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No Fooling Around for Workforce Optimization

Welcome to April! Welcome to our month of Workforce Optimization!

After reading this week's content, you might be thinking that ICMI has pulled some sort of April Fool's joke on you. Many of the articles have still been about metrics, (last month's theme), and on staffing and people management. Probably not what you were thinking we should be featuring for Workforce Optimization.

Trust me, it's no April Fool's prank. We've focused this month on Workforce Optimization, and NOT on workforce management. What's the difference, you ask? Well, here's a definition or two which may explain things a bit better than I can.

In our previous version of the Call Center Operations Management - Handbook and Study Guide (for certification), ICMI defined workforce management (WFM) as: "Forecasting, scheduling, tracking and adherence monitoring used in a call center. Enables the manager to project work volume and corresponding resource needs based on historical information and other parameters". In comparison, Brad Cleveland defines Workforce Optimization (WFO) in our 2012 reissued version of Call Center Management on Fast Forward as, "A broad description of the latest generation of advanced workforce management and quality systems, which include features such as multichannel forecasting and scheduling, quality monitoring and recording, scoring and coaching tools, analytics capabilities, e-learning integration, customer and employee surveys, advanced reporting capabilities, and others".

And therein lies the true difference. WFO is not JUST about the forecasting, scheduling, and tracking that comprises the core of workforce management. WFM is a piece of WFO, just as people management and metrics are. This nuance is one of the reasons ICMI is revising its certification program for call center professionals, because terms like WFO weren't even present in the old curriculum.

There are so many components of a solid Workforce Optimization strategy, and that's why we're wrapping up this week with some discussions on metrics that pertain directly back to WFO, and introducing new pieces around hiring, training, and team management. We want to show you how to turn your WFM program into a WFO strategy. Our intention is for our experts to give you multiple facets and opinions of the WFO strategy:

  • The Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time
  • Costs and Causes of Attrition
  • Getting Finance and the C-level to understand the business case for a true WFO program
  • The information and metrics your contact center should deliver to other areas of the organization
  • The tricks to sharing the total cost of ownership - the ROI secret behind workforce optimization
  • The advantages of cloud versus premise-based solutions
  • Cycle planning for more accurate forecasting
  • Strategies for handling calls during seasonal peak volume
  • Forecasting tools that work for any size center
  • The importance of groups like the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals
  • Adding non-voice channels into your mix
  • Determining which agents are right for which channels and when to offer them
  • Workload distributions idea
  • Examples of “command centers" – personnel, team size, ratio to agents, backgrounds and education
  • Performance-based scheduling models to drive agent behavior and the best customer experience

As you see, we'll definitely get back into forecasting, scheduling, and all the WFM basics, but in the meantime, let's talk a little about high-performance teams and how they set the foundation for your WFO strategy. You may have noticed yesterday that we published an informative article from one of our industry experts - Dina Vance from Ulysses Learning. Dina is a widely respected thought leader on developing contact center staff and knows all too well how the right people, in the right place, at the right time can dramatically improve the overall performance of a center. In Building an Efficient and High-Performing Team, she provides the necessary steps to creating your WFO baseline...an effective team. Dina will also be speaking at ACCE in Seattle next month, where she will expound upon how to create an empowered staff that knows how to make better decisions and can perform at higher levels. This ultimately makes forecasting, scheduling, and tracking that much easier, and that much more valuable for your organization and your customers.

So let's learn a little bit more about Dina.

ICMI: What excites you most about presenting at ACCE this year?
DV: I am excited to be around other call center professionals and to experience the vibrancy of the networking. ACCE is a terrific place to share best practices and learn from others what they’re doing.


IMCI: What is the one takeaway you hope to give your audience?
DV: I’d like everyone in the audience to understand a clear path to developing their people in a competitive marketplace.

ICMI: What is the one question YOU hope to get an answer to while at ACCE?
DV: I’d like to tap into and identify new call center trends on the horizon.

ICMI: What is the best customer experience you’ve had where you’ve been on the customer side?
DV: While I didn’t personally experience this one, I was really touched last week reading about the United Airlines agents who helped a man get on a connecting flight so he could get to his dying mother’s bedside. The agents actually found a way to delay the plane’s takeoff so he could get on the flight, because if he missed the last flight of a day to a small airport, he wouldn’t be able to see his mother until the next day. As it turned out, the man made the flight and reached his mother’s side an hour before she died. Now that is the power of positive customer service – and United has made a customer for life.

Stay with us this month as we dive into all the great facets of WFO. If you have a topic or question for our experts, please let us know here. We want to make your contact center a place of true optimization.