BPO WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT: Fixing Time and Resources

VoicenData Bureau
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Call centers are all about agents and taking calls. They are about scale,

human resources, and productivity. They are about using the available resources

in an optimal manner to get the maximum output. And for all that one needs to

organize time and resources in the best possible manner. In organizations that

run into thousands of agents and for managers leading teams comprising hundreds

of agents, this can be a nightmare if it were to be done manually.


Workforce management (WFM) tools can play a significant role in helping

managers to schedule and organize the workforce in an optimal manner.

Scheduling tools typically work closely with forecasting software, which

gather statistics about service levels and call volumes from ACDs. Forecasts

allow you to look back and use historical data to enable the prediction of

staffing needs within the next week, month, or year.

The WFM tool is likely to follow at least one of two approaches. It relies

either on a variation of a mathematical model called Erlang C, or the results of

simulations of certain conditions in the center.


In an industry that is fighting high attrition rates, workforce management is

a godsent that helps in proper scheduling of the workforce in a transparent

manner. But its impact is greater than just this one task. As most managers

would agree, effective leadership requires effective communication. It is about

keeping agents and managers informed about schedules rather than about new

algorithms for creating schedules.

Among the more complex deployments, the tool enables agents to bid for

schedules in advance and provide their preference up front. Thus agents can have

flexible working hours and even trade schedules if need be. It helps agents to

organize their personal life and plan vacations well in advance. Such

flexibility results in good human relations management.

That's why call centers should view this tool not just as a scheduling tool

but from the larger perspective of good organizational practice.



The software cannot provide best results unless it is customized to suit

your unique needs based on: SLAs, call traffic, and availability of agents. The

scheduling criteria should allow to consistently meet the staffing needs, while

avoiding the trap of assigning too many agents.

Usage can be optimized when one can forecast the number of calls-during

peak hours, and lean periods-and schedule agents accordingly. Collecting

historical data to analyze call patterns is a vital input in forecasting calls

accurately. Therefore it is important to view the optimum results when deploying

a workforce management tool in totality and not as a stand-alone product, only

from the scheduling perspective.

It is in light of this same logic that experts feel it is wise to devise

schedules for teams of agents rather than for individual agents.



it is a good thing to allow agents to bid for schedules, it is equally important

to maintain fairness in schedule allocation. Some centers give agents with more

seniority the first pick in preference while others assign schedule that reflect

demand. This may be a less appealing approach but certainly more efficient.

Another important aspect that can impact the optimum utilization of the tool

is that it is important to outline the definition of shrinkage-the percentage

of time when agents are not able to answer customer queries. Otherwise, you may

end up penalizing an agent for the time spent during training or when the agent

is updating customer record after each call.

Besides, one must believe in the power of the software and experiment with

new schedules. You may be surprised at the kind of results that can accrue.


Finally, one must not forget that help is always at hand in the form of

vendors-the experts who would always be ready to do a bit of consulting. If

you want assistance creating a customized forecasting and scheduling plan for

your call center, vendors can offer you insights into effective WFM and

applications of their software.


Look for a software that offers complex scheduling capability.

It must allow agents and managers to see the schedule in order to view and

adjust the scheduling. It makes things much easier if the tool is browser based.

- The

software should be capable of handling sudden changes in schedule. If a number

of agents call in sick on a particular day, the software should be able to

recalculate the day's staffing needs and modify agents' breaks, lunches, and

assignments for that day.


- The software should be capable of forecasting

the pattern of call traffic based on one or more algorithms, which becomes a

crucial input for agent scheduling.

- It helps if the tool displays the statistics

that agents and managers use frequently. For instance, managers' dashboards

can display schedule adherence or shrinkage figures for the day whereas agents

only get to see their own adherence figures.

- The software should facilitate easy changes in

schedules, or enable agents to trade schedules. It should also have an automatic

process of approval.


- It helps if the tool can integrate with the

knowledge management tool so that training requirements of agents can be duly


- The tool should offer usage across multiple

media to schedule agents to make outbound calls or answer e-mails.

- Some WFM tools comprise features that help

track the agents' as well as the center's performance.

- Some tools enable the combining of budgeting

with workforce management that helps to consider scenarios for budgeting staff,

including the effects of outsourcing or hiring temps.

- The WFM tool should enable skill-based


- The tool should enable multi-site scheduling.

- The tool should enable bidding for schedule






head CIS and IPC solutions unit, Datacraft India

Kallol Kanungo, VP support and delivery, enterprise solutions, GTL

S Madhavan, president and CTO, Servion Global Solutions

Vikas Gupta, director, IT, vCustomer Services India