Why Contact Centers Need a Workforce Management Team

Every contact center needs a Workforce Management (WFM) team. Seriously, you do! I spend a lot of time evangelizing why WFM planning is so important when creating a consistently performing operation. Because I have seen this play out many times in my job as a consultant, I’m highly confident that WFM practices can help any business improve. After all, isn’t it better to be prepared than surprised?

One of the best predictors of future behavior is past behavior. WFM software allows us to gather data from the past so we’re able to prepare for the future. Learning from the past is your starting point in creating a business case for WFM. Be prepared, not surprised!

WFM is a tightly integrated set of processes and procedures that an organization uses to optimize performance of a workforce against an “expected” workload. Areas of responsibility for a WFM team typically include forecasting, scheduling, real time management, reporting and analysis. To learn more about workforce management, I suggest you read, “A New Definition of Workforce Management.”)

Three questions you need to ask about your business:

  • How many interactions of each work type will you receive and when? Can you afford not to know the work (calls, emails, chats) you will receive daily?
  • What agent skill sets are needed? Can you afford not to know which members of your organization are the right ones to interact with customers?
  • How many agents of each skill set are needed? Can you afford to lose customers if their questions/concerns are not handled within your customers’ definition of appropriate answer speed and answer quality?

Answers to these questions are simplified with workforce management software in the hands of skilled resources. Assigning the right resources for WFM will maximize the return on your software investment, so choose your workforce management professional wisely. WFM is a unique skill that requires advanced analysis abilities and software proficiency. As your company’s planning skills mature, you should expect to see:

  • More accurate forecasts.
  • Efficient schedule plans.
  • Improved consistency in service level delivery.
  • Ability to schedule in quality, training and other corporate initiatives.
  • Overall improved agent morale.
  • Improved financial performance with control of resourcing requirements.

In addition to an improvement in contact center performance, the information gained can also serve to model behaviors for HR, sales and marketing. Tap into WFM practices to stimulate collaboration between internal business partners and you’ll maximize overall effectiveness.

  • HR – How many agents HR needs to hire for each skill set and when they’re needed.
  • Sales – WFM team will ensure the right resources are identified to deliver upon the service promised, encourage additional sales opportunities, and extend the customer relationship.
  • Marketing – Maximize the marketing team’s efforts through event driven forecasting methodologies.

How does your contact center perform? Could your operation benefit from improved planning?

Chuck Swain

Top Three Tips for Improving Patient Engagement

The topic of “patient engagement” is very hot in the healthcare industry right now. The idea of transforming customer experience has taken almost every industry by storm, and the healthcare customer experience is no exception. What is it that sets certain providers’ customer service experiences apart from others?

In a recent webinar, we teamed up with CareCentrix, a leading provider of at-home health solutions, to help outline some key initiatives for healthcare providers. Here are three tips they shared:

Know the patient. Many providers try and implement patient service strategies based on what THEIR goals and initiatives are. When the […]

Unlocking the Mystery of First Contact Resolution

Contact Centers seem to be turning some of their focus away from the “old school” metrics of service level achievement – e.g. percent of calls answered in x seconds, average speed of answer and average talk time. Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying these goals are not on company’s radar. I am suggesting that resolution on the first try or “one and done,” might be becoming more important than standard SLAs.

Think about it. When I call my bank, doctor, etc., I don’t care as much about how long I have to wait, but I do care […]

Creating Loyalty through Seamless Customer Experiences

Looking at your service experience from the customer’s point of view lets you balance your contact channels, improving navigation from SMS to Web to speaking with a live agent via chat or phone. What happens when you don’t create a good omnichannel experience for customers? Let me share a recent experience I had to paint a clear picture.

I recently tried to make a purchase online, and while I found what I wanted, I wasn’t sure if it would really work for me. Their site offered web chat, so I initiated a chat session to get some additional information. The […]

Metrics Can Lead to Operational Dysfunction

When you spend a lot of time on the road talking to customers and prospects, you start collecting stories, and the stories I’ve gathered usually come from the mouths of contact center planners and workforce managers. And these stories are often about how things in call centers can get messed up.

Organizations and operations can become dysfunctional for a lot of reasons. I’m always fascinated when the dysfunction is brought about because of the metrics we use and how executives are compensated.

Here’s one story that I’ve heard several times.

A common business practice is to manage an operation to […]

Contact Center Economies of Scale

Call centers exist for one very important reason—it’s more economical for a large group of people to answer customer phone calls than smaller groups of individuals to answer those same calls. For example, retailers or hoteliers often send the calls from their stores to call centers because it is cheaper (and often provides better service). What’s the magic? It’s the economies of scale.

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Economies of scale are the savings that larger operations get as they spread their fixed costs (the call center infrastructure) over more and more output (calls answered). Larger centers have lower costs per call […]

C3 – IT’s Ticket to a Bigger Seat at the Table

Confessions of an IT Director – “Initial cloud anarchy caught us by surprise…”

Here’s the good news: IT professionals have evolved and are well positioned to lead as the next wave of cloud innovation addresses increasingly empowered customers and business users.

The next wave is called C3. Interactive Intelligence defines C3 as the next generation cloud platforms that offer comprehensive collaboration, communications and customer engagement services.

Dr. Don Brown, CEO and chief visionary of Interactive Intelligence, explains:

“Companies are going to try to reduce the number of vendor relationships they have. This is not a new trend, but we believe, […]

Five IVR Design Best Practices

I was talking to a tech-savvy friend a few days ago, and he was bemoaning an IVR he had recently traversed trying to get to an agent to ask a simple question. He said he had to spend five minutes in the IVR giving various pieces of information, including his home address, before being given the option to speak to someone. During the post-call survey, he gave the IVR low marks, but gave the agent interaction a better grade since that part of the experience was pretty good – once he was able to get to a live person.

That […]

Three Ways to Help Agents Handle Difficult Calls

I recently read an article about a customer that received his bill and noticed that the company’s contact center agent had intentionally changed his first name to a derogatory term. I was appalled that anyone experienced this. It was good to know that the company performed an investigation and found the agent that conducted himself in this unprofessional manner and promptly terminated his employment.

So what went wrong? While companies monitor for quality and train agents to be empathetic, these approaches aren’t foolproof and a bad apple gets through every so often. But what would provoke an agent to act […]

Do Customer Service and “Reinvent” Belong in the Same Sentence?

Today most customers and contact centers would say, “Not really.” Think back to your last few customer service interactions. Does the word “reinvent” come to mind? Probably not.

Isn’t it ironic? We live in what Forrester Research describes as the Age of the Customer, “A 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.” Companies get this and have reinvented the way we consume books (Amazon), music (Apple, Spotify), and movies (Netflix). They have transformed markets and our daily lives.

The world of customer service hasn’t changed so much. […]