workforce management basics

Workforce Management Basics in Today’s Contact Center Environment

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The application of a Workforce Management (WFM) program within a call center can be defined as achieving and maintaining operational efficiency. This is done by ensuring that the right agents with the right skill sets are staffed at the right time. Doing so can result in lower operational costs, reduced churn and a better customer experience. The overall concept that call centers strive for is to manage service levels and average speed of answer (ASA) by using the fewest number of paid labor hours without jeopardizing revenue opportunity, increasing employee discord or creating customer dissatisfaction.

From spreadsheets to WFM software, the basic fundamentals to manage these these task are the same. Based on our experience, WFM has four key components; forecasting customer interaction volume, utilizing the forecasted data to create optimized agents schedules, assigning agents to schedules and analytic driven performance management on an ongoing basis. This blog will look at each of these components and speak to their impact within WFM.

Forecasting

Forecasting is part history, part science and part insight. The principle component allows for the contact center to predict future workload based upon historical data sets. The more historical data received allows for a more relevant picture of trends, analysis and patterns. In today’s contact center environment it is imperative that workforce management is incorporated throughout all relevant channels across the organization. That means historical data should also be collected from chat, email, web, etc. In addition to collecting historical data, insight into emerging trends which may impact volume differently from the historical data can be included in the equation to better forecast and plan. Many WFM solutions today have unique algorithms that allow for more accurate results than a scheduler alone for it will take in all applicable variables, operational insights, channels and will also provide simulations before schedules are generated.

Scheduling

Following the forecasting, a workforce management solution or scheduler utilizing a spreadsheet will determine what shifts, hours, etc. will need coverage based off the forecasting. When thinking about scheduling, average handle time should be considered, as well. Average handle time (AHT) is calculated differently within many contact centers, especially across various channels. Traditionally, AHT is comprised of average talk time and after-call work. Considering this aspect, you can then discover how many resources will be needed to handle the volume at the service-level and ASA goal.

Assigning Agents

Contact centers use a variety of ways to schedule agents to the meet meet operational needs. Shift bidding is a process that can simplify this task by taking into consideration agent performance, call handling ability, tenure and availability, to give agents a specific schedule. There are many WFM solutions that will also automate this process. Shift bidding can sometime cause agent uneasiness, so complement it with shift trading, time-off flexibility and work-from-home opportunities. Most schedules should consider state labor laws, time-off requests, breaks and lunches. Ultimately, the schedules should find a middle ground between the wants and needs of the agents and those of the organization rather than a totalitarian “top-down” approach to the process.

Analytic Driven Performance Management

The last principal is the ongoing monitoring of agents’ adherence to their schedules to ensure coverage supplies the demand. In addition, we are analyzing the Service-levels, ASA in real time and intraday intervals to determine if the center needs to change from the forecast. This step involves reporting of the daily metrics such as ASA, phone-to-staff/utilization, staff-to-work, adherence and many others that contact centers measure. This data can assist with allowing more time off the phone for nonscheduled events such as recurrent training, coaching, and team huddles. Furthermore, it can be utilized to identify if the demand is higher than the allotted schedule and determine when to solicit for overtime. This data is collected and reported and added to future forecasting or insight to towards forecasting.

WFM is not an easy practice and can be one of the most complex components out of all of the Workforce Optimization (WFO) solutions. While automation removes most of the frustrations from the process, there are still plenty of variables to consider and configure. Understanding the basic concepts of WFM will help determine your needs, your scalability and whether or not WFM automation or keeping a spreadsheet is ideal with your organization. Adding WFM in can tremendously improve your contact center operational efficiency and provide additional insight to help drive your business forward while empowering your employees.