Published: August 11, 2014 | Comments
For workforce management professionals, the ultimate goal is control over the efficiency and effectiveness of personnel, schedules and the resources that connect them.
The workforce manager’s primary task is to ensure that there is always the right number of agents on the floor to maintain service levels and ensure an outstanding customer experience every time.
Achieving this scheduling nirvana means accurately predicting how many agents are needed in each channel at any given time. This job has become even more complex as contact centers have become multi-channel, requiring workforce management to forecast and schedule teams to support different channels and then move them around to find the “perfect” mix.
Many workforce managers are measured on agent adherence, service level, forecasting accuracy, occupancy and utilization. But the reality is, no matter how hard you try, forecasting and scheduling will never be “perfect.” But that doesn’t mean you can’t stay on top of occupancy and utilization. You just have to approach the problem differently.
Here is the question that needs asking – is your center flexible enough to adapt?
Multi-channel occupancy and utilization
In a recent survey of the workforce management community conducted by the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP), 85% of respondents said they handle e-mail contacts in their centers, as well as outbound calling (69%), regular mail contacts (62%), faxes (61%), web chat (37%), Facebook (23%) and Twitter (15%). More than half said that the same agents who answer phone calls also service other channels.
Over half (53%) also said that forecasting is done manually for other channels, while 32% said forecasting is done with an automated WFM system. Forty-nine percent said they use an automated WFM system for scheduling, while 43% still schedule manually.
While it’s true that workforce managers have many tools to help them more accurately forecast, nothing is foolproof. Many of the formulas designed to predict how many agents are needed on the floor to maintain service levels are based on call volume and don’t take into account the needs of a multi-channel environment.
Adapting to the multi-channel environment
In today’s centers, when applying WFM to non-phone contacts, it is critical that your tools are adaptable to the multi-channel environment. This requires specific information and insight into metrics like Average Handle Time and service levels before attempting to forecast and schedule agents.
Even though traditional phone agents, for example, may be scheduled differently than agents who focus on other channels, if scheduling isn’t “perfect,” agents in one channel could be underutilized or left sitting idle while other channels have high utilization and occupancy rates, as agents are overwhelmed with volume.
Though agents can be cross-trained and moved around when volume in one channel spikes, this process can be time-consuming and inefficient – and having too many agents on the floor is expensive, while too few can have a negative effect on customer service.
Keeping metrics in line across all channels
In reality, even the best run contact centers deal with unplanned events and circumstances that cause unexpected spikes in volume and impact occupancy and utilization. The key is to effectively prepare your frontline workforce so that they can react to unforeseen circumstances and events in real-time and deliver a consistently outstanding customer experience across all channels.
The first step is making sure agents are equipped with the skills they need to handle customer interactions accurately and efficiently in any channel. Intraday management technology makes it easy to automatically assign, prioritize and deliver activities to agents based on their individual strengths and performance needs. And as agents complete training and certifications, skill and queue associations are automatically updated so that customers are always talking to agents best equipped to serve them.
When one customer service channel becomes backed up, this automation technology enables you to adjust to changing circumstances in real time and quickly move agents with the right skills from low volume channels to high volume channels to better manage queues.
Focus on flexibility, not perfection.
In the multi-channel contact center, forecasts and scheduling will never be perfect.
But if your frontline workforce is flexible enough to quickly adapt to change – and workforce managers can use technology to automatically adjust staffing levels, distribute tasks and balance workloads across all channels – your customers will receive exceptional service every time, in whichever channel they choose.
Flexibility to make adjustments throughout the day based on changing conditions will ultimately improve occupancy and utilization and get WFM as close to “perfect” as possible.
Intradiem, formerly Knowlagent, is the leader in intraday management solutions for multi-channel contact centers. Intradiem’s customers achieve an invincible customer experience with a real-time workforce. Intradiem’s solutions automate manual processes such as intraday task management, intraday staffing, reskilling, channel balancing, and real-time alerts to ensure front-line workforces are poised to react to whatever the market throws their way. More than 450,000 contact center, field service, retail, bank branch, and back office employees around the world use Intradiem’s solution every day. For more information, call 888-566-9457 or visit www.intradiem.com.