Everyone is painfully aware of what is happening in the economy. These are uncertain times to say the least. Businesses are having to laser focus their efforts to retain customers. Because much of a company’s revenue is generated through its call center, it is more critical than ever for call centers to ensure that they are meeting service levels and that agents are adhering to their schedules. There are four crucial areas where workforce management is invaluable in meeting these objectives.
Accurate forecasting and scheduling
Accurate forecasting in a skill-based routing environment is the most critical component of workforce management. Without that, scheduling will be ineffective because you will have failed to correctly plan anticipated workloads. Precise scheduling is based on accurate workload requirements. When purchasing forecasting software, look for these features:
- Provides infinite number of different service objectives on one or more work streams
- Algorithms that reflect real life customer behavior
- Special events are treated differently, i.e., mail drops, campaigns, and special promotions can be quantified
- Email and faxes have service objectives reflecting the way that work is handled
Once you have accurate forecasting and scheduling addressed, agent adherence is the next critical issue which can be reflected in bottom line revenue. The statistics tell the story. If 2% of agents are not performing their scheduled activity, the percentage of calls answered within the designated performance objective typically will drop by 10%. If 10% of agents are out of adherence, onehalf of the center’s incoming calls will be impacted and likely not be answered within the target time frame.
Agent adherence software should have these features:
- Agent’s states on the ACD should be compared to current schedule
- Agent’s current state is updated every few seconds
- Reports available on agent’s activity for the past 48 hours
- Historical adherence records available for specific activities for any period in the past
- Adherence violations described as well as agent’s time spent on nonadhering activity
- Overall percentage of non-adhering time reported
- Number of non-adhering violations tracked
- In order to be effective, real-time adherence systems must have the ability to filter to the supervisory level, provide roll-up for the entire center, and in a multi-site environment, have the ability to monitor those sites from a centralized location.
Retaining qualified, experienced agents is a global issue for all call centers. One strategy for agent retention is agent empowerment. Software is available to facilitate empowering agents by allowing them to have more control over their schedules. Software which gives agents control should have these features:
- Schedules available through any corporate network or Internet
- Ability to view in daily, weekly, and monthly format
- Schedule modification and trade request options
- Messaging system for notification of schedule changes or user messages
- Electronic bulletin board for posting trade requests or giveaways
- Comprehensive vacation and time off planning
Additionally, the software should have benefits for supervisors, including:
- Ability to access schedules and facilitate change via Blackberry/iPhone interface
- Ability to access schedule changes online • Ability to approve, reject or post agent requests
- Manage user privileges and administrative tasks
- Establish and manage vacation limits, wait lists, black-out days, and nonoperational days
- Ability to access schedule changes online
Reduced time and effort by supervisors on paperwork and agent interaction
Supervisors need all the help and support they can muster in order to meet service levels and keep agents happy and in adherence. Why not consider taking your center “green” and eliminate paper schedules altogether? There are many options available for supervisors which enable them to reduce administrative overhead and eliminate costly paperbound schedule distribution methods. Some features are:
- Automated notifications for scheduled activities and non-adherence conditions
- User messages, banner messages, URL messages
- Multiple notification modes via email or pop-up screen to allow easy transfer of data to agents
- Delivery options for immediate, scheduled, recurring or automated edits
- Ability to broadcast to all agents or individual agents only
- Broadcast of daily schedules, schedule changes and adherence information
- Ability to deliver edits to agents automatically or be viewed on demand at any time with one click
Investment in workforce management software can result in substantive long-term savings for call centers. Providing help to supervisors, coupled with agent empowerment, through ease-of-use software is a great cost savings strategy, as well as a methodology for improved service levels and customer retention.
About Pipkins Inc.
Pipkins Inc., founded in 1983, is the leading supplier of workforce management software and services to the call center industry. Its Vantage Point product enables managers to solve the complicated operational issues in today’s multi-faceted call center environment. Pipkins’ systems forecast and schedule more than 300,000 agents in over 500 locations across all industries worldwide. The company is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. For more information, visit www.pipkins.com.
Originally published as a Guest Column on www.crmmarketplace.com, 1/16/2009.