7 Steps to Effective Workforce Planning | Calabrio
Guide to Call Center Workforce Management: Best Practices & Tools
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7 Steps to Effective Workforce Planning


Building an efficient contact center that solves a customer’s problem effectively the first time around while also keeping agents motivated is the ultimate goal of CX leaders everywhere. Success comes down to effective workforce planning – in its simplest form – ensuring enough of the right-skilled staff are in the right place at the right time. Over the past few years, however, achieving this gold standard of excellence has been thwarted by the added complexities of remote or hybrid working. And, there’s no going back. According to the Call Center Management Association, 79% of employees want to spend some time at home and sometime in the office.

Top workforce planning challenges

Workforce planning means so much more than the traditional ‘right person, right place, right time’ mantra, and it affects different roles at different levels of the organization. Here are some of the most common challenges Calabrio’s customers encounter:

For the Agent
“There is no flexibility in my schedule, and I don’t have a lot of insight or influence on my career development.”

For the Workforce Planner
“I feel overwhelmed with the amount of time I spend processing scheduling requests. I want to be seen as fair and helpful, but I don’t have the technology or time. I want to give our employees more of a say in their schedules while they work from home, but I feel it would impact our customer service.”

For the Contact Center Director
“It’s hard to meet customer expectations with our current employee attrition levels. I want to run a flexible organization where people want to work and where we are not falling into a cycle of continuous hiring and training, which increases our costs and impacts customer service.”

For the C-Level Executive
“Our organization is constantly evaluating how we can streamline our customer service processes, improve employee morale, and provide a better customer experience. I don’t feel we have the tools and technology to optimize these areas.”


3 reasons to invest in automated WFM for successful workforce planning

These challenges reflect how all parts of the organization are united in the desire to make continuous improvements to workforce planning. Fortunately, they are all made possible by automating Workforce Management (WFM) processes. Utilize modern WFM solutions to:

  1. Manage and grow your remote and hybrid workforce while keeping it engaged by accommodating employees’ demands. For example, someone working from home who doesn’t have to travel to the office might prefer to work an earlier shift than they would otherwise have signed up to. Catering for that level of flexibility is easy when using an advanced WFM solution that brings together agent availability, preferences, and skills as part of its workforce planning process. It supports faster, more efficient scheduling that accommodates sufficient time for virtual meetings and coaching to keep teams connected and to progress individual career paths.
  2. Emphasize employee and customer satisfaction – aside from agent work-life flexibility, employee well-being is another crucial element of a comprehensive WFM offering. Calabrio’s own WFM solution benefits from a culture where employee satisfaction is prized. The concept of ‘happy agent, happy customer’ was prefigured in the Nordic regions, where our solution was developed, so that culture is baked right in at the foundation of our product.The same benefits are also experienced by customers. When the right people are in the right place at the right time with the right skills, service levels don’t suffer. Customers end up speaking to the best person for their needs and they get the service they want regardless of the time they call.
  3. Gain remote intelligence – beyond simply deploying a WFM solution to improve workforce planning, it’s important to draw intelligence about the efficacy of the solution and team performance – even more so in the remote world of work. Advanced WFM solutions provide valuable operational and business intelligence. For example, Calabrio WFM features embedded reporting that provides customizable dashboards for quicker and more exact insights. It’s this type of insights-visualizing functionality that Calabrio anticipates becoming part of a wider trend for data-driven decision making. After all, consumers increasingly seek data from multiple sources before making a purchase so why shouldn’t the same principle apply to the contact center when deciding how to support frontline staff and customers, including workforce planning?

5 money-saving tips for workforce planning

Implementing a flexible, intelligent WFM solution delivers immediate cost savings:

Money Saver #1: Reduced agent overstaffing – by streamlining and automating scheduling, a typical contact center can reduce the amount of time it takes to forecast, schedule, and manage service levels for multiple channels and locations by as much as 25%.

Money Saver #2: Improved agent adherence – empowering agents to actively participate in the scheduling process through self-service capabilities improves adherence. Supervisors and planners simply set up an auto-approval workflow and let the automated WFM system do the workforce planning – saving time and money.

Money Saver #3: Improved supervisor efficiency – by using accurate daily forecasts based on historical volume data and “what if” modeling, supervisors can approve agent absence requests while keeping in mind service levels and have more time for performance coaching.

Money Saver #4: Reduced agent overtime expenses – WFM means that forecasts can be run more frequently and more accurately, in order to reduce the amount of overtime incurred.

Money Saver #5: Reducing agent churn in the midst of the “Great Resignation” agent turnover is a prevalent, expensive issue in today’s contact center. One of the primary reasons agents leave is because they don’t receive consistent feedback and coaching. A WFM tool alleviates this issue by helping supervisors more easily schedule mandatory, periodic coaching sessions with agents into their workforce plan.

Find out how much you can save using Calabrio’s dedicated WFM ROI calculator. Designed to reveal the potential for savings in your organization, it also provides a useful tool when building a business case for investment in WFM to support an effective workforce planning strategy.

7 Essential steps to effective workforce planning

Here are our top tips for getting started:

  1. Be creative with shifts – make the most of ‘no commute time’ to schedule team meetings and agent coaching sessions. Then, experiment with different types of shifts. For example, split shifts are good for training, and if contact volumes are higher than usual and time is of the essence, micro shifts offer 1-hour windows for crucial 1-2-1 catch-ups.
  2. Expect the unexpected – make the most of the powerful “What-If” scenario for workforce planning to model the impact of potential COVID lockdowns. Incorporate buffers that allow for other unexpected spikes in activity and unplanned absences.
  3. Archive all forecasts – a recorded audit trail of previous forecasting activities provides a solid foundation for the future. However, schedules and forecasts just like demand are constantly changing so set a regular date in the diary – at least once a month – to review historical data and increase efficiencies in terms of workforce planning.
  4. Build behavior profiles – “noise factors” such as holiday periods, marketing promotions, and product launches impact contact volumes. Building behavior profiles for each of these scenarios is a useful technique for planners. For example, a smart planner at a water company will calculate the likelihood of frost to schedule more staff when freezing temperatures mean more burst pipes and spikes in contact center demand.
  5. Use your ears – a workforce planner’s most valuable tool is their ears. By simply listening to what advisors are saying, prevalent concerns, and behaviors often come to light. These may explain significant planning trends that help planners do a better job while avoiding being labeled the ‘computer says no’ villains.
  6. Make the most of Mobile Apps – to give planners, managers, and agents one complete picture of workforce activities, saving time, increasing efficiencies, and allowing frontline teams to check their schedules, make time-off requests, and swap shifts, all within one workforce planning portal.
  7. AI to the rescue – when combined with the latest WFM solutions, Artificial Intelligence boosts predictive scheduling and planning. AI-powered chatbots like Calabrio’s “Grant” further support agent self-scheduling requests across remote teams helping to avoid agent burnout, high abandon rates, and unhappy customers along the way.

Effective workforce planning encompasses everything from streamlining processes to re-assessing recruitment and retention plans and even re-writing the employee engagement rulebook. Maximizing your contact center resources using flexible, intelligent WFM technology is good for your team and it’s good for business. Now is the time to kickstart your journey towards effective workforce planning. For more ideas and inspiration, read our definitive guide to workforce management or check out the product.

Graeme Meikle is a Senior WFM Consultant and Project Manager at Calabrio
Graeme Meikle is a Senior WFM Consultant and Project Manager for Calabrio. He has been there for over 2 years, helping to deploy WFM software using the best practices that he has learnt throughout 20+ years of Planning and Telephony experience. Working throughout a range of industries from Banking, Insurance, Communications and Private Health Care, he has learned and demonstrated how to maximise the benefits of a Workforce management team.
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