Jonathan O’Connor, Resource Planning Manager at Tructyre, shares seven lessons he’s learned from working in contact centre resource planning.
The call centre has a bad reputation as a terrible place to work, but I’ve always found the opposite to be true! There are so many careers in the call centre. The possibilities are endless, including testing, communications, IVR, quality, customer experience, and more.
For me, I’ve been working in resource planning for around 12 years in a variety of roles – including real time, resource planning and management.
…So what have I learned about resource planning in the last decade or so?
1. You Can’t Do Your Job Without the Agents
As a Resource Planning Manager, you’ll always be accountable to the key stakeholders in the business – but it’s critical to remember that you can’t do your job without the agents!
Your agents won’t help you out if you’re not helping them out.
A “you scratch my back; I’ll scratch your back” mindset goes a long way in resource planning. Your agents won’t help you out if you’re not helping them out.
If you keep them happy, you can rely on them to help fill any gaps in the schedule, be well-placed to deliver on your targets, and more! It’s a win-win.
If you are interested in learning ways to inspire your agents, read our article: 16 New-Age Ideas for Inspiring a Young Workforce of Super-Agents
2. Always Start With a “Yes”
If an agent comes to me with a request, such as asking for time off when their shifts have already been scheduled, I always start with a “yes” – but I will look for a reason to say “no”.
Why? Overall, this leads to more positive outcomes for everyone, as when I’m looking at the stats, there’s got to be a really good reason to actually say “no”.
Over the years, I’ve found this is a more positive approach than saying “no” in the first instance (then looking for a “yes”) – as you don’t typically look as hard for a reason to say “yes”.
3. Being Constantly Available Is a Necessary Evil
One of the worst parts of my job is the constant stream of emails and requests and people at my desk, which take up a lot of my time – but I always make myself available and remind myself that it’s a necessary evil in doing a good job.
If you aren’t making yourself available and being flexible with the team, if you then go to the agents and ask them for a favour, the agents will inevitably say “I can’t” or “go away, I’m too busy”.
I don’t like to close myself off. Being open, available, and talking to the people around me, all helps to build positive relationships in the long run. I don’t think I’ve gotten where I am today without this approach.
I’ve seen colleagues over the years close themselves off with a “go away, don’t bother me” attitude, and watched them struggle to build positive relationships with the team to get things done.
Being more available goes both ways too. If you aren’t making yourself available and being flexible with the team, if you then go to the agents and ask them for a favour, the agents will inevitably say “I can’t” or “go away, I’m too busy”. You can’t have just one slice of the cake!
4. Honesty Really Is the Best Policy
I also find it stressful when the numbers don’t add up and the stakeholders ask for miracles.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of overpromising and underdelivering when trying to live up to being a miracle worker, but this is where I find flexibility and honesty are key!
Stop telling people what they want to hear. Instead, talk openly about why X is going to affect Y and how Z is all that can be delivered this week with the resource that you actually have.
This all helps to manage everyone’s expectations, and over time, builds up your reputation too as someone who is honest and trustworthy.
5. Don’t Pluck Numbers Out of Thin Air
On that note, it’s important to give all decisions and calculations the proper attention they deserve.
Never pluck a number or promise out of thin air in a meeting or beside the coffee machine.
Never pluck a number or promise out of thin air in a meeting or beside the coffee machine. It never works! It sets everyone up for a fall and, when you inevitably must backtrack on your promise, it erodes your reputation too.
It’s always best to say “let me take that away with me” to give yourself a chance to do a thorough job. (Without a doubt, I couldn’t do my job without Excel, and I’ve relied heavily on Erlang X calculations to deliver against my targets.)
I also find it helps to only put the end values – and not the working calculations – on any PowerPoint slides too, as this removes the temptation to recalculate things on the fly (which can also go horribly wrong).
6. Embrace ‘Trial and Error’
Resource planning is not about getting it right first time and resting on your laurels. ‘Trial and error’ is a big part of the job and should be embraced as a challenge – not a personal reflection of failure.
By way of example, I was once tasked with building a webchat forecast with no history! It seemed a bit daunting at first, but I simply had to take a ‘trial and error’ approach, regularly review what didn’t work, and try and fix it to make headway.
7. Network, Network, Network
Never stop learning! You can never know enough. You should always be reading books, utilizing LinkedIn, going to conferences, and (most importantly of all) networking!
After all, if you don’t know the answer, someone else will! Don’t go it alone. When you’re resource planning, you need to get out there, find out what others are doing, and learn from it.
And that’s all from me! If you’d like to connect on LinkedIn to discuss and share ideas, please get in contact
Thanks to Jonathan O’Connor, Resource Planning Manager at Tructyre, for this article.
Read more articles in our “What I’ve Learned” series by following the links below:
- What I’ve Learned From Working in a Contact Centre – Saving Money
- What I’ve Learned From Working in a Contact Centre – Stats Don’t Motivate Everyone
- What I’ve Learned From Running a Contact Centre – Everyone in Your Team Is an Individual
- What I’ve Learned From Running a Contact Centre – Think of an Agent as a Teacher