Unlocking Productivity: Introduction to Workforce Management

Unlocking potential concept with illustration of key, head and brain

Donna Lightfoot at Playvox looks at unlocking productivity and gives an introduction to workforce management.

When I worked in contact centres, people would ask what I did for a living, and I would say Workforce Management. I was usually met with a blank look.

I would explain that it means creating schedules, but it’s so much more. While workforce management on the whole can sound boring, high-tech, and at times confusing, there is logic to the madness.

Take a Closer Look at Your WFM Efforts

The motto for workforce management (WFM) is having the right people in the right place at the right time — along with the right skills. To make all this happen, you have to look at the situation from various angles.

From the business’s viewpoint, ask yourself:

  • When do we get most of our interactions? Is it during certain times of the day, month, and year?
  • Do we have enough employees to handle the workload volume without the customer waiting several minutes for someone to assist them?
  • Are our employees productive?
  • Do we have the capacity to offer new services with the employees we have or do we need to hire more people?

Then take a look from your agents’ perspective. They’ll have questions like:

  • Why do I have this schedule?
  • Why can’t I have this day off?
  • Why are my lunches and breaks at the times they are?
  • Why can’t it just be the same time for lunch and breaks every day and not change?
  • Why can’t I just go to lunch and break when my friends and/or teammates go?

The list can go on and on, but these are just a few of the most frequent questions I have heard the most during my tenure in WFM.

What Can Workforce Management Do?

Workforce management will have a positive impact on your contact centre — when you get it right. Your WFM solution should help you:

  • Plan for customer interactions, leveraging historical and most recent information
  • Accurately forecast your staff across an omnichannel business
  • Leverage AI-driven technology to automatically schedule staff to meet forecasted demand
  • Manage intraday staffing needs with real-time insights
  • Improve performance and experience with in-the-moment KPIs
  • Engage agents with flexible scheduling
  • Model various scenarios as interaction data changes over time

Why Do You Need WFM?

A workforce management solution is a must in a successful customer service centre. It will help you:

  • Reduce costs associated with over- or understaffing
  • Increase operational efficiency through seamless integration and automation
  • Improve productivity to get the most out of your investment in people and resources
  • Increase visibility to agent and customer experience to realize better outcomes in real time

Poor Workforce Management Can Lead to Poor Customer Experience

When WFM is used well, it enables the business to predict the interaction arrival pattern based on historical information and better prepare for a successful day.

Essentially, you want to analyze historical and current trends to find out how many contact centre agents are needed to handle the volume without the customer waiting for long periods of time.

You don’t want a customer waiting long for an agent to assist them, as this will lower the service level and risk your contact centre not meeting its service goals. It leaves a bad customer impression — Zendesk reports that 72% of customers expect immediate service.

The customer is likely to become angry that they have been kept waiting for so long. And unless your company has no competition, the customer is also likely to take their business elsewhere for better service.

Zendesk also shared that 73% of customers will leave after multiple bad experiences — and more than half will leave after just one.

When creating schedules for agents, you must look at how many agents are needed on any given day as well as any given time frame.

If the forecasted volume is predicted to be high, it will determine the number of agents that can be removed from activities such as meetings, training, and even vacation to serve customers instead.

The same logic applies to when the lunches and breaks will be scheduled. For example, you don’t want half your staff off for lunch during the peak time frame of the day, leaving a skeleton crew to handle the workload.

If the forecasted volume is expected to be low, this gives the company more control to schedule meetings and training without it affecting the business and the customer.

Workforce Management Factors to Consider

To get the most out of WFM, you’ll need to consider these factors in depth:

  1. What are your goals and metrics for shrinkage (non-productive time), service level (how quickly you answer your customers), occupancy (how busy your agents are), and adherence (how well your agents stick to their scheduled activities)? Also, include any other applicable metrics such as abandonment rate (average number of interactions to abandon before being answered) and time to abandon (average amount of time it took for the customer to abandon).
  2. Are you able to access historical volumes and metrics such as handle time and adherence?
  3. How are you forecasting now? How much time are you spending adjusting your forecast? What is your current variance between your forecast and actuals?
  4. How do you handle vacation/leave requests?
  5. Are you seeing a high number of call-outs? Can the leave threshold be increased to reduce call-outs?
  6. What are your hours of operation? What kind of shifts do you offer? Is there flexibility to offer part-time schedules, split shifts, or 4X10 schedules?
  7. Do you have the ability to forecast for voice along with digital channels?
  8. Do you have agents cross-skilled to be able to cover shift swaps and gaps in coverage to ensure adequate staffing?
  9. What data is being monitored in real time?
  10. How do you handle intraday fluctuations in volume and unscheduled time off?

When you’re effectively using a WFM system, you can track how productive your agents are —  what they are actually doing versus what they should be doing.

This lets you see if you should invest in hiring and training additional employees to handle the workload — a spend of more than $14,000 per agent, according to Gartner —  or if it’s an internal issue that can be addressed more cost-efficiently.

For example, does the contact centre agent need coaching on better time management skills? Are they away from their desk too much?

Are they taking too long between interactions, or are they in need of further training on an issue that’s making them less productive?

There are occasions when there are uncontrollable anomalies and the actual volume of interactions is higher or lower than forecasted.

Using intraday management, customer support centre agent schedules can be adjusted to accommodate the fluctuation, such as moving lunches and breaks to better meet the demand.

If the interaction volume is lower, resources can be removed from channels to work in other areas of the business. This could be assisting another contact centre with their workload, participating in impromptu meetings, or even taking previously denied vacation time or voluntary unpaid time off.

Intraday management and optimization of breaks and lunches will also assist the company in better serving the customer when unpredictable occurrences happen, such as customer service centre agents calling out sick or leaving early.

Spreadsheets may work for a while for your contact centre, but once the business and staff grow, things can quickly spiral out of control.

Spreadsheets aren’t robust enough to handle the complex challenges of scheduling digital channels. They also can’t help a workforce manager handle intraday changes or interpret real-time data like a workforce management solution can. Spreadsheets end up costing the business money — and sometimes customers as well.

Wondering Which WFM Solution to Implement?

A WFM is the best choice for workforce management in a digital contact centre. A WFM:

  • Is a digital-first, cloud-native solution that identifies Shrinkage, Occupancy, and Adherence in real time in an easy-to-interpret dashboard
  • Offers scheduling and short-term/long-term forecasting abilities for omnichannel workloads to drive efficient operations and more productive agents
  • Helps reduce costs via greater efficiency and improved insight
  • Automatically generates schedules with AI-driven data
  • Empowers agents to deliver exceptional experiences with shift swaps for better work-life balance
Author: Guest Author

Published On: 9th Oct 2023
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