Resource Planning: You can do it! (even if you’re “different”)

Resource planning is the process of pre-planning offline activities for contact center agents and can include coaching sessions, training, special projects and any other offline activities.  Pre-planning a large percentage of these events is a critical component in balancing the need to have your agents online for customers with the need to pull them offline for other activities.  

I’ve worked with many different contact centers across various industries and one of the most common problems I found in each of them was the lack of a resource planning process.  All of the centers I worked with had a workforce management (WFM) solution in place and while a WFM solution can help with planning and scheduling activities, you will never realize the full benefit of that solution without supporting processes like resource planning. 

When I asked contact center leaders why they didn’t use a resource planning process, the most common reason I found was a cultural challenge I hadn’t initially considered.  It quickly became my least favorite phrase:    

That won’t work here, our business is different.  Our business changes too much for us to plan.”    

That is simply not true in any industry.  The amount of planning you can do and the level of benefit you realize may vary by industry but pre-planning (even a little bit) will always be better than pre-planning nothing at all.     

Below is a high-level example of a resource planning process and some of the considerations you may need to make when developing one: 

1)  Monthly Planning:  Review your longer-term forecast or capacity plan to determine if you have enough people to hit your service level objectives.  If you do, how much offline time (shrinkage) can you use without impacting those objectives?    

2)  Requesting Offline Time:  Have a process for people to request offline time for agents.  It is important to communicate this process to everyone that might have a need to take agents ‘offline’ including Supervisors, Quality Coaches, Training, HR, etc. 

3)  Prioritization and Scheduling Activities:  Have a process of prioritizing all of the requests that come in and ensure that everyone understands where they fit in the priority order.  Offline times should be scheduled based on these priorities and you should pre-plan as many of them as you can without impacting service levels.  In general, try to pre-plan 80-90% of offline activities in advance so that you can optimize the dates/times of these activities with the others around them (i.e. breaks, lunches, etc.) 

4)  Wait List and Rollover:  Once you hit the limit on what you can safely pre-plan, move everything else to a “waitlist” for real-time approval based on current day results.  Waitlisted activities that don’t get completed that day can rollover to the next day’s real-time waitlist or the next weekly planning cycle. 

While having a resource planning process will certainly help you accomplish more offline activities without impacting service levels, there will undoubtedly be “exceptions” to the rule (process.)  It is not uncommon to have activities with a high-enough importance that you would accept a service level impact to complete them.  Some examples may include regulatory compliance training or mandatory company meetings.  When dealing with these types of exceptions, just remember one thing:  

              Exceptions to the rule should be few and far between!

That’s why they are exceptions and not the rule! If you find that most of your offline activities are being scheduled as last-minute service-impacting events, it’s time to review your planning process with the leadership team again until you get back on track.  

I’d love to hear from some of you on this topic.  Are you using a resource planning process today?  If you are, how is it going?  If you aren’t, why not?      

Thanks,

Troy Plott (the Optimizer)