Time for Change

Spring Forward Your Workforce Management Strategies

This past week at the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) Annual Conference in Nashville, TN, I spoke on the topic of Workforce Management (WFM). Many companies consistently struggle with having or supporting a WFM strategy, but it’s time for change. WFM is more than just forecasting and scheduling. It’s about ensuring that the right people, with the right skills are in the right place, at the right time, across all communication channels. I presented five basic steps that are necessary for any WFM process and five tips to bring your WFM strategies to the next level. Follow my tips below to spring forward your workforce management strategies.

Strategies to Drive Success

Strategy #1: Intra-day Events Matter: Intra-day events such as break, lunch, meetings, trainings, and coaching sessions are critical to the success and development of your employees. It isn’t feasible to overcompensate or overstaff in your schedule after spending the time to create a great forecast. Play around with these events. Create event types with different time intervals such as 10 minute coaching sessions or 45 min lunches. Either way, it is about creating the optimal schedule.

Strategy #2: Shrinkage Beyond the Week: It’s important to know what you are planning for. Whether for short or long term planning, understanding your shrinkage beyond the week will help you identify patterns within your center. High shrinkage usually occurs on pay days, weekends, after holidays, social events, and big company events. Using daily shrinkage can hide peaks and valleys. It can cause overstaffing when volumes are low, especially if you are staffing to minimize spikes. Measuring hourly shrinkage is much more accurate.

Strategy #3: Get Creative: Don’t be afraid to get creative in your scheduling practices. Having a hard time justifying full time equivalents (FTE)? Consider part-time staff or at-home agents. Implement a contingency plan for an “All Hands on Deck”, including supervisors and coaches if volumes suddenly spike. Having a hard time meeting volumes during certain times of the day? Hire to your advantage. Assign shifts that you need during the hiring process.

Strategy #4: Be Realistic: Consider measuring customer facing time (CFT) instead of using adherence as the metric for agents. CFT doesn’t replace adherence. However, it may be a bit easier to measure at the employee level because it is based on time spent on the phone, not scheduled time. This way, exceptions management is minimal.

Strategy #5: Consider Staff Preferences:  Provide employees with a communication method for expressing their ideal shift. People like consistency and to know they are being heard. Typically you can eliminate last minute schedule changes and scheduling conflicts. It also improves employee engagement which can improve efficiency and overall employee satisfaction.

Take WFM to the Next Level

Analyze This: Get to know the WHY. If service level isn’t met, organizations want an explanation and to understand why this happened. But, do you take the time to analyze when you did meet service level and what you did right during that scheduling period? Leverage what you did right by understanding the circumstances in how it occurred. Service level is not like profit and more is not necessarily better. Service level is much like tire pressure, over and under inflation is harmful and can be dangerous.Become intimate with the GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY.

Analyze That: Handle time is a key cost driver. Delivering quality calls quicker will significantly reduce your agent cost. Identify your best agents. Determine who has the lowest handle time. Identify your lowest performing agents. Plot them. Take time to ensure that quality and customer experience is not being compromised.

Involve Your Agents: Communicate your WFM strategy to your staff. Start with the on-boarding process. Tell them why the WFM team is important and what they can do as employees to help the company. Allow agents to plan their own time off and schedules. This promotes flexibility and increases agent satisfaction with the added benefit of reduced WFM administration.

Use Your Toolbox: WFM doesn’t always mean scheduling and forecasting. Open your toolbox and look for ways to improve. Review your IVR systems. Implement call-backs. Prioritize contacts. All of these things will improve your contact center’s efficiency and decrease unnecessary contact volume.

Network and Share: Network and share with other WFM users. Join communities to share scenarios, ask questions, and post solutions. Talk about your challenges and what you did to solve the problem. Nothing speaks louder than experience.