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Workforce management is the practice of managing your workforce to ensure you allocate the right staffing resources at any given time.
Love it or hate it, workforce management is a core business function in the contact centre industry. It’s the difference between a contact centre that flourishes, and one that struggles. And optimising your workforce management it is the key to transforming any contact centre into a thriving hub of superior customer service and employee engagement.
With so much riding on successful workforce management, it’s important to know: are you doing it right?
If you’re unsure of the answer to this question, then it’s time you considered a workforce optimisation assessment.
Doing It Right – Workforce Optimisation
Workforce optimisation involves reviewing your workforce management to make sure you’re getting the best results. It’s about examining what you currently do, identifying what you do well, and pinpointing areas for improvement.
Armed with this information, you are empowered to simplify and streamline your processes, making them as efficient and effective as possible.
When conducting a workforce optimisation review, it’s important to examine the following 5 key areas: Forecasting and Planning, Real-Time Management, System Efficiency, Staff Capability, and Reporting.
Forecasting and Planning
Just as a weather reporter needs to know certain details in order to make an accurate forecast, you need to know certain details and information to accurately predict your contact centre’s expected traffic and staff resourcing requirements. For instance, you need information about marketing events, upcoming holidays, known staffing impacts, recruitment activities, and many other factors.
Once you have this information, and have used it to forecast your resourcing requirements, you must then be able to plan accordingly. Just as you may bring an umbrella to work because there is rain predicted that afternoon, you must know the appropriate actions and precautions to take for staffing your contact centre based on your predictions.
Workforce optimisation of your forecasting and planning involves examining how you approach forecasting and planning. You need to review your data’s accuracy and validity, how you use it to make complete forecasts, how these forecasts are used to direct planning, and the assumptions used in the planning process.
Of course, not everything can be forecast and planned for in a contact centre, so you must also be able to respond to real-time challenges. These may include events such as staff calling in sick, the interruptions that flow from holding an unexpected staff meeting, or the strains of responding to a system issue.
Real-time management in your contact centre is like having umbrellas set aside in storage, so that if it rains when the weather was meant to be fine, you are able to respond by equipping everyone with what they need in order to deal with this new and unexpected challenge.
Workforce optimisation for real-time management involves reviewing how you manage and respond to these unexpected challenges. You must also examine your reforecasting and planning practices, and your recovery strategies.
Like most contact centres, you probably have a system to help you with planning and real-time management. But how well do you use it? Do you use all the key functionalities that make the planning and real-time processes easier and more efficient? Do you get the most out of your system?
In weather terms, a well-utilised workforce management system is like the cutting-edge equipment used for predicting the weather. It considers all the factors, and uses the data to make predictions and apply assumptions which can then be checked and broadcast by the weatherman. An under-utilised workforce management system, on the other hand, is like manually checking barometers and other factors such as sky conditions, and using these to make predictions. It’s more time-consuming, and it’s less accurate.
To conduct a workforce optimisation review of your system efficiency, you must look at how you use and enable a range of system functions, including self-service capabilities, and scheduling off-phone activities. You must also examine your support team’s autonomy and their interaction with the system.
Of course, your contact centre’s system efficiency isn’t the only factor that directly influences your ability to successfully forecast, plan, and implement real-time management. Instead, much of your success in workforce management depends on your staff’s capability.
Many people who work in workforce management have little or no formal training. Because it’s a primarily “learn on the job” industry, poor practices can easily be passed down the chain and repeated.
Before a weatherman becomes a weatherman, they must undergo standardised study and training to learn how to predict the weather. Imagine how accurate weather prediction would be if, instead, each weatherman simply passed down the weather predicting lore of their forefathers to the next one. It sounds ridiculous, but this is basically what can happen with staff capability in a contact centre when the majority of the training they receive is on the job.
Of all areas in workforce management, this is the one where expert, external assistance is required to conduct an effective workforce optimisation review. An external reviewer will not only know every factor of staff capability that should be reviewed – they will also be able to look at your staff’s capability with “fresh” eyes.
The effectiveness of your forecasting, planning, and real-time management will depend on your use of historical data and reports. How well do you use the data available to make informed business decisions in your contact centre?
The same principle applies if we use our weather analogy. One of the reasons weather prediction programs are so advanced is that they use the right historical data to inform predictions.
When optimising your reporting, it’s important to review what information is currently used to provide you with historical data, how workforce management metrics are included in management reports, how you utilise the insights and information available to make key business decisions, and the accuracy and validity of the reported metrics that you use.
Benefits Of Workforce Optimisation
Now you know what you need to review in order to identify opportunities for optimising your workforce management. But what benefits can you expect to enjoy from workforce optimisation?
Workforce optimisation can transform your contact centre in several ways. Workforce optimisation:
- Improves customer satisfaction by shortening queue times, lowering the number of abandoned calls, and making your customer support team more accessible – all of which also means fewer complaints
- Saves money because you only roster people on when you need them, and you get a better return on investment for your workforce management system because you’re using it optimally
- Improves capabilities for managing and juggling traffic from varied customer channels because predictions are based on accurate data and solid forecasting practices
- Engages employees because they have happier customers, a simpler rostering system, fewer last-minute rostering changes, and less frustrated team leaders
- Improves brand perception thanks to a combination of all these factors
Imagine what this sort of transformation would mean for your contact centre.
Do you work in a contact centre? Share your stories of workforce management challenges or success in the comments below!
Do you want expert assistance with optimising your contact centre’s workforce management? Stennett Consulting can help. Contact us today to discuss your contact centre’s unique workforce management challenges.