Manage Your Staff, Manage Expectations

June 30, 2015

With contact centers everywhere looking for every edge they can get, it’s no surprise that workforce management software is undergoing closer scrutiny. And according to a recent blog post, the software is coming into its own, and with good reason.

“The application of a Workforce Management (WFM) program within a call center can be defined as achieving and maintaining operational efficiency,” wrote Gerald Sinclair, WFO Practice Manager with Uptivity, an inContact company. “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.”

As such, Sinclair puts forth some keen insights that others can learn from. “WFM has four key components,” he notes. “Forecasting customer interaction volume; utilizing the forecasted data to create optimized agent schedules; assigning agents to schedules; and analytic-driven performance management on an ongoing basis.” He then breaks down and analyzes each component:

Forecasting: “Forecasting is part history, part science and part insight,” Sinclair says. “The principal 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.”

Scheduling: A WFM 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,” Sinclair observes. “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: 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, but “there are many WFM solutions that will also automate this process,” Sinclair says in his blog. “Shift bidding can sometimes cause agent uneasiness, so complement it with shift trading, time-off flexibility and work-from-home opportunities,” he recommends.

Analytic Driven Performance Management: “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,” he notes. Further, 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 toward 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,” Sinclair concludes. But utilizing it, and learning to use it properly, can pay big dividends over time.

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