Jeremy Hamill-Keays, Product Manager, Calabrio takes a look at how workforce management fills the gaps
Running a successful contact center means being proactive and not reactive – once the level of service starts to drop it can often snowball, one delay leading to a bigger delay and so on. So it is important to be able to see changes coming, a well-run contact center should always be able to forecast customer demand and schedule the right people to be in the right place at the right time. However, in the light of changing call volumes and agent availability this is not an easy task on a day-to-day basis. While the best laid plans can forecast customer demand there will always be surprises, for example there could be an unexpected change in the weather and then the only guarantee is that the day will not go as planned.
So while it is possible to forecast customer demand it is not possible to be 100% accurate. Likewise it is possible to calculate agent availability and agent absences through illness, training, leave etc but it is not possible to know which agent will be sick and when. As each agent has a specific shift pattern individual absences can sometimes have a marked impact on service. That is why proactive planning is needed and a Workforce Management (WFM) solution which allows you to reschedule during the day taking into account unplanned changes in customer demand and unplanned agent absences is what you are looking for. It is important to be able to schedule agents during the day as well as into the future so make sure your WFM vendor has an intra-day scheduler to deal with this situation. For example perhaps you produce a plan which is 90% correct but then to compensate for the 10% which cannot be planned, it is possible to change break times and lunches or move people between skill groups, front office and back office work, etc. The changes are often only by a few minutes but those small changes can make all the difference between meeting service levels during peaks and losing valuable calls.
To many agents and not enough enquiries AKA a trough
Having too many agents and not enough enquiries is a luxury contact centers cannot afford – literally! If a contact center is regularly overstaffed during quiet periods it suggests that something is wrong with its strategic forecasting and scheduling. In this case the trick is to try and get it right the first time which means the WFM solution helps to create an accurate forecast leaving the rest of the time to manage exceptions. If this balance is not correctly achieved even with the best WFM solution in the world, time will be spent firefighting on the day.
If on the other hand there is the odd day when the contact center is overstaffed, then there is always the opportunity to move agents onto other tasks for example outbound calling, social media or to spend time on additional training or other activities.
The art of avoiding peaks and troughs is to recognize that running a contact center involves two processes. The first is strategic planning to try and get it right first time. Secondly, to recognize that there will always be a margin of error and to manage that within each day. Both of these processes are equally as important. Therefore the ideal is to work with a well-designed forecast and schedule but be able to fine tune the resources during the day to ensure service targets are consistently met at minimum costs.