As a contact center leader, you need to consistently meet customer service expectations while staying within budget. A key factor in achieving both objectives is effective management of your contact center resources. After all, these resources account for a significant part of your contact center’s full operating budget and are key customer satisfaction drivers. It stands to reason that how you forecast, schedule and manage them can make or break your contact center budget.
But these are challenging tasks. That’s why forecasting and scheduling cause the majority of today’s contact center resource budget woes. To do forecasting and scheduling well, analysts must accurately predict the workload, then create schedules that put in place the right contact center agents to meet the service-level target at any given time throughout the day. The traditional, manual approach—which is still largely used today—rarely yields the right balance: overstaff, and you waste budget; understaff, and you don’t meet customer expectations.
That’s why workforce management (WFM) software—designed to deliver a superior customer experience in a reliable, consistent, efficient manner—is quickly gaining steam. It helps supervisors better manage and monitor contact center employees, it makes agents feel more empowered and it motivates both groups to become more proactive. According to DMG Consulting, by focusing on two key areas ripe for optimization—forecasts and schedules—WFM can deliver immediate cost savings to your bottom line in five key ways, including:
With the streamlined task automation provided by WFM software, the typical contact center can reduce by approximately 25 percent the amount of time it takes to forecast, schedule and manage service levels for multiple channels and locations.
This automation also leverages historical data to deliver more accurate forecasts, which results in less overstaffing and— consequently—less budget over-spend.
Contact center leaders employing WFM leverage a variety of capabilities to increase and encourage agent adherence.
They empower agents to actively participate in the scheduling process via WFM self-service capabilities that solicit their preferred schedules, and allow them to easily swap schedules or request time off. This approach saves time and money for analysts, too; they simply set up an auto-approval workflow framework once in the WFM tool, then let the system do the work.
Contact center leaders also use WFM to optimize adherence by automatically sending alerts or posting schedule updates to agents’ Microsoft Outlook calendars. They’re also able—via visual indicators on WFM dashboards—to spot and address adherence violations more quickly than with manual solutions, allowing leaders to minimize the negative impact on the customer experience. Some WFM tools even allow agents to view their own adherence status, to encourage adherence self-management.
Contact centers using WFM also enjoy improved supervisory efficiency. Supervisors can quickly create an accurate, detailed daily forecast using factors such as historical volume information, mathematical algorithms and simulation methods, to ensure they have the optimal number and level of agents on call to answer customer inquiries. With WFM, supervisors also can leverage automation to quickly and easily approve agent requests—such as PTO or vacation requests—and take into account agent preferences when building a schedule.
In addition, WFM lets supervisors—along with the agents—more easily monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), such as “first call resolution” and “call times,” that measure the health and quality of service provided to the customer.
By automating and clarifying contact center forecasting, WFM tools enable contact center leaders to run forecasts more frequently—and more accurately—in order to reduce the amount of overtime incurred. Some tools even predict during which hours the biggest needs will occur, and enable supervisors to address any unexpected surges in call volume by quickly and easily shifting resources from less important tasks.
Contact center leaders also can permit agents to leverage WFM self-service features to swap hours or identify times they’re available for additional hours, when the overtime need arises.
Agent turnover is a prevalent, expensive issue in today’s contact centers. And one of the primary reasons agents leave is because they don’t receive consistent feedback and coaching. A WFM tool can alleviate this issue by helping supervisors more easily schedule mandatory, periodic coaching sessions with agents.
A WFM tool also can help reduce agent churn by increasing morale. For example, supervisors can reward top performers by letting them have first dibs at prime schedules or shifts; give agents control over their own schedules; empower agents to monitor their own performance metrics; and deliver fast, automated approvals on schedule swap and vacation requests. Some contact centers also evolve their philosophies regarding schedule flexibility. They might transition a portion of their staff to part-time schedules, offer at-home agent opportunities or allow more overtime.