by Connor Bourke
1. Accurate Forecasting of volumes, shrinkage, attrition, AHT.
Any plan can only be as good as the inputs into the plan. Not only volume needs to be accurately forecast but also shrinkage, attrition and AHT. While we may be tempted to enter our targets for each of these, this leaves us exposed if there are factors negatively affecting these. Forecasts should be based on historical performance, adjusted for specific actions being taken to address this historical performance.
2. Timely hiring and training plans that give you the agents when you need them.
To maintain adequate staffing we need to forecast not only our requirements, but also our ability to meet them, and enter timely plans to do so. If we need 4 weeks to hire and 4 weeks to train new agents then hiring plans need to be complete a minimum of 8 weeks in advance
3. Capacity plans that warn you in advance when the demands on your contact centre will outgrow your capacity.
There is no point having the staff if we have nowhere for them to sit. Peak staffing needs to be measured against capacity and notice of exceeding that capacity needs to be delivered in enough time to make alternative arrangements.
4. Efficient scheduling that meets your contact demand as well as allows for employee preferences.
Obviously we need our schedules to meet our contact demand as closely as possible, but we also need to match other factors, including employee preference, requirements for team activities and labor regulations just to name a few. This is a difficult balancing act. If we could schedule agents without any limitations then we could create the perfect schedule set, one that matched contact demand exactly. With each rule, requirement or limitation we add we can only decrease schedule efficiency. Reality dictates that if we schedule agents in a way that affects them negatively (for instance constantly changing start times) or that leaves them unsupervised (for instance a schedule distinct from the rest of their team and their Team Leader) then performance will suffer, and schedule adherence will fall, meaning the schedules actually worked are even more removed from the requirements of contact demand. Balancing employee benefit with contact demand is a difficult art but one at which your WFM team need to be adept.
5. Effective real time management that helps operations teams adhere to schedule but also allows for changes in the schedule to accommodate queue level performance.
The best plan is worth little if it is not followed. And even the best plan can still go awry. Real time management is the art of ensuring the schedules we have created are followed, as well as managing any variance to plan.
6. Proactive addressing of any variance to plan
As volume, attendance, intraday shrinkage or AHT varies from plan, we can find ourselves either understaffed or overstaffed. The former means longer waits for customers and higher occupancy for employees, the latter means agents sitting idle. As your real time team see these factors begin to vary from plan, it is imperative to gain an understanding of the root cause of the variance, forecast the impact on the rest of the day and week and act accordingly. Actions can be taken to address AHT, shrinkage and staffing to bring the plan back into alignment.
7. Recommendations based on accurate, informative “what if” scenarios
A simple truth of contact centres is that things will change. Volumes and arrival patterns are fickle and may change. Employee preferences and customer expectations will vary over time. Legislation and technology will be introduced that changes the way we operate. New products will appear and old ones will be replaced meaning agents constantly need to be retrained and reskilled. And each of these situations leaves contact centre management faced with numerous choices, and sometimes few if any appealing choices. Your WFM department needs to be able to accurately predict the result of making (or indeed failing to make) these decisions, and provide informed, accurate recommendations as to what course to take.
8. Strong partnerships with Operations, marketing, support departments.
WFM is never an isolated process: we require input from other departments in creating a plan and need to work with other departments in executing the plan. Forecasting volume requires a thorough understanding of all call drivers. This means partnering with marketing, billing, technical support, branch teams and other departments to ensure any and all call drivers are factored in. Forecasting agent behavior and performance requires a partnership with operations and training departments. Scheduling all off line activity requires knowing what training, coaching and HR departments have planned. And holding the Operations teams accountable for adhering to the plan, as well as having changes to the plan actioned quickly requires an environment of trust and respect with Team Leaders and agents.
9. Effective Communication.
Everything mentioned above is only of any value if all stakeholders are aware and bought into the plan. Your WFM team need to be strong communicators and strong influencers. They need to know when to push back, when to provide multiple options or when to strongly recommend a single course of action.
10. Above all, a commitment to maximizing customer experience, employee satisfaction and efficiency.
If any of the above are missing in your WFM then Optima WFM can provide the solution. Whether through consulting and process mining to help your team deliver best practices, through effective training of your WFM team in the principles and practices of WFM or through hosting and managing your WFM, we can help provide your service delivery solutions with the effective planning and management to give your business the edge in today’s competitive customer service environment.
Through our partnerships with leading software solutions providers we can bring world class technology to your business without significant capital costs.
Through our offshore location in the contact centre capital of the world we can provide expert staff at significant cost savings.
Through our leadership team’s extensive experience in the industry we can provide your business with best practices learnt from around the globe.
Whatever concerns you are facing with your WFM, contact Optima WFM for you solution. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Connor Bourke is the Chief Executive Officer of Optima WFM.