workforce management

Workforce Management Basics in Today’s Contact Center: Part 2

In Part One of this two-part series, we sought to demystify the forecasting and scheduling components of contact center workforce management. In Part Two, we will seek to address intraday management and employee engagement as components of a WFM program.

Intraday management

You figured out the forecast and created a schedule to cover it, so now you can just coast, right? WRONG – much to the dismay of all workforce managers everywhere! You can have the most accurate forecast and most optimized schedule in the world, but unexpected occurrences are always going to pop up and throw a wrench in the works. That’s life! An agent’s child gets sick, an unexpected website outage triggers an influx of inbound calls, marketing runs a sale without advanced notice, etc. When these things happen, the best course of action is to execute an intraday reforecast and tweak your schedules to cover your gaps.

Intraday reforecasting

Today 70% of intraday issues are handled manually by the WFM team, managers or supervisors, but most leading workforce management software can automate intraday reforecasting for individual intervals, as well as automate much of the schedule change workflow. Intraday information is typically displayed in an intraday grid that provides a view of forecasted and actual metric results for one or all skills for volume, average speed of answer (ASA), average handle time (WHT) and service levels (SLA). This grid lets you compare them and quickly spot areas where you may need to update your schedule.

Schedule changes

Once those areas are identified, you can adjust agents’ shifts, moving around shift times, breaks, lunches, etc. as necessary. Again, the best WFM solutions will automatically notify agents to alert them that their shifts have changed to ensure that your people will be in the right place at the right time, despite the change in plans.

In some circumstances – based on how large the forecast variance is – you may even have to call in additional agents or send agents home. In most contact centers, this remains a manual task, but more and more contact centers are exploring the use of employee engagement tools that automatically recommend and enact schedule adjustments, automatically engaging the right agents with offers for additional shift opportunities or offers for time off.  

Real-time adherence

Another important intraday activity is measuring and monitoring real-time adherence (RTA).  RTA is one of the most underrated metrics in the contact center, but undoubtedly one of the most important. RTA allows you to quickly see what your agents should be doing based on the schedule versus what they are actually doing in real-time, as well as how long they have been out of adherence. Having this insight at a glance allows you to address the issue immediately, whether that means sending an IM to that agent telling them they need to head to lunch or walking over there yourself! 

Employee engagement

While the activities in forecasting, scheduling, and intraday and schedule change management all impact employee engagement, there are some specific activities that are part of a successful workforce management program that directly impact employee engagement. How you manage time-off requests, schedule-change requests, and shift bids serves as a strong indicator to your agents of how much you value their time (both in and out of the office). An agent-initiated time-off or schedule change request is usually precipitated by something in their personal life. Taking days –  in some cases, weeks! – to respond sends a signal that their work-life balance is not important. Thus, you must ensure you have a process in place to provide timely, if not real-time, responses to these requests.

Luckily most WFM solutions provide a mechanism to track agent time-off balances, automatically route requests to a manager for approval, and provide instant notification of status to agents. In some cases, the software can auto-approve requests based on rules established by managers. Similarly, automating change requests and allowing for shift swaps amongst peers also provides your agents with flexibility. Shift bidding is another popular technique to engage your workforce in the scheduling process, providing agents with a voice in the scheduling process while still meeting business needs. As you can see, contact center workforce management has a lot of moving parts, all of which independently warrant more consideration and elaboration! Nonetheless, gaining an understanding of the four basic components of workforce management – forecasting, scheduling, intraday management, and employee engagement – is a great first step towards becoming fluent in the lingo of WFM!