Here are our top 30 tips for getting the best out of your WFM software.
1. Try out creative ideas
Some of the best results can often be achieved by ignoring the rule book and just trying out creative new ideas.
If the system allows it, use a “what if” scenario or a week in the future so that you do not impact existing schedules.
2. Engage your staff about the benefits
A WFM product can create really effective schedules, but it is people who deliver them.
Spend more time on engaging your staff on the benefits of using flexible schedules, the impact they can have on customers, the real reason why adherence is important (it’s not for managers, it should be for the customer), why having a view of people in the back office can actually improve the performance of the front office as well, etc.
If you bring people with you, even a basic WFM tool can deliver exceptional results.
3. Review variances and identify if they can be attributed to known factors
Keep going back to days or weeks that have happened and identify what should have happened (using actual volume and handle time data) based on the schedules you had in place.
Review variances and identify whether they can be attributed to known factors (non-adherence), and finally, understand the remaining gaps (call routing not matching between ACD and WFM tool, for example).
A small variation is likely to remain, but this should allow you to apply the right “tweak” when scheduling the next week that comes along. Continually repeat this process to verify that all of your schedule parameters are as accurate as they can be.
4. Apply some human logic to your planning assumptions
If you schedule someone to attend a meeting for an hour, then go on the phone for 5 minutes and then on break for 15 minutes, you can bet you will get some non-adherence in there somewhere, especially if you forget to allow for the time it might take to move between each location.
If the tool allows it, have buffers between certain activities, or allow an extra 5 minutes on the meeting.
5. Maintain a good relationship with your supplier
Work at achieving a really strong relationship with your supplier.
When you are both working towards mutual goals you will get so much more out of the tools you use – they sell and use the things on a daily basis, so tap into that knowledge.
With thanks to Robert Tuck, Workforce Management EMEA
6. Don’t entirely give up on manual forecasting
Don’t maintain blind faith in a WFM system, as manual forecasting and planning is a key skill that any planning team should have.
Regularly check the output against a manually run forecast. This should act as a backstop to show if a stray input has skewed the algorithms.
7. Run your WFM as a multi-disciplinary project
When rolling out your WFM system, make sure it’s run as a multi-disciplinary project, not just by the planning team, and get every stakeholder involved early.
With thanks to David Appleby, Planning and MI Design Specialist
8. Compare your WFM data to your ACD data on a regular basis
Data is absolutely crucial when trying to forecast. Currently, your forecast could be made up of 50% guesswork, 20% planned or known events and 30% historical data. You want your use of historical data to make up as much of your forecast as possible.
This will mean comparing your WFM data to your ACD data on a regular basis, reviewing data for anomalies, and being aware of particular days where you know call volumes will be especially high or low and excluding these if possible.
Be aware that if you are getting lots of ‘special’ days in your data, then perhaps they’re not actually special, and the norm is changing.
9. Try and match the intra-day curve as much as possible
When you measure the accuracy of your forecast, be sure to look at the number of deviations. Don’t just look at daily or weekly totals. You need to try and match the intra-day curve as much as possible.
A good measure would be to look at the number of intervals that are within tolerance. For example, how many 15-minute intervals are within 5% or 10% of actual?
Also think about the actual volumes. If they’re low then just the smallest deviation can put you over your target. It’s also worth considering what target is acceptable; does the deviation have a detrimental impact on the business?
10. Adherence is key
Adherence to your planning is key. You could spend hours building the most accurate forecast and the best schedule possible, but if advisors or managers don’t stick to it then it could be for nothing.
That doesn’t mean use your forecast to beat your advisors with a stick. It means that adherence is the final piece in the jigsaw and managers need to know why it’s there; getting their buy-in is crucial.
Agents need to understand this, too. They need to be aware of the impact that going ‘out of adherence’ has, not only on the customer but on their peers, too, who will have to work harder to make up for lost time.
11. Use your WFM systems to log and track staff activities
Use your WFM systems to log and track staff activities, then, if you have the ability to do so, join this data with your ACD data so you can get a holistic view of where time is being spent.
You’ll be surprised how much time is actually spent talking to a customer. It will either show some glaring holes in productivity or it may help you justify hiring some extra staff to achieve your service levels or goals.
With thanks to Dave Smith, Success Manager, Magnetic North Software
12. Automate schedule adherence
When the average handling time (AHT) for a work item is 8 minutes, and an available employee’s break starts within 2 minutes, the work distribution engine must automatically select another available agent.
The benefit is that you stick to the schedule that you started out with and no longer change the rules during the game.
With thanks to Stefan Captijn, Genesys
13. Employ a WFM champion
Resource planners are typically passionate and enthusiastic about WFM. If you get the right mix in the team they will naturally drive it forward. Manage your stakeholders and make WFM the driving force for the operation.
Many of the advanced features such as long-term planning will benefit your marketing and finance teams, so get them involved and engaged.
Don’t forget to manage and influence upwards – make sure your output to the executives is hitting the spot, if they are on board they are likely to support any WFM-related projects.
14. Get the basics right
In the early stages, don’t try and replicate what you were doing with a spreadsheet! It was probably inaccurate and time consuming.
Get the basics right and make sure your forecasts and schedules meet the key business objectives before attempting advanced processes. Once the building blocks are in place, then it’s time to start really innovating.
15. Employee engagement
Involve your employees; let them self-serve wherever possible. Give them the options for shift preferences, shift swaps and managing their time off. Many of the advanced features centre on the employee engagement aspect of WFM, so ensure they are on board and involved.
Whatever your approach, the key to making the most of WFM is by making it central to the business and ensuring your people are aware, on board and engaging with the planning process. The more involvement they have, the more likely they will be willing to use all of the features WFM can offer.
16. Talk to other planners and organisations
Talk to other planners and organisations. Your vendor will have a user group where best practice can be shared and demonstrated.
Before rolling out any new features, try a champion challenger approach and measure benefits against a control group first before rolling out to the wider team. This means new features can be fine-tuned in advance.
With thanks to David Evans, WFM Consultant, Business Systems
17. Change the customer experience based on the resources you have available
Use the solution to dynamically change the customer experience based on the resources you have available.
For example, customers needn’t navigate an IVR if there are agents available, so the company can decide not to surface the IVR in such instances.
With thanks to Jonathan Gale, NewVoiceMedia
18. Mark any days that are unsuitable for normal forecasting
A forecast is only ever as good as the data used to create it. Regularly review the data on your event volumes and mark any days that are unsuitable for normal forecasting, e.g. bank-holidays.
19. Periodically review the forecasting model to check if it’s still valid
Periodically review the forecasting model to check if it’s still valid by running comparisons between different forecasting models.
Keep one in use as a production or live forecast and the other as your test forecast. Review the results of each, and if the test is performing better, then it may be time to swap them around.
20. Simulation can show whether you have adequate staff to manage the traffic
The Erlang formula dates back to 1917, long before the first contact centre was ever considered.
It makes no allowance for the fact that any queuing contacts may abandon before they are picked up by staff, or that any individual may be multi-skilled and handle multiple queues simultaneously.
Simulation can help provide a better indication of whether you have adequate staff to manage the traffic and what the potential performance is.
21. Regularly review and challenge basic assumptions
When simulating, it’s important to regularly review and challenge basic assumptions. If customers have been used to long queue wait times, then they may be more likely to wait for service at a later date.
Understanding previous performance gives you an insight into how to set the simulation parameters for the future.
22. Engage with the call handlers and discuss their availability
Don’t flex everyone. A flexible shift is not necessarily suitable for everyone, so engage with the call handlers and discuss their availability and preferences for when they can or cannot work.
Using your WFM system, register the call handlers’ preferences and schedule these when possible. This will assist in achieving a better work-life balance.
23. Allow team leaders to impact the schedule
Allow team leaders to impact the schedule. Typically a team leader may have to request permission to hold a team meeting or a 1-2-1.
Allow the team leaders access to the WFM system to see the impact they have on the grade of service by removing one or more call handlers from the schedule.
24. Measure absence and calculate shrinkage
Measure absence and calculate shrinkage. Millions of days are lost to sickness and absence; recording these and reporting on them using your WFM system will be easy and straightforward.
Use the tools such as the Bradford factor or frequency rate to identify absence problems or trends. Use this information to help build a more accurate staffing forecast for the future.
With thanks to Sian Ciabattoni, Marketing Director, Noble Systems
Click here to use our Erlang Calculator
25. Measure adherence on a daily basis
Many organisations measure average adherence on a weekly or monthly basis, but that masks results and provides little insight into whether schedules were followed when it mattered most.
Schedule adherence should be measured and reported on a daily basis. By doing so, the contact centre is in a better position to identify and quickly remedy any schedule management or adherence issues that are impacting customer service results.
When adherence is measured and reported on a daily basis, not only does management have a more realistic picture into the previous day’s performance, supervisors also have a more meaningful tool with which to coach their agents.
26. Share questions, ideas and best practices
Since your people access WFM every day, you can use it engage employees. Explore how you can leverage the best elements of social tools within your WFM system.
Wikis, blogs and chat can be powerful channels through which your people can ask for advice and share ideas. Or, when service levels spike, WFM professionals can fire polls to the front line to quickly understand frequent contact topics and gather insight.
With thanks to Scott Buchanan, NICE Systems
27. Have regular reviews of the data
Have regular reviews of the data (calls and staff) and assumptions (AHT, service levels, multi-skill options, etc…) involving managers, team leaders, HR, Finance and any other department that uses the information.
Talk through why your average handling time assumption is what it is and what impact a change (up or down) will have on staffing levels. The more eyes that look at the information going into your WFM, the more likely you are to improve your accuracy and output.
With thanks to Phil Anderson, Professional Planning Forum
28. Ensure that your main resource planner has an understudy
Ensure that your main resource planner has an understudy who can step in for short-term absence or even departure.
Effective WFM must be delivered day in, day out. If it’s not, you will need to be prepared to accept lower service standards, customer and agent dissatisfaction and inefficiency or increased costs.
29. Ensure IT can fully support your WFM system
Ensure your IT or IT outsourcer can fully support your WFM system in a competent and timely manner.
Without adequate project planning or training, IT can be at a loss. Consider these risks and how you can create an environment where the IT team is an enabler, helping you to realise the benefits.
30. Review yesterday, today and tomorrow
Consider what happened yesterday and identify occurrences that could have been avoided, such as team meetings overrunning or ad hoc meetings.
If no one notices, then these events will continue to happen. Promote an acceptance of accountability (NOT blame) within the team for who or what prevented service level agreement (SLA) achievement and what can be avoided in the future.
Reward those who positively helped SLA being achieved. Lessons learned are powerful steps forward in creating immediate improvements, lifting morale and gaining buy-in for reasons for any change.
With thanks to Richard Farrell, Netcall