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.
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