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Intraday Management - Part II - Agent Adherence

Feb 18, 2020
Intraday Management - Part II - Agent Adherence

by: Bob Brittan, Director of Marketing at WFMSG

Are you a contact center supervisor who is constantly asking the daily question, “Where is everybody”? And that’s in addition to the agents who have approved PTO or called in sick. These are the agents who come to work late, don’t take assigned breaks or lunches, and quite frankly just don’t work to the assigned plan. Welcome to a contact center’s daily dilemma – agent adherence.

Having agents in their seats and helping customers is the goal of every contact center. Indeed, maintaining a great customer experience makes for loyal repeat customers. When agents understand their role and adhere to their assigned schedules, you have the best chance of meeting service level goals based on all common staffing conditions.

Supervisors are responsible for forecasting an accurate schedule. They must properly account for daily overhead, capture all the exceptions, and know what components of overhead are in or out of line such as meetings, trainings, and call outs.

Establishing clear lines of communication for executing those plans is critical, and having a WFM software platform that can help with instant communication gives you a big advantage juggling intraday adherence exceptions. Some common communication methods include:

  • Intraday or intra-shift meetings
  • Broadcast messages, wall boards
  • Blanket reports
  • Mobile phone notifications
  • Internal and personal emails
  • Text messaging

When you find that you are still not meeting demand due to adherence issues - reforecast demand against existing schedules and analyze variances on service level (targeted, planned, and forecast). Having a WFM software solution like Community WFM lets you view adherence performance alongside daily schedules for intraday schedule management. You can easily access real-time adherence alerts detailing performance metrics by team or at the agent level. Automated Schedule Adjustment Plans let analysts create, save and re-use an unlimited number of customizable strategies for dynamic intraday management and automated schedule management. Don’t be afraid to run multiple scenarios.

Once you realize your contact center is out of adherence you need a corrective strategy that makes sense.

  • Increase staff
  • Delete off-phone events
  • Extend shifts/offer overtime shifts
  • Decrease staff, refine staff, migrate staff
  • Plan a meeting
  • Offer voluntary time-off
  • Re-optimize off phone events

Usually you can isolate changes to just a few groups or people to stay on plan and correct the adherence issue.

  • Net effects of those changes
  • More efficient
  • Better service
  • Overtime/under time

Know what you are going to do based on all common staffing conditions and remember, lines of communications are crucial to effectiveness. An integrated mobile app such as Community Everywhere© can quickly and easily notify affected groups or people. Community WFM natively connects agents, supervisors and analysts so they can interact as scheduling dynamics change throughout the day.

Try not to be overzealous with schedule changes – agents don’t want to feel as if ‘big brother’ is constantly monitoring their actions. The best intraday and agent adherence manager is a prepared manager - run scenarios!

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Intraday Management - Part 1

Jan 22, 2020
Intraday Management - Part 1

by: Bob Brittan, Director of Marketing at WFMSG

Intraday Management – Part I

What exactly is intraday management and why is it critical to contact center operations? Creating a solid forecast and building schedules is only the beginning of the workforce management cycle. Intraday management is the art of anticipating, monitoring, and identifying daily potential staffing risks. This can occur due to unforeseen changes such as inclement weather, lack of internal communications, agents not adhering to schedule, and internal and external events - events that can cause a daily schedule to be less that efficient to cover customer expectations for good service. Understanding what may happen during the course of a typical business day can profoundly affect your service level and how you deliver a great customer experience. Without the ability to quickly recognize daily trends and manage risks you incur the dilemma of being overstaffed or understaffed. 

Poor intraday management can be identified when WFM managers ignore several common opportunities:

  • Inadequate planning - missed opportunity for increased schedule efficiency
  • Underutilized WFM (software) features
  • Data and adherence trending (historical)
  • Chasing service levels; no explanation for missed service levels
  • Losing track of exceptions due to late reporting
  • Lack of inter-departmental communications
  • No formal agent communication plan for adherence to daily schedule changes
  • Missed opportunity for increased schedule efficiency

Developing a clear picture of your staffing and short-term plans from internal organizations that can influence the customer experience and end service level results helps to combat intraday obstacles. Often the contact center is the last team to learn about new marketing campaigns, technology changes, competitive updates and other external events. Outside influences can also impact the contact center and agent behavior and shrinkage. This can negatively impact your plan for the current day or week and include events such as weather related, flu season, transit strike, or even elections. 

Changes from any unforeseen event results in miscalculated overhead variables that will negatively impact service level. Monitoring, managing and reporting service level variance and trends including exception management must be reported to leadership and supervisors. By analyzing variances, you will be able to understand the service level impact compared to your targets, and identify risks to customer service.

  • Trend monitoring
    1. Calls
    2. Average handle time
    3. Arrival patterns
    4. Day of week patterns
  • Monitor forecast variance for percent for calls and handle time
  • How is the day trending?

As the demand for additional agents or skills changes throughout the day, it is beneficial to have a workforce management tool such as Community WFM’s A.S.A.P. (Automatic Schedule Adjustment Plans) that allows forecasting analysts the ability to increase, decrease or refine staffing levels on-demand. Combined with a built-in notifications’ platform such as Community’s Everywhere™ mobile application, provides agents immediate information on schedule changes and the need for overtime or under-time and accept or decline those offers on any one, or a combination of all notification channels. Accepted offers will automatically update the schedules and A.S.A.P will automatically notify the agents again on those same channels.

Collaborate and communicate conditions, influencing events, short term plans and proposed strategies with all stake holders. With the ability to quickly reforecast you will be able to correct deficiencies and compensate for over or under staffed for the balance of the day. 

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Reaching Every Contact Center with Affordable and Accessible WFM Solutions

Nov 06, 2019
Reaching Every Contact Center with Affordable and Accessible WFM Solutions

by: Bob Brittan, Director of Marketing at WFMSG

No matter the size of your contact center, you will always have the task of making sure you have enough call representatives, or agents, to handle the call load. The art of successful workforce management (WFM) is understanding the basic process of forecasting and scheduling. The truth is in the numbers, both physical and financial – too few agents, and your customer satisfaction bottoms out – too many agents, and your payroll is too high. In fact, labor costs account for more than 70% of your contact center budget, so you can see how important accurate forecasting and scheduling becomes.

The WFM Process

The basic WFM process begins with an organization choosing a service level goal, usually expressed as answering some percentage of calls within a certain number of seconds. To achieve this goal, a call demand or load forecast must be created, typically by looking at historical data from the telephone answering system. Then, calculations determine how many staff are required to meet the predicted demand at the desired service level.

Once requirements are known, individual employee schedules are generated so that agents understand when to report to work, when to take breaks and lunches and when to finish their shifts. Finally, the management team needs to make sure that agents are following their schedules.

Creating a Forecast and Schedule

If you are new to the WFM game you might try to manually create a forecast from the historical call data available to you, and make a list of all of your agents. A spreadsheet is a cost effect method often used in small to medium sized contact centers and will greatly help you get organized. 

It’s fair to say that spreadsheets can be an effective tool in creating forecasts. After all, forecasts of call volume are essentially a math problem. Our old friend Mr. Erlang and his formula can be effective at calculating the required number of single-skill staff. The real problem is creating schedules.

When you take into account agent schedule preferences, multiple skill routing scenarios, complex work rules, tracking schedule adherence, and over and under staffing, failure in anyone or multiple areas results in needless expense and lost customer good-will that you may never recover from.

Removing Complexity – Just Ask a Wizard

Modern workforce management solutions enable contact centers to quickly and economically capture the benefits of modern workforce optimization technology. They have become much more affordable and can cater to entry level and start-up organizations, to large multi-site contact centers with may skill sets, telephone systems, and omni-channel environments. Administrators, supervisors and analysts no longer have to worry about long learning cycles, or resentment from agents due to a significant cultural change, just by implementing a workforce management solution. 

To ensure you are not behind the curve when it comes to accurate forecasting and scheduling, look for a WFM solution with a browser-based wizard to intuitively walk users through the process of developing and executing an accurate forecast - while managing overhead costs. Make sure your users can also run advanced “what-if” analysis by varying demand, service levels and other variables to optimize agent schedules when your services demand changes. Another plus feature are unique forecast modeling options for contact centers that offer multiple channels of support.

Modern WFM software also takes agent empowerment into consideration – after all, agents are your customers window into the organization. Empowerment for agents, supervisors, and analysts who can seamlessly be connected through tightly integrated desktop portals and multiple notification channels can keep everyone up-to-date on operations. 

Don’t forget the infrastructure. Look for a solution to fit your needs whether it be an on-premise solution, cloud hosted, or hybrid. Many WFM users today opt for a cloud-based solution for ease of implementation, cost-effectiveness, and minimum IT involvement. Remember, the historical data used in forecasting and where it comes from – make sure your telephone system is compatible with available data collection adapters. Popular cloud-based adapters now include sources such as Amazon and SharpenCX.

Instead of struggling with spreadsheets, look into affordable WFM tools for contact centers that enable you to have the right number of agents with the right skills, at the right time, across all channels throughout the day. Keeping the agents involved in the process every step along the way, gives them input into critical scheduling decisions.

Clear the Way for Growth

The business landscape never stops evolving. Small business grows into larger organizations or can become part of a merger or acquisition. Implement a new solution that automates routine workforce optimization functions including forecasting, schedule optimization, adherence reporting and workforce engagement – all presented within an easy to use web browser interface and mobile app.  

It’s clearly advantageous to have a WFM solution that is easy to expand as your business needs change. Use a solution with a simple and clear migration path and license update when basic users require access to advanced features and greater automation.  Use a vendor that provides your center with cloud-based access to a workforce optimization tool kit that meets your needs and budget. WFM solutions today are making it faster, easier and less expensive to adopt world class workforce management.

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We know agent retention is important. What is your strategy?

Nov 18, 2018
We know agent retention is important. What is your strategy?

by: Dick Bucci, Founder and Chief Analyst of Pelorus Associates

Companies are no longer being defined by their products and services but by the way that customers experience them. As the primary point of entry for many consumer interactions, contact center agents are uniquely situated to influence customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. However, while turnover rates vary from one contact center to the next, on average contact centers experience turnover rates between 30 – 45 percent. Not only can agent turnover impact the customer experience, it’s expensive! Studies show that employee turnover costs an organization at least 25-30 percent of the benefits and salary for a vacated position.

Contact center managers are always on the lookout for new tools and practices that will help retain their best-performing agents. This is especially true today as falling unemployment levels present agents with many more employment options. Recognizing the importance of aligning customer service agent preferences with business needs WFMSG’s Community workforce management software offers a unique feature call Automated Schedule Adjustment Plans (ASAP). ASAP is designed to automate a range of common schedule and intraday management administrative tasks and works in conjunction with Community’s fully integrated communications framework.

Rather than manage schedules on an ad-hoc basis, managers can quickly execute various plan types and communicate with agents through a number of notification channels. Through this messaging feature agents are alerted to opt-in opportunities for overtime and other schedule options and can respond immediately.

WFMSG’s latest release of the Community workforce management solution deliverers a significant enhancement to the ASAP feature. Community 4.3 now includes Agent ASAP Calendar View. This allows agents to see all plans for which they are eligible, giving them more control over their work schedules. Clicking an offer from the calendar provides the agents with a detailed description of the available offer. The option to accept or decline will depend on the disposition of the offer at the time of selection. This is one of many new features or enhancements included in Community 4.3.

While there may be limits to what management can do in terms of improving compensation levels and advancement opportunities, they can and must take actions to make the work more attractive and to reward superior performers. Empowerment is a powerful tool for building agent morale and increasing retention. The power of modern workforce management software makes it possible to satisfy (within the confines of business rules and service level requirements) employee preferences for work schedules, vacation preferences, and time off requests.

About Pelorus Associates

Dick Bucci is Founder and Principal of Pelorus Associates where he specializes in contact center technologies. Dick has authored seventeen market research reports on workforce optimization applications and has published dozens of articles and white papers. Prior to founding Pelorus Associates Dick was a senior sales and marketing executive with leading telecommunications vendors and value added resellers. Dick has over 35 years of experience and is one of the most widely published and quoted analysts in the contact center industry.

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Going for the Gold = Workforce Management Reboot

Feb 19, 2018
Going for the Gold = Workforce Management Reboot

by: Roger Lee

QUESTION: What do Shaun White, Chloe Kim, Red Gerard, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Jamie Anderson all have in common, other than winning gold at the Olympics in Seoul?

Give up?

The ANSWER: Technology, social media, communication and collaboration.

These Olympians, even though they are a mix of generations, are tied to their smart phones non-stop – just follow them this week on Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. They are constantly connecting to and collaborating with their fans and their friends. They document their every move through character counts and photos. And they do it all with their earbuds stuck in their ears, playing their Pandora and Spotify playlist as they compete for their country and deliver gold medal performances.

These Olympians range in age from 17 -31, GEN Z to Millennials. The way they communicate, collaborate and even celebrate is changing from the way the old guard used to do it. Think about it, the old guard celebrated on TV, completed a few interviews and saw their picture on a box of Wheaties. Today – they still do all that, but before the interviews, they have already tweeted out to their fan base a picture of them with the medal around their neck and those fans have already congratulated them directly.

What does this change in the way these generations communicate mean to the contact center?

This is the future of our customer-base. This is how they expect to communicate, and we must be prepared to meet them where they are. And, like these Olympians, we must have the resiliency to change the way we talk, implement new processes and enable the right technology.

As expectations continue to evolve with people, process, technology and strategy, so must terms, acronyms and even the English language. First let me clarify the acronyms. As you probably know, WFM is Workforce Management; WFO is Workforce Optimization. And recently, Gartner redefined WFO as WEM, which is now Workforce Engagement. Confused yet? What’s the difference you ask and more importantly why does it matter?

Let’s start with Gartner’s definition of workforce engagement:

For years Gartner defined Workforce optimization (WFO) solutions as complementary functions designed to improve the performance of customer engagement centers by means of optimized deployment of appropriately trained and motivated agents. These functions range from ones for recruitment and scheduling to ones for evaluation and training. By adding intelligence to each function, everything from recruitment to scheduling to training can be optimized. Key functional domains include: strategic planning, recruitment, workforce management (WFM), including intraday optimization call recording and quality management (QM), coaching and e-learning, performance management (PM), surveying — focused on capturing operational and agent performance information, interaction analytics — audio and text analytics, combined with screen analytics, emotion detection and associated operational call data.

Workforce engagement management (WEM) solutions expand on the already mature workforce optimization (WFO) market by also accommodating technologies that help drive employee engagement within the customer engagement center.

Lastly, Workforce management (WFM) applications are spreadsheets or robust applications that allow you to staff and forecast the necessary resources (agents, customer service professionals) needed to answer calls, handle chats, emails, social media and back office operations. Unfortunately, the term workforce management much like quality assurance is viewed as “Big Brother”. As quite a few movies are going through a reboot (HellBoy, The Karate Kid), so must our industry terms and of course the acronyms. I will declare and put my twist on WFM that has started to and needs to evolve to WEM.

Why WEM?

With the ever-changing generations in the contact center, not only today’s Millennials expectations and needs are different, wait until GEN Z starts to be part of your contact center. The old days of a command center dictating schedules, determining when you are going to lunch and having to call in to let them know you are sick (unplanned leave) must evolve. The new workforce wants and expects the following:

  • Mobile, mobile and mobile
  • Transparency
  • A voice in the decision-making process
  • Recognition through gamification
  • The right tools at the right time
  • Work-life balance

As you can see from the “new” workforce demands, WEM elevates the strategic importance of having a collaboration and engagement approach to workforce management.

Let’s discuss item #1 in a bit more detail. Engaging your workforce through mobile applications especially through your WFM = WEM solution is not a nice to have but a standard feature that is intuitive and easy to use. Majority of the Millennials and GEN Z are born digital – usually having a laptop, tablet and mobile device attached to their body – especially mobile phones. To evolve your command center within the contact center to an engagement center, provide functionality but not limited to:

  • Viewing schedules
  • Request time-off
  • Receive notifications to accept or decline overtime and/or fill shortages in staffing schedules
  • View key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Communicate unplanned late arrival
  • Communicate that you are sick

A few key factors in leveraging the above features and expected functionality are transparent communication and collaboration. Two-way and transparent communication is important with all generations who work with you in the contact center.

Check out another article on the importance of Engaged Employees in the October 2017 issue of Contact Center Pipeline written by Roger Woolley titled Engaged Employees = Happy Customers.

Having been both an industry practitioner and a vendor, I remain focused on what is important to the end-user, customer/clients. As leaders we must serve the needs of our employees not the other way around. If you have any questions and/or need advice, please send me an email to lee.roger2@gmail.com.

Stay tune for the next blog as I discuss “communication is only as successful as collaboration.”

Until next time…

About the Author

Roger Lee has more than 20 years combined experience in finance, operations and services management and quality. Roger has held several leadership positions and been characterized as an “other-centered leader” who fosters a transparent environment with an emphasis on engaging and actively listening to all staff and customers. He believes that finding ways to improve the customer experience is essential – and the responsibility for improvement spans the enterprise.

He has been featured in global industry publications including Contact Center World, Customer Interaction Solutions, Call Center Network Group (CCNG), Contact Center Pipeline, Call Center Magazine, Call Centre Helper, Australia Internet Retailing, and CMO Australia.

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