Forecasting, scheduling, real-time adherence, ACD integration, intra-day management, exceptions handling, supervisor collaboration, reporting and more, all delivered within a secure, scalable and reliable system.