Workforce Management in Call Centers

Workforce management is more than just an operational tool to schedule agents and track attendance. It is a strategic tool that helps you forecast the appropriate headcount to effectively manage your program - balancing the best spend of your dollars on staffing while maximizing quality and minimizing abandonment rate. 

Using Workforce Management to Optimize Your Call Center Operations

Put simply, workforce management is all about assigning the right staff to the right job at the right time to handle each customer interaction and work item in the most appropriate way. 

Although that might sound simple, it is in fact a complex business challenge, because there are many factors that come into play. By optimizing and automating staff planning you can make sure you assign your employees to tasks in accordance with your business requirements. The bottom line is that optimizing contact center and call center performance will help to develop a competitive advantage as agent productivity is improved, customers' needs are proactively met, and ultimately, revenues are increased. 

That’s where workforce management can help. By optimizing and automating staff planning you can make sure you assign your employees to tasks in accordance with your business requirements.

Workforce management allows you to:

  • Forecast your requirements – so you know how many employees with what skills you’ll need in the future
  • Plan your work schedule – so you have exactly the right number of employees to meet your needs
  • Manage your employees’ time – so you can determine your employees’ work time accounts
  • Monitor and analyze your results – so you can see whether you are meeting your targets, and take prompt action if not.

Below are some tips to help you implement or optimize a workforce management solution that works for you. If you need assistance selecting or implementing a workforce management program, or if you just want someone to manage it for you - contact us; The Connection® can help. 

For workforce planning to be successful, you must be able to predict your short, medium and long-term staffing requirements. When forecasts are inaccurate, the schedules are irrelevant. Unfortunately, contact center managers sometimes lack complete visibility into activities that impact their future contact volumes, forcing them to do the best they can with available information. This information gap occurs when contact volume is driven by activities outside of the group’s control or as a result of unexpected events such as systems problems or lack of communication between departments. Check out our article on the 10 Causes of Inaccurate Forecasts and How to Avoid Them

In order to make sure you have the right number of staff in place at the right time, you first need to work out what the right number is. This number is chiefly determined by your operations. Workforce management is a set of tools that help you forecast how your business activities will develop and how these plans will affect your staffing needs.

A workforce management system uses historical data to provide predictions about future needs. It may also help in recruitment and training by matching the skills profile of your staff to your longer-term needs. If you run one-off or regular campaigns, a workforce management system can help you determine the staff you’ll need.

Ensuring that staff schedules remain in line with business needs is vital to success, but juggling scheduling rules, contracts, shift patterns, flexible working hours and ever-changing requirements presents a huge challenge if you manage them manually. Automatic scheduling systems allow you to create and manage an effective schedule by taking into account your business requirements, your employees’ needs and your scheduling rules.

Scheduling is not as simple as it may seem at first glance. The main objective of staff scheduling is to create schedules that meet all legal and contractual requirements, as well as taking into account employees’ qualifications, personal working time preferences and availability. Workforce management gives you a way of automating these requirements and may allow employees to participate in the planning process, leading to happier, more motivated staff.

Many organizations take agent preferences and skill sets into account when scheduling. The “standard agent” approach to solving resource issues (i.e. treating one agent the same as any other) can cause problems with both agent satisfaction and customer service levels. Yet the business’s needs must come first, so a scheduler will have to find the best way to match the company’s requirements with those of its employees. This can get particularly complicated in a multimedia environment which usually has agents with multiple media handling skills (e.g. voice, email, text chat, etc.) and multiple business abilities (e.g. sales, service, product knowledge, languages, etc.).

Businesses must look for a solution which does not over-simplify the scheduling process, yet retains usability and the flexibility to make changes. Solutions that allow agents to request and alter their own schedules (for example, around holidays) are becoming increasingly sought-after, as they have also been proven to strengthen agent morale.

Making sure that your scheduling suits both your staff and your business brings a number of benefits:

  • Enhanced efficiency and lower costs through consistent and timely planning based on business needs
  • Greater customer satisfaction as a result of improved service
  • Automation of administration, freeing managers and planners to do what they do best
  • Automatic monitoring

The faster you detect any deviation from your plan, the more effectively you can react. Real-time monitoring means you can immediately compare your targets with actual data. It can also determine whether your requirement forecasts were accurate. This means you can respond more quickly to changes and you can adapt your plans to keep your schedules efficient. You can also monitor adherence (e.g. to agreed working times or legal requirements) and generate reports.