Workforce Management Hints, Tips & Best Practices
Schedules only work if employees stick to them. Most will but as call
center managers have discovered, even a small drop in adherence can
severely impact both productivity and costs. Many call centers are now
pro-actively focusing on improving schedule adherence for increased
service levels and reduced costs. Raising the adherence from 80 to 85%,
or from 90% to 95% can result in huge cost differences. For example, in
there is the case of a 300 employee call center and the assumption that
each employee is 10 minutes our of adherence every day, resulting in
$250,000 per year. Fixing adherence issues is one of the quickest
ways to avoid angry customers and rising costs. But first, you must
determine your current adherence level. Yes, there will be math involved
– but these are numbers that are vital to know. Here’s the formula: [phone time + other work related activity time] / ([shift time] - [lunch/dinner] - [break] + [exception time] + [overtime]) = schedule adherence Once you’ve got the results, you can add up the money now being wasted and put a stop to it. What Causes Adherence Issues? Are
some agents taking too many breaks or absences? Is the schedule too
rigid? Are employees showing up late and leaving early? Address these
issues with agents, and make sure they realize how important schedule
adherence is to the call center – and to their job. This need
not be a confrontational situation – one method that has worked at call
centers is the setting of adherence goals, with rewards offered to
agents that aid in their achievement. Monitor progress whether the goals
are achieved or not, and keep the lines of communication open. The Role of Workforce Management A
workforce management solution can play a key role in agent adherence.
First, you don't have to calculate adherence, the system does that for
you. Second, real-time tracking and monitoring makes it easier to adjust
forecasts and schedules right when there is an adherence problem.
Third, adherence reporting helps you analyze data from the past,
identify potential issues that impact adherence and the opportunity to
discuss with your team. For more information, please download the Monet white paper Strategies for Improving Schedule Adherence.
Read More About Do You Measure Your Agent Schedule Adherence? Is it 70, 80 or 90%?
We have just uploaded new workforce management videos to our demo center and would like to invite you to take a look. The videos cover the whole spectrum of workforce optimization, including forecasting, scheduling, staffing, adherence tracking, call recording, quality monitoring and performance management.
The videos show how a unified Workforce Optimization solution connects all aspects of scheduling, skills, adherence, quality, metrics and compliance to better meet customer needs and deliver more effective customer service. They further demonstrate how to identify patterns and analyze metrics at various levels for training and quality assurance purpose and establish quality standards and best practices. In addition, you will learn how to combine quantitative and qualitative information for a complete assessment of contact center performance. For example, if your dashboard alerts you of a potential issue, you can start a live monitoring session to get to the root cause and develop tailored training and coaching programs to address it. An integrated WFO suite allows you “connect the dots” to get the whole picture that allows you to impact the bottom line. Please take a moment to watch the
workforce optimization videos
and feel free to contact us if you have any questions or would like to discuss how your call center could benefit from a unified WFO solution.
Read More About Workforce Management Videos for Call Centers
Accurate forecasts are vital to customer service and budgeting, and
avoiding additional issues that occur when the center is overstaffed or
understaffed. Forecasting methods must take into account changing
business needs, seasonal volumes and external events that are outside
the company’s control. Special days provide another challenge.
But it’s a scheduling and forecasting challenge that is manageable with a
workforce management solution that handles much of the processing and
calculations automatically. But the process starts with a
manager, and an effort to explore how a change in call volume or service
level goals on one day, or within one week, will affect the call
center. You already have the information necessary to achieve this in
past call history data that covers previous similar periods. Always
review both the similarities and potential variables. Next,
break down your forecast into monthly, weekly or daily intervals, with
special allowances made for the “special day” effect. For some call
centers, Valentine’s Day is a special day of increased orders.
Forecasting efforts will already have calculations in place for
February, and for the day of the week that Valentine’s Day falls upon.
But then the impact of the holiday must be assessed, as well as the
times of that day where call volume may be increased. Additional
“special day” provisions should also be made for other factors,
including any company marketing campaigns or events, and perhaps even
weather patterns; if it’s raining outside, will more customers call and
place and order instead of going out and buying a gift? Fore more information about different forecasting models and simulations tools, please watch this call forecasting video.
No one every said predicting the future was easy. But workforce
management can remove much of the guesswork and improve the accuracy of
schedules and forecasts.
Read More About Special Days: The Challenges of Forecasting and Scheduling
center staffing and scheduling will be largely determined by
forecasting of the call volume. Thus, when a forecast is errant, it can
cause serious repercussions in customer service.
in the best call centers there will never be 100% accuracy in
forecasting. The number of variables from day to day, and week-to-week,
as well as unexpected scheduling changes, can all affect how a workday
varies from projections. When this happens it is important to drill down
to find the reasons for the variations, and factor them in to future
forecasts. Measuring the level of accuracy in your call center
forecast requires more than just calculating workload percentages. Take a
typical week where the Monday forecast was 12% under actual call
volume, Tuesday was 8% under, and the remaining three weekdays were all
8% over. When those numbers are run the result would be an overall
weekly forecast variance of 4%. Sounds pretty good – but it
doesn’t recognize how customer service may have suffered on Monday and
Tuesday by an insufficiently staffed call center. Or even more, how
Monday morning between 9am and 11:30am there was even a bigger The
lesson here is to be aware how instances of overstaffing and
understaffing can cancel each other out, resulting in a forecasting
picture that looks more favorable than it is. Forecasting can be
rendered more accurate through the use of a simple standard deviation
approach, and by examining intra-day forecast accuracy as well as just
how close the daily or weekly numbers compared to the forecast. Of
course, the ability to forecast schedules is dependent on the ability
to forecast call volume. The challenge here is the number of factors
that can impact this statistic, from online marketing to economic
conditions to social networking. Analyze call forecasting data to
uncover trends and over time these forecasts should zero in more
accurately numbers. Look at the following: Forecast in 15, 30 or 60 minute increments Look at daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal pattern Look for "special days" (holidays, sales promotion, payday, end of month, etc.) Look for external factors (weather, events, etc.) Plan for "internal" events such as marketing and social media campaigns, newsletters, company news, product launches, etc.
Watch this short video to see how
call forecasting tools and simulation
can help. However, even with these tools it is important to
continuously "learn" from your past forecasting - what assumptions
resulted in better forecasts, and what assumptions did not result in a
Read More About How Accurate is your Call Forecast?
Creating a roster is the last of three staffing decisions that impact workforce optimization.
It’s a process that begins with the forecast, an estimate of the number
of calls that will be received, and the number of agents necessary to
handle these calls in an efficient manner. Staffing follows the
forecast, as management decides how many agents are needed for a given
day or shift, and which skill sets should be represented in that shift.
Scheduling is the process of matching shift profiles with forecasts to
achieve service goals.
Once this data has been obtained it is time to focus on the roster,
which matches employee availability to existing schedules or forecast
data. Rosters will be determined by input data measuring: workload work handling units (skill teams) arrival patterns allowable shifts (shift profiles), and employee availability.
Find a workforce management software solution that includes rostering
capabilities and templates. This will expedite data entry, analysis,
roster creation, roster distribution and last-minute updates. Rosters
should not only track available agents, but those who are unavailable
due to vacations or other factors. To learn more about this, please
watch this short video about
call center staffing roster creation and updating. Another
important consideration is managing resources as they relate to
non-call activities, such as emails. A non-call roster can help with
scheduling available agents with the right skills at non-peak hours to
handle these important tasks. Finally, rosters, like schedules,
are not set in stone. Unexpected changes necessitate swapping agents,
and increasing or decreasing the size of a shift based on outside
circumstances. Workforce management software should allow for unlimited
roster changes, so managers always have the flexibility they need to
correctly allocate resources.
Read More About Creating a Call Center Staffing Roster
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. The goal is to increase efficiency and service
levels, while also reducing costs. Here are ten important evaluation
criteria for any WFM software solution.
What can the software do for your call center? Its capabilities 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.
Calculate how long the software will take to implement, including
installation, configuration, customization and training - weeks, months,
How well will the system work with your existing systems, for such
necessities as sharing of vital data? Will this be possible out of the
box, or will custom integration be required?
Incorporate upfront costs, ongoing monthly or maintenance costs, and any
hidden costs in your consideration. Can the system be used over the web
without equipment purchase?
How long will it take for mangers, supervisors and agents to get
comfortable with the system? Is it confusing? Are there too many
features that you may not need, but that can complicate usage?
How unified will the user experience be across solution components? Will
the dashboards show everything you need to monitor a call and discover
how and where corrections should be made?
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.
Can the solution grow with your call center? Can users, modules and
additional functionality be added without additional hardware costs or
other expensive implementation?
What happens if the first system you buy doesn’t pan out? Can you return
it or stop using it without incurring any financial risk?
What will the return on investment (ROI) be, and how quickly will you
recoup you investment in the system? ROI can be hard numbers (e.g. cost
savings) and soft benefits (e.g. higher customer satisfaction) - both
will have a positive impact to the bottom line.
We have recently updated our workforce management resource center where you can download various documents that might be helpful in your selection process.
Read More About Workforce Management Software Selection for Contact Centers
Service level is the one metric from which most other metrics flow.
Nearly every decision that is made by call center management, from
forecasting to scheduling to agent training, is motivated by the
objective of making sure every call center customer receives the highest
service level possible.
Here are five key factors to consider when it’s time to assess service level and how it can be improved.
1. Improve Forecast Accuracy
When the right number of agents are at their desk and can handle call
volume without long wait times, customers are more likely to provide
positive feedback. Forecasting through workforce management data should
make certain that the workload (calls, emails, chats, etc.) gets
forecasted as accurate as possible and the required staffing in in place
throughout the day (and help eliminate instances of overstaffing as
2. Flexible Schedules
When agents can work the hours that work best for them, it will improve
their performance. While it is not always possible to accommodate every
request, especially when some agents work part time and others work from
home, every time a day off request can be granted or an exception
approved without impacting service level, the better the likelihood that
agent job performance will reflect their satisfaction with the company.
Employee turnover will be reduced as well. Other other hand, this
flexibility for agents, also allows call center managers to ask for
flexibility when the center needs more or fewer agents at a certain
time. Flexibility should be a win-win for both.
3. Intra-day Adherence Tracking
Tracking schedule adherence for a shift or a day after they have ended
is a missed opportunity to correct an issue more quickly. Monitoring
intra-day activities, such as lunch breaks, training sessions and
changes in call volumes helps to maintain service levels.
4. Call Recording and Quality Monitoring
Call recording is a key component in quality management, and can result
in more efficient call handling. Recordings can be used in training
sessions for new agents to bring them up to speed on best practices, and
in ongoing coaching programs so agents can be sure they are “sticking
to the script” and delivering the service level expected of them.
5. Improve Training Programs
Are new agents “getting it” right away? Are your trainers outsiders, or
former agents who know what it’s like to perform that task correctly?
How often are agents re-trained after a below-par assessment? Look for
ways to improve your training programs, and an improved service level
Read More About How To Improve Call Center Service Levels
Workforce management refers to an integrated set of processes used to
optimize employee productivity on both an individual and company-wide
level. Any systems with such a wide range of moving parts and variables
will inevitably present challenges; however, a sophisticated workforce
management solution can help to anticipate these challenges and overcome
1. Accurate Forecasting
Forecasting on call volume and agent workload can reduce instances of
over-staffing, which wastes valuable resources, as well as
under-staffing that can affect services levels and customer service. Workforce management automatically processes all relevant data to deliver more accurate short-term and long-term forecasting projections.
2. Comprehensive Scheduling
Scheduling involves far more than sign-in and sign-out times. There are a
multitude of call center activities that pertain to non-call activities
that must also be taken into account. Choose a WFM solution that makes
non-call activities part of the forecasting and scheduling process. This
is especially important since customer engagement today is based on
many different channels such as chart, phone, email, social media. More
about this in our recent blog post multi-channel agent scheduling.
3. Adherence Tracking and Improvement
Schedule adherence is still one of the biggest challenges for call
centers. With workforce management, a call center can monitor and record
the schedule adherence status of all agents in real-time. The system
tracks data on every status related to this issue, from lunches to daily
breaks to when agents log out. If a problem is discovered it can thus
be handled quickly. In addition to a good solution, you also need to put
solid processes in place, more about this in our whitepaper Five Strategies to Improve Schedule Adherence.
4. Intr-aday Forecast/Schedule Management
Intra-day management is always a challenge due to particularly complex
resource considerations. An integrated WFM solution should be able to
monitor intra-day workload information (planning, controls, deployment
strategies) that will produce pre-emptive rather than reactive actions
5. Exception Handling
Workforce management should manage and process exceptions in a way that
communicates all necessary information to all parties concerned, accepts
or rejects each exception instance based on company criteria, and make
certain everyone is on the same page so there is no confusion on the
part of the agent or management.
We also invite you to watch any of the short videos about how a workforce management system can help overcome those challenges.
Read More About The Top 5 Workforce Management Challenges
Monitoring call center agent adherence to a rotation schedule is yet
another task that used to be handled manually, and now can be achieved
in less time and with greater accuracy through a workforce management
With workforce management, a call center can monitor and record the
schedule adherence status of all agents in real-time. The system tracks
data on every status related to this issue, from lunches to daily breaks
to when agents log out.
By having this information easily accessible on a workforce management
dashboard, managers can quickly compare the agent’s actual daily
activity to the objective intended by the company. One can even create
custom states and guidelines to address atypical needs for a specific
call center, such as after-hours work.
Once guidelines are customized and set as to which states (or statuses)
should be included or not included in a schedule adherence measurement,
the system does the rest. The different states are color-coded and can
easily be monitored from a dashboard. It is now simple to review each
agent’s efforts and classify their work time as within schedule
adherence, or find out where he or she is coming up short. Too much time
spent away from assigned functions can impact the call center’s
Accurate time management can be a challenge, as minor exceptions and
changes happen each day. Perhaps an agent is scheduled to go on an
approved break, but cuts into that time to complete a call that takes
another 10 minutes. An effective workforce management solution can be
configured in such a way as to record this time extension, and not count
the lost break time against that agent. For more detailed information
about how to implement effective strategies for schedule adherence, please click the link to download our whitepaper.
Read More About Agent Schedule Adherence Visualized
Handling exceptions is a key component to workforce schedule compliance.
Exceptions must be managed in a way the minimizes their impact on
productivity and availability, since both will have a negative impact on
service levels and also quality of service.
There are four types of exceptions: Pre-planned These would include vacation days, training days and work time spent on other necessities such as team meetings. Unplanned Sick days and downtime due to technical issues would qualify as unplanned exceptions. Unplanned but pre-approved These are schedule deviations initiated by management to maintain performance levels. Unplanned and not pre-approved These tend to be reactionary, caused by meetings that run long or added coaching sessions. Regardless
of the exception type, the goal remains the same – customer service
consistency and meeting company goals for schedule adherence.
Call Center Schedule Exception Calendar
This can be achieved with workforce management software, which provides real-time adherence data that streamlines call center schedule exception tracking,
making it easier for managers to maintain service levels, to know which
agents are excepted at any given time (and the reason for the
exception, whether it’s a day off or time spent in training) and to
review reporting data. The solution should also provide an easier method
for shift swapping, with management approval.
Read More About Call Center Schedule Exceptions
centers are contact centers now, which means customers are interacting
with agents through a range of channels including emails and live online
chat. According to some studies, more than 25% of all customer
interactions are now conducted via methods other than the telephone. One
of the goals of any 21st century contact center is to offer the right
mix of channels and find an accurate method for multi-channel
forecasting and scheduling of agents. The customer experience should be
equally positive regardless of how communication is made. The
challenge is how to offer consistent standards of customer engagement
through multiple touch points.The solution is an optimized integrated
platform that encompasses data on workforce management, agent skill
sets, metrics, scheduling and reporting. Tips for Multi-Channel Skills Scheduling
Multi-channel scheduling begins with a specification of service goals
based on the types of channels the call center must handle, followed by
agent skill assessment within each of these channels. Once these
standards are set, scheduling will require accurate calculation of the
Average Handle Time (AHT) for each contact channel. This is easier to do
with calls than with emails or chats where agent can handle multiple
chats at the same time for example. A workforce management system takes
these differences into consideration. With this information, the call
center manager has two options to choose from: Dedicated Agent Pools Once
an agent’s skill sets are determined, he or she can be assigned to a
dedicated group that focuses solely or primarily on their best channel,
whether that is inbound calls, emails or web chat. The Universal Queue With
this method, all contacts are routed to agents based on order and
availability. While this is a less specialized method for handing
multiple channels, it does force agents to become adept at handling the
various methods of customer communication in a shorter time span. Workforce
management provides the necessary metrics on channels and personnel
skills to allow managers to make the best decisions for their contact
center. You can watch a short video about multi-channel scheduling and staffing
to learn more about this. Agents will be placed in situations where
their skills can be maximized, thus improving productivity, morale and
customer satisfaction – which is also great for the bottom line.
Read More About Multi-Channel Agent Skill Scheduling for Contact Centers
It takes both art and science to staff a call center. Next to hiring the
right personnel, scheduling plays the key role in maximizing resources
and making sure calls are handled in a courteous and efficient manner.
There may be some instances where an agent needs to work a specific
shift on a particular day of the week, one week, and then the next week
work, different shift on the same day.
Call center schedule rotations should balance available staff against
predicted call volumes. Data from call recording software and workforce
management solutions should provide the answers necessary to improve
this process. However, there are always variables with scheduling, from
shift swaps and vacation seasons when more agents are in Hawaii instead
of at their desk, to unanticipated call volume swings.
This is important stuff, but the time spent working on adjusting
rotations and changing schedules is also time that is not being spent on
other facets of the call center, such as improving service levels and
achieving the company’s operational and fiscal goals. So it needs to be
done, but it needs to be done quickly.
The role of workforce management
The more a call center can rely on workforce management software to
streamline rotation schedules, the more time that leaves for management
to deal with other issues. Communication is the key, and call centers
should choose a workforce optimization solution that includes
forecasting data to help determine schedule rotations, exception
handling as well as a wide range of scheduling metrics that make it
easier for agents and management to adjust to changing situations in
In addition, workforce management can track how well agents are
functioning within the system, and where action may need to be taken.
When agents are clear on what their hours will be, when they can swap
shifts and take vacations, and have that information available quickly,
it should result in a positive impact on job performance and morale. It
should be equally easy for management to review schedule changes and
determine their impact on productivity.
For more information about schedule rotations and exception handling in a call center please click the link to watch a video,
Read More About Call Center Schedule Rotations: The Basics
Shift swapping is an inevitable occurrence at every call center, and is
one of the more significant agent staffing challenges that management
In general, allowing agents to swap shifts solves more problems than it
creates. With this arrangement, agents have more control over their
working hours, and that flexibility can encourage employee loyalty.
However, if this privilege is abused, it can lead to staffing confusion,
lower productivity, a shortage of agents for unpopular shifts, and
inconsistent customer service.
Agent Staffing Solutions
While shift swapping should be offered as an option, some center without
the right processes in place try to discourage this. They achieve this
by built-in incentives for agents to work the shifts to which they are
assigned, and by limiting swaps to, say, three a month or five in each
Call centers should have a reliable process in place that tracks shifts
and instances of shift swapping. This will not only make the process
easier for agents and management, it provides managers with insight into
which agents may be abusing this privilege, and how working different
shifts impacts an agent’s job performance.
While some last-minute shift swaps are unavoidable, as emergencies do
happen, a center should require that agents request swaps at least three
or five days in advance. That way, managers can adjust schedules
accordingly so productivity is not impacted. For example, if an agent
who is particularly adept at handling customer complaints swaps shifts
with an agent who is not as qualified in this situation, the call center
may wish to bring in another agent from a different shift with that
The ultimate objective is to satisfy the needs of the center and the
needs of the employees, and to make any staffing changes as convenient
The Role of Workforce Management Software
Shift swaps are yet another function that should be handled through a
workforce management solution - through a simple self-service tool that
includes shift bidding. An effective system will allow agents to search
for shifts to swap, and instantly know if there is a conflict with their
arrangement. Supervisors will then have the ability to approve or
reject the swap request, and find out if there are any issues with
weekly minimum or maximum restrictions on work hours should the swap be
approved. To learn more about agent shift swapping and supervisor collaboration, please follow this link to our main website.
With effective workforce management, the system that allows shift swaps
should be efficient, transparent and controlled by management with the
limitations necessary to maintain service standards.
Read More About Call Center Agent Shift Swapping
While the “call center” designation is likely to stick around for a
while, agent interaction via telephone is now just one component of
customer communication. Today, the public may reach out via email,
online chat or social media. All of these additional channels are
ultimately beneficial, but many call centers are just beginning to grasp
the impact they will have - from a customer engagement perspective, but
also from a workforce management perspective. Email/Live Chat Written
exchanges of information, whether via email or text chat, have become
commonplace. However, these channels work best with simple questions and
conflict resolutions where a few sentences from both participants will
suffice. Once the point has been reached where the number of exchanged
messages tops 5-10, it might be advisable to switch to a telephone
conversation. With online chat, it may take longer to complete a
customer interaction, simply because it takes longer to type a message
than to say it. However, online chat agents can manage up to five
sessions simultaneously, which will impact productivity and scheduling.
If five proves too many (measure response times to each customer to
determine this), three ongoing sessions might be a more practical limit.
When it comes to workforce management scheduling, you will want
chat agents with proven written skills. While the Internet has done no
shortage of damage to the disciplines of spelling, grammar and
punctuation, it is vital that any written communication from your
company to customers is free of such errors. Social Media A
Facebook page and a Twitter account are great ways for companies to
announce new products and specials and exchange ideas with customers.
They are less effective for such traditional call center functions as
handling orders and returns or resolving disputes. However, this too is
changing rapidly. If the call center is to take the lead on
establishing and maintaining a company’s social media presence, adequate
resources must be made available to do so, to make certain pages are
updated, questions are answered, and ongoing communications are having a
positive impact on branding and customer loyalty. That starts
with creating and scheduling a social media team based on experience and
training. Agents should not just be familiar with these outlets, but be
well versed on the company’s social media strategy and best practices. And,
as with email and online chat, choose agents and experts with written
communication skills, and when a problem arises try to route that
customer back to a call-in situation where it might be easier to resolve
the situation verbally. Each of these new communication channels should get included into your overall forecasting, scheduling and staffing planning process.
Read More About When Call Centers Become Contact Centers - the Impact on Workforce Management
Unlike weather forecasting, call center forecasting can be performed
with a high degree of accuracy. Workforce management solutions combine
the use of historic data and real-time data, to not only improve the
efficiency at a call center, but to create projections for future
growth, changes and special events, so the call center can be prepared
for any eventual scenario.
Here are five tips to help you make the most of you call center forecasting solution:
1. Use Historic Data
This is the obvious place to start. Historical call volume data can be
used to analyze present performance and future growth trends. It can
also serve to correct assumptions about what constitutes an appropriate
length of a customer engagement, how many calls an agent should handle
in one shift, and other factors that impact hiring and staffing
procedures. Several weeks of data is usually sufficient as a starting
point, but longer-term projections would require months or years of
data, especially for seasonal or annual projections.
2. Run Scenarios Based on Data
With workforce management a call center manager does not have to wait
for something to happen to gauge the effectiveness of call center
response. Staffing and service levels can be analyzed ahead of time by
creating a what-if scenario. Typical scenarios would include the start
of a new advertising campaign that will increase call volume, a discount
on a key product line, or a turnover in personnel that results in a
higher number of less experienced agents on the same shift.
3. Leverage Past Events
How did the opening of a new retail location affect call volume to the
call center? How did call patterns change during the holiday season? By
reviewing past events, a call center can be better prepared for future
occurrences, and adjust accordingly. This data can also impact long-term
strategies for planning, budgeting and recruitment.
4. Leverage Real-Time Data
Every call to a call center is a forecasting tool. Real-time analysis of
individual calls and calls handled within an hour, a day, etc. can lead
to adjustments on the fly and more accurate forecasting in the days and
weeks to come. Among the most important measurements here are the speed
with which calls are answered, average call-handling times, percentage
of calls abandoned, and number of interactions on hold.
5. Multi-Channel Forecasting
Customer communication is not handled only through a telephone anymore.
With the introduction of multi-channel environments (email, fax,
Internet), customers now have a wide range of options, and an equally
wide range of expectations in how a company responds to their needs.
While this makes forecasting more complex, it is a necessity for any
workforce management solution to incorporate multi-channel capabilities.
This makes it easier to discover, for example, how many customer
engagements are now handled via email, how that impacts call volume to a
call center, and how that center should adjust to meet its service
To learn more, you can also watch one of our forecasting and scheduling videos in our new demo center.
Read More About 5 Tips for More Accurate Call Center Forecasting
Every day call centers have to deal with exceptions and find a way to
minimize the impact on their schedule and service level. There are
either planned exceptions such as planned time-off and planned training
sessions, or mid-day exceptions that are typically not planned. Let's
take a look at some examples and describe how to deal with those.
Example: Schedule a meeting with multiple agents
while minimizing impact on service levels Agents call in late Agents leave early for emergency Agents leave early with vacation time Agents in training session One on one meeting with supervisor Multiple agent meeting with supervisor Agents staying late for overtime
Many Workforce Management systems have integrated exception planner,
that make scheduling agent exceptions such as time off and one-time or
recurring training meetings a simple process. For example Monet WFM
Live provides a color-coded availability calendar that displays a
real-time summary of time off, making it easy for managers to see
whether to grant an agent's time off request.
Complete schedule integration ensures the center will be appropriately
staffed if the time off is approved and that you will continually meet
service levels. Exceptions can be scheduled far into the future or
recorded as recurring exceptions. The Exception Planner has also support
for mid-day exceptions too, taking them into account when choosing
shifts and scheduling breaks and lunches. A manager can easily schedule
an agent to attend a training meeting from 11:00 - 1:00 on the second
Friday of every month, or set up a rotating schedule where agents have
different days off on alternate weeks. The exception calendar enables
managers to see how existing exceptions affect their staff availability.
They can select any set of dates from the year and see agent
requirements and availability, along with the number of exception hours,
broken down both by agent and exception type. This tool is particularly
useful when deciding whether or not to grant a vacation request.
Efficient and effective management of exceptions is crucial to achieve
and maintain your service level. If you would like to learn more, feel
free to watch a demo about intra-day schedule management or contact us.
Read More About Call center schedule exception handling made easy
computing is a web-based delivery model that enables users to connect
with applications on-demand from any computer with Internet access. A
cloud-based workforce management solution provides the highest ROI and savings of any WFM
strategy due to its low upfront investment and low operating costs.
Cloud-based WFM software puts call centers in unprecedented control,
enabling dramatic cost savings and making scheduling far more efficient.
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. From purchasing hardware, databases,
and software licenses to the high costs of installation and IT staff to
support the system, the traditional model simply doesn’t make sense. In
stark contrast, cloud-based workforce scheduling software saves both
time and money because there are no infrastructure costs.
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. And, since the
solution is web-based, integrating the software with existing systems
reduces time and costs.
Connect anywhere: The software is hosted by
the workforce management firm so companies can access the software
anywhere—whether on the other side of town or the other side of the
world. All they need is a computer and a standard web browser.
ongoing costs: Cloud-based WFM software doesn’t just save money during
the implementation phase. Companies 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: One of the most attractive features of the
solution is the pricing model. Companies only pay 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 not only saves businesses money, Web-based
workforce scheduling software also enables them to quickly scale to
manage the demands of changing call center sizes.
software lowers the initial infrastructure costs and ongoing maintenance costs
of traditional WFM software. This on-the-fly WFM solution also gives
call center managers the tools to schedule the right number of agents at
the right skill level at the right time, increase overall schedule
adherence, boost service levels, and improve both agent and customer
satisfaction. To learn more about this topic, please download our
What is cloud-based Workforce Management whitepaper.
Read More About What is cloud-based workforce management software?
In our previous blog about the
value of workforce management software
we talked about the business challenges, now, let’s take a look at the
key value drivers of WFM software compared to the manual/spreadsheet
Reduces administrative time: Automated WFM drastically reduces the
administrative time spent on forecasting and scheduling, data gathering
of call history, and creation of management reports. Most call centers
see a reduction by a large percentage after implementation.
Slashes shrinkage and optimizes schedules: WFM precisely measures
the sources of agent shrinkage and provides tools to reduce its
occurrence. Managers can create staffing schedules that optimize a wide
range of critical success factors, such as agent skills and
availability, breaks and holidays, skill types, historical and predicted
call volume, budgets, and service levels. Skills-based scheduling and
routing processes enable call center managers to assign skill levels and
types to individual agents, and then automatically route a specific
type of call to a specific agent who will best be able to resolve the
customer’s issue quickly and more effectively. In addition, they can
take advantage of flexible start and end times.
Precisely forecasts demand: Automated WFM solutions use historical
data to accurately predict the number of agents needed to handle the
center's volume in real-time, and allow managers to predict future call
volume, handle times, agent occupancy, first call resolution rate, and
other service levels. Managers can also run multiple forecast/schedule
scenarios, and have the ability to better forecast special days such as
holidays and other scheduled time off. It also enables managers to
forecast agent requirements based on service level agreements, as well
as refine forecasts and performance goals based on collected data. More
accurate forecasts ensure more efficient schedules, which prevents under
or over-staffing. Increases productivity and service quality: WFM software gives
managers the ability to compare forecasts with available agent schedules
to find time-pockets throughout the day where agents would sit idle,
and then use that time for training, coaching, and meetings.
The bottom line? Lower expenses, higher revenues and productivity, and
improved service levels and customer satisfaction. A manual/spreadsheet
approach simply doesn’t measure up.
What About ROI and Payback Time?
The large return on investment and fast payback time make WFM software
the clear choice when compared with any other method of managing a
workforce, forecasting call volumes and creating schedules. A workforce
management solution helps call centers realize a high ROI by:
Providing more accurate forecasting and scheduling to reduce agent under-staffing and over-staffing
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
For more information you can also download the "
how to calculate cost savings for workforce management software" whitepaper.
Read More About The Business Value of Workforce Management Software - Part 2
Persuading senior management to change “business-as-usual” call center
systems can be a difficult undertaking. The management team often faces
both internal and external factors that make it resistant to change. A
challenging economic environment also puts pressure on all areas of the
organization to implement solutions that reduce costs and increase
revenues—all while improving performance and productivity. As each
solution competes for investment dollars, only a select few offering the
highest ROI will obtain funding.
This short article helps you make the business case for workforce management automation. We will discuss: Business impact (manual vs. automated solutions) Benefits (savings, service levels, employee morale, customer satisfaction) ROI (payback time of investment)
A common misconception is that workforce management software is
associated with a large investment. In fact, it delivers significant
value to the top and bottom line with a minimal investment. In addition,
an automated WFM solution is aligned with a company’s goals of saving
money and increasing revenue, productivity, and service levels—and it
even starts paying for itself within months instead of years.
Many call centers that don’t use workforce management systems typically
rely on spreadsheets. Therefore, let’s first look at a few of the
limitations of using spreadsheets to manage a workforce. These
inefficient manual systems have a huge impact on the performance of a
call center in many areas every day, including:
Capturing data: ACD systems that provide massive amounts of data
must be manually typed into spreadsheets, inevitably resulting in typing
errors and wasting the valuable time of call center supervisors who
could be training agents, analyzing trends, optimizing schedules, and
performing other productive tasks.
Overstaffing and understaffing: The spreadsheet approach to
forecasting and scheduling often leads to overstaffing and
understaffing, which results in lower service levels and an increase in
payroll costs. Customer satisfaction suffers when customers have to wait
for long periods to get their issues resolved.
Schedule adherence: Tracking schedule adherence using spreadsheets
gives managers headaches. It also needlessly wastes time and money
whereas automated WFM solutions make it easy for agents to precisely
follow their schedules. Shrinkage can become a huge problem for any size
call center. For instance, in a call center of fifty agents, occupancy
is critical. If five agents take breaks or go to lunch at the same time,
occupancy decreases by ten percent and service levels go with it. An
automated solution prevents this from happening by carefully optimizing
agent schedules and forecasts, and sending alerts by out-of-adherence. A
manager using a manual system may be tempted to hire additional agents,
while the manager with an automated system has the data at his
fingertips to accurately optimize future agent schedules to dramatically
Spotting trends: It is difficult to spot long-term trends over weeks
and months with a manual system. This data is priceless for accurately
forecasting and scheduling agents in the future, special events and
other seasonal patterns. Agent retention: One of the many reasons agents leave is because
staffing in a spreadsheet system seems random and fixed, while not
considering their personal needs. Agent morale decreases and turnover
increases when agents do not understand schedules and what’s expected of
A spreadsheet based process might work for a few small contact centers,
but it is clearly costly and wasteful in terms of time, money, and
productivity for many others. Call center managers typically cannot wait
to get their hands on a better solution to manage their workforce. The
savvy ones are eager to present senior management with an automated
workforce management solution to enhance efficiency, increase
performance, and realize a high ROI. We will talk about ROI drivers in
our next blog post, please stay tuned. In the meantime, you can also
download a few
workforce management whitepapers from our call center resources library to learn more.
Read More About The Business Value of Workforce Management Software - Part 1
There is never enough time in a day, right? Call center managers know
that, they also know that training of call center agents is important,
but when? In the morning, or later in the shift or in between? Planning
and scheduling training can be a challenge. You need enough time for an
effective training, while also trying to maximize available resources
for taking calls. Here are some ideas and tips on how to plan and
schedule trainings as part of the overall call forecasting, staffing and
workforce planning process: Be ready for adhoc training sessions: Have training plans and
material ready for times with lower call volumes than expected. This
time can then be used in a more productive way through an adhoc
training. This works especially well for non-critical and non-time
sensitive trainings. Include training into schedule: Critical training sessions should be
included into the overall scheduling process, just like any other call
and non-call related activities. You can read more about how to schedule all activities in this post. Find "time pockets" in schedule: Overlapping shifts and the
combination of part and full-time workers often result in "time-pockets"
of over-staffing throughout the day. Again, these time-pockets can be
used to schedule short training sessions. Interactive online trainings: Certain types of trainings can be
delivered as interactive or video sessions that individual agents can
use whenever there is time, right from their seat.
Every call center has different training needs and operational
characteristics, the above list provides just a few ideas on how to
better fit training sessions into your call center operation. However,
the main idea is to consider training as a important activity that
should be included into your
call center staffing and scheduling process.
Read More About Call center training schedule - how to fit into your workforce planning?
What is call center shrinkage?
One of the most important concepts in schedule adherence is shrinkage.
Shrinkage can be defined as the time for which people are paid during
which they are not available to handle calls.
There are many reasons that can cause shrinkage - and it has to be taken
into account when scheduling the required number of agents to meet call
volumes. But the truth is that most companies badly under-estimate the
sheer volume of shrinkage that besets their call centers. This comes
about due to a host of potentially hidden areas of shrinkage. Many
managers keep their eye on several of these, but few are able to stay on
top of all of them: lateness, talking to associates, personal calls and
emergencies, leaving early and taking longer breaks. The bottom line on
shrinkage is the amount of minutes per day that agents are being paid
to be on the phone when they are not actually working or available to
receive calls or work on customer related issues.
How to track and manage shrinkage?
Shrinkage can be a major factor in failing to meet service level
targets. Call centers that take shrinkage parameters into account in
their forecasting and scheduling typically achieve higher service levels
at lower operating costs. They often do that by including all call
related activities into the forecast and schedule planning process. Here
is an example of how to track and manage shrinkage as part of the
workforce scheduling process:
For more information about shrinkage, please also read the following two blog posts:
In addition, you can download our whitepaper about
tracking and improving schedule adherence - it should provide some valuable insights into the relationship between shrinkage and agent adherence.
Read More About What is call center shrinkage and how to minimize it
Besides the key staffing and scheduling question about how many agent you need at any given time, you also need to think about what agent skills and expertise you need at specific times and types of calls. Here are a few things to consider when planning your call center staffing and schedule: Ranking of agents Creating a schedule by agent rank can be very effective in reducing costs and increasing sales. Rank according to call completion time, calls per hour, call quality, customer satisfaction or other performance measures. Match personality and team Studies have shown that a good relationship with colleagues drives motivation and performance. Your schedule should leverage this by teaming up the “right" people. Multi-skilled agents and routing The productivity gain from giving each agent two skills could easily be 10-15%. The importance of multi-skilled agents is that they form overlapping groups. For example, having one group that can handle calls type A and B while another group takes calls type C and D, can be substantially improved by adding a group that is able to handle calls type B and C (or one of the other three combinations).
For more information about this topic, please download the " Seven Tips for more Effective Call Center Scheduling " whitepaper.
Read More About Call center staffing models and scheduling tips
Selecting and deciding on the right workforce software for your call center is crucial. In case you missed the recent buying and vendor guide about workforce management and optimization software in Enterprise Apps Today magazine , please read on. The article lists four leading Workforce Optimization and Management vendors and Monet Software is proud to be one of them . Here is an analyst quote from the article: “Workforce management applications are designed to automate the deployment of the workforce through workload planning, scheduling, time and attendance tracking, resource management, and rules and compliance management,” said Lisa Rowan, an analyst at IDC. “Increasingly, workforce management applications are being integrated into customer relationship management applications in a contact center environment.” Some of the key features of WFM, Rowan says, are skills and certification tracking, shift/vacation bidding, workload planning, forecasting, scheduling, scheduling optimization, customer wait-time forecasts, coverage management and absence management. If you are interested in seeing these solutions in action, please visit our workforce optimization demo center .
Read More About Workforce management software vendor guide
Even with schedule adherence tracking in place, one remaining challenge
is often the fact that agents can have so many different non-call tasks,
exceptions and states that standard WFM solution are not able to plan
for and monitor. That's where
Advanced Schedule Adherence
in. It enables supervisors and call center managers to create custom
states and rules to match their unique center needs. Here are a few
Here are a few examples:
Create custom states for call wrap-up, special after call work, outbound preparation and other activities Establish thresholds for each state that indicate how much time is considered “in adherence”. Define which states are included or not included in the agent adherence calculation
Exceptions and non-call activities can be considered “scheduled
activities,” along with available, break, lunch, and logged out states.
Call center managers can customize which statuses are allowed and not
allowed for each scheduled activity. Since every call center has unique
agent activity types, this flexible approach to agent adherence
monitoring gives centers a new level of accuracy in managing call center
performance, while also providing more transparency and clarity to
both, agents and supervisors. To learn more about this, please also
Strategies for Improved Agent Adherence
whitepaper from our resources library.
Read More About How to improve schedule adherence and get it to the next level
The software application magazine Enterprise Apps Today just published an article about workforce optimization software for call centers. It talks about the importance of workforce optimization as part of the overall call center strategy and highlights several vendors, interviews with executives and a buying guide for call center workforce optimization software. Monet Software is mentioned as one of the leading vendors for workforce optimization software in the article. Please click this link to read the full article.
Read More About Workforce Optimization Software Buying Guide for Call Centers