With unexpected changes in call volumes and high levels of absenteeism, contact centres are notoriously difficult to manage on a day-by-day basis.
So, here are 12 top tips to help improve intraday management in the contact centre.
1. Hold a Quick Daily Team Meeting Early in the Day
It could be useful for the Contact Centre Manager to meet with team managers early in the day – once key information, such as expected contact volumes, is known – to communicate the day’s plan.
Valur Svansson, a Principal Consultant at IP Integration, says that these meetings can be used to “highlight any hotspots where you’re expecting to be busy and cold-spots where you’re expecting to be quieter.”
Also, they can be helpful in engaging “the operation to see if there are any activities that can be moved from busy periods and/or placed into quieter periods to utilise availability.”
In these meetings Mandy Holford, Director of Customer Services at Echo-U, also suggests considering “what previously went well, what didn’t, what did you fail to do and what you could have done better.
“These are all questions to ask when reviewing a day or time slot level of performance.”
2. Create Standard Operating Procedures
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are a set of guidelines that dictate and prioritise what should be done under certain circumstances.
Valur Svansson believes that these should be referred to “if service drops or customers are waiting too long, to check who should be called in for support and in what order. Or, conversely, if things are quieter than expected, what tasks need completing, in what order and by whom.”
SOPs can also be used to “ensure that priorities and personnel lists are updated frequently as per business needs.”
3. Maintain a Central Point of Contact
A common day-to-day issue that contact centres face is having multiple teams pulling in different directions or taking too many people off the phone without knowing what’s around the corner.
Valur Svansson says that this can be prevented by having “central people to keep aware of the plan and requests for taking advisors off away from their work.”
This is a duty that “can be performed by real-time analysts or duty managers in the operation,” to ensure that the correct number of advisors to handle contact volumes are in place, at all times.
4. Focus on Forecast Accuracy, Service Level and Queue Time Metrics
To manage the contact centre efficiently, there must be a focus on metrics, as Mandy Holford says, “letting a number slip for even a few minutes can have a significant impact.
“It’s important to have eyes and ears everywhere, ensuring all queues are in ‘green’ status and any ‘amber’ situations are turned around quickly to avoid a ‘red’ scenario which may impact the end-of-day results.”
So, keep an eye on queue times and service level, as well as forecast accuracy, to predict performance within the next few hours and maximise performance.
While there are other metrics that it can be useful to keep an eye on, these three are highly recommended, and the contact centre should be warned against “drowning in data”.
Instead, the focus of real-time reporting should be to put actionable data into your hands.
5. Avoid Knee-Jerk Reactions
Often, contact centres are stretched for time or forced to lurch from one problem to another, without taking the time to sit down and strategise.
It can be all too easy to make sweeping changes as soon as a queue builds or a couple of advisors become available.
Valur Svansson believes that, in this situation, the contact centre needs to “be aware of expected performance at the time according to your plan and make incremental changes.
“Otherwise, you can swing wildly from quiet to busy or vice versa, wasting valuable productive time and harming the customer experience.”
[For more advice on this topic, read our article: Stop Making Knee-Jerk Decisions in Crisis Mode – Create Breathing Room Instead]
6. Consider Multi-Skilling Advisors
Having people in other teams upskilled to help in times of need will enable swift action when there is peak demand.
One of the greatest tools a contact centre manager can utilise is a multiskilled workforce, as, according to Mandy Holford, “having a team that can work flexibly enables the best results to be achieved.
“Short-term issues can quickly be resolved with extra team members brought in to ‘queue bust’ and get processes back on track.”
For example, if inbound customer service is quiet, having multi-skilled advisors may allow some to move across to outbound sales in an attempt to boost revenue.
The same principle can be applied to channels, as if the voice channel is quiet, for example, advisors can instead be moved across to a channel that is in greater demand.
“Having people in other teams upskilled to help in times of need will enable swift action when there is peak demand,” says Mandy Holford.
7. Encourage Feedback from all Members of the Contact Centre Team
Intraday management is not just a job for those in operations or analysts. Great day-to-day management is the responsibility of the wider contact centre team.
This is according to Mandy Holford, who says that “great intraday management requires advisors, team leaders and department managers to engage, communicate and share common goals.
“For example, if a team leader can spot a longer Average Handle Time (AHT) because of a change in customer behaviours, this should be communicated, as it will affect ‘in the moment’ resource management and results.”
8. Encourage Greater Communication by Hosting Periodic Buzz Sessions
Day after day, a lack of internal communication causes trouble in many contact centres, as all too often, the only time communication is high is when something is about to go wrong.
So, what can the contact centre do about this?
Mandy Holford suggests “hosting periodic buzz sessions throughout the day allows the team to discuss what’s happening around the contact centre.”
This also helps to ensure that “everyone is fully aware of any changes or potential issues, giving the real-time team the opportunity to change direction if needed.”
[Find out another solution in our article: A Simple Way to Improve Communication in the Contact Centre]
9. Integrate New Members of the Team Quickly
“Don’t underestimate the influence that new personnel can have on a team,” warns Mandy Holford, stressing the knock-on effect that new recruits can have on service level, queue time and other metrics.
“The impact can be both positive and negative, so watch out for how a new perspective can switch up the forecast and planning as well as ‘in the moment’ delivery.
“Likewise, when you have a significant number of advisors who lack experience, it will have an influence on AHT, First Contact Resolution (FCR) and escalation support.
“All of these factors will impact the intraday management if not dealt with suitably.”
10. Make These Re-Forecasting Considerations
To help protect service levels, many contact centres re-forecast. And while this no doubt has its benefits, it does come with its considerations.
Scott Budding, a Workforce Optimisation Consultant at Business Systems, explains that the contact centre needs to “keep in mind that spikes in demand will always occur.
“Just because, for example, the first four intervals of the day have all seen call volumes 20% higher than forecast, this does not necessarily mean you should apply the extra rise in demand to the remaining intervals.
“At what point planners need to take action is subjective and will depend on factors such as the cause and size of the variance.
“Understanding why you have such a variance is crucial in understanding whether or not you need to take action.”
11. Try to Improve Schedule Adherence
The Resource Planning team in the contact centre works hard to establish staffing requirements and polish schedules. Yet much of this can be damaged if schedule adherence is low.
And in many contact centres, schedule adherence is low. After all, it only takes a last-minute call or a slow system to massively throw adherence calculations off.
As Scott Budding says, “if advisors are not working in line with their schedules, it will become increasingly harder to meet targets, and the operation will be set to fail.
“With this in mind, it is important that whoever is responsible for real-time management makes use of any real-time adherence tools that your contact centre has access to.
“If real-time adherence is available through your WFM solution then monitor the tasks staff are completing in real time versus their scheduled plan.
“Set real-time alarms to highlight slip-ups in adherence and get a clearer picture of agents who might need extra support with their workload.”
[For more on this topic, read our article: Top Tips for Improving Attendance and Adherence]
12. Look for Ways to Improve Schedule Optimisation
A schedule can be well aligned with the demands of the contact centre, but absences can upset an entire plan.
“Schedules will allow for unplanned absences, but the number of absences you face, the business areas affected, and which slots, shifts or projects will be most impacted will vary,” says Scott Budding.
There are a number of ways that a contact centre can do this. One example would be to plan the schedule using smaller 15-minute intervals to gain greater insight into the extremes of a contact centre’s shift patterns.
Another method, which Scott Budding recommends, is “for those with a workforce management (WFM) solution in place to utilise schedule optimisation to realign activities and rotas (including breaks and lunches), incorporating all the new variables.
“There is no limit to how many times you should optimise. If your schedule has been impacted in any way, then optimise.”
“For example, 24-hour contact centres may receive absences throughout the entire day so optimisation should not just be occurring in the morning.
[Follow the link for: 18 Tips for Optimising Workforce Management]
Do you have any other pieces of advice to improve intraday management in the contact centre?
Please leave your thoughts in an email to Call Centre Helper.