Celebrating Sharon Jones, National Debt Relief—SWPP’s WFM Professional of the Year! - Calabrio (UK)
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Celebrating Sharon Jones, National Debt Relief—SWPP’s WFM Professional of the Year!

Last week, we announced two Calabrio customers were named finalists in the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals’s (SWPP) “2020 Workforce Management Professional of the Year Award” programme.

And one of them—Sharon Jones of National Debt Relief (NDR)—WON!!

According to Sharon, “I’ve had the opportunity to review the resumes and write-ups of my fellow nominees, and I can’t believe I was named—they all represent the best of workforce planning! They all leveraged their knowledge and skill to improve the efficiency and work-life balance of our most important resource: our agents. My hat is off to all of them! I hope to meet them all some day soon.”

Championing Effective Forecasting and Staffing

Sharon might be surprised, but those of us who know her aren’t.

As Head of Workforce Planning for one of the U.S.’s largest and most reputable debt settlement companies, Sharon manages a 14-person WFM team responsible for 1,500 agents across three contact centres who handle more than 300,000 interactions per month. But when she arrived at NDR in early 2019, no official WFM practises or programmes existed. And that was a big problem.

That’s because people reaching out to NDR’s contact centre want to rid their lives of burdensome debt at the least possible cost and re-establish financial stability as quickly as possible. This type of debt settlement can take months or years to resolve, so agents often speak with clients over the course of the programme.

In the midst of one of the most anxious times of their lives, any delays NDR customers encounter in connecting with NDR agents aren’t just inconvenient—they quickly can compound an already stressful situation and make matters worse.

That’s why effective forecasting and staffing were at the top of Sharon’s list when she started at NDR.

“Before we implemented workforce planning, contact centre managers couldn’t figure out how many people would be needed at any given time,” Sharon says. “That meant we couldn’t guarantee we’d always have enough agents to take those calls that come in—calls from people who need our help. So we worked on strengthening our forecasting before we did anything else, in order to understand what the workload really was.”

Continues Sharon, “NDR didn’t have official scheduling for its contact centre agents before we implemented workforce planning. If an agent took time off, that agent could just make up the time whenever they wanted during the rest of week in order to get to 40 hours worked. Meetings, trainings and coaching happened all day long. And, because managers couldn’t forecast, overtime was assigned based on ‘gut feel.’”

Sharon vetted then deployed Calabrio Teleopti WFM, and immediately activated several key capabilities designed to creatively streamline and improve the contact centre forecasting and scheduling process. One particular feature, unique to Calabrio, is its agent “Self-Scheduling” capability released in Fall 2019—a feature that’s proven particularly valuable during COVID-19.

“Self-servicing for shift preferences, overtime or time-off is nothing new. But what’s great about this self-scheduling capability is that it lets agents manage and change their own schedules as unexpected things happen throughout each day, without negatively impacting the contact centre’s service level,” Sharon says. “Because of it, our agents enjoy a smoother, more reliable scheduling and forecasting process, and a better work-life balance.”

Explains Sharon, “In our case, agents constantly reach out to creditors and then call customers with settlement information. But when customers don’t answer those calls, agents spend time on efforts that don’t pay off immediately. One key thing WFM helps us do is understand how many times on average an agent needs to reach out to be successful, so we can staff our centres more efficiently to meet those needs, without overstaffing.”

“As a result, through the correct staffing and targeted dialling enabled by workforce planning, we very quickly increased agent workload by 15 percent. But we also gave our workforce planning team more flexibility and reduced the amount of manual monitoring they have to do in order to keep control of their contact centre environment at all times. This combination of workforce planning optimisation, intraday automation and agent self-scheduling makes NDR’s contact centre employees happier while improving our contact centre performance. It’s a win-win.”

Results Speak for Themselves

Thanks to Sharon’s work, NDR’s contact centres are optimally staffed to handle the incoming calls; its agents are better trained, compassionate and confident; and its customers experience smoother, more effective and reassuring interactions.

Sharon’s work, in fact, is so respected at NDR that the workplace planning data on which she bases her recommendations and decisions now is widely considered the voice of reason and knowledge within the company. She, however, credits much of her success to the business leaders who have supported her.

“I’ve had a varied career and been fortunate to work for great leaders who had faith in me and were supportive of my career goals. I think they all recognised my passion for WFM and respected the practise of workforce planning.”

Sharon also applauds SWPP’s Executive Director Vicki Herrell and her team, saying, “They continue to spread the knowledge and provide an invaluable forum where WFM professionals can learn, network and grow their skill sets.”

Once again, congratulations, Sharon!!

For more on SWPP’s Workforce Professional of the Year Award, visit their awards page.

Angela Higgins, Director of Customer & Partner Engagement, is responsible for creating meaningful experiences through which customers and partners can engage with Calabrio and its products. Angela joined Calabrio with more than 15 years’ experience in marketing, including 8 years in B2B software marketing. She holds a B.A. in public relations from University of Minnesota, and a Master’s in Business Communications from St. Thomas University.
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