A tipping point is defined as the moment at which something becomes irreversible and unstoppable. Tipping points occur because momentum builds, and a build-up of minor changes or incidents reaches a level that triggers a more significant change. In a contact center environment, a tipping point that leads to either profit or loss can be determined by the efficacy of software solutions.
Companies purchase technology in hopes of improving efficiency and increasing bottom line profits. Technology is designed to help achieve that goal; however, before spending resources on software solutions, it is imperative that you understand what each solution offers in terms of return on investment and which will have the greatest impact on your profit margin. In times of economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever to ensure you are getting maximum benefit from your software investment.
One of the biggest threats to a center’s profit margin is wasted labor expense due to inaccurate forecasting. Staffing operational costs account for 70-80% of your budget and can be severely impacted by under- and overstaffing. Idle, unproductive agents cost money in wasted labor while understaffing can result in calls not being answered, poor customer service, and lost sales.
Accurate forecasting is the foundation of call center scheduling and accurate scheduling is dependent upon the forecast correctly estimating anticipated call volume and determining the number of agents required to meet service levels. How does accurate forecasting affect profitability? In a real life scenario, if call volume is underestimated to the extent that 100 callers out of 1,000 hang up before they speak to an agent in a sales environment where the average order is just $50, $5,000 in lost revenues will occur per day, $150,000 per month, or a staggering $1.8 million per year.
Workforce management (WFM) tools balance work to be completed with resources available to complete that work and are a critical component for call centers. Large call centers cannot operate efficiently without automated WFM software and workforce management is an absolute necessity for inbound call centers. In addition to providing scheduling forecasts, WFM tools ensure agent adherence, enable easy vacation scheduling options, allow supervisors to track center operations from remote locations through smart phones or tablets, and empower agents through self-scheduling tools. Workforce management tools also allow agents to work at home which reduces brick and mortar costs. Workforce management also provides excellent ROI. For example, in a SaaS environment, if WFM tools can save the cost of two FTE’s, it will pay for the cost of the software.
While WFM is your most important investment, it is critical that your system meets your present needs and is flexible to address future demands. Most importantly, the software needs to integrate and operate at maximum capability. The following questions regarding critical functions of WFM should be addressed:
• Is the workforce scheduling system scalable?
Many WFM systems require call centers to perform a forklift upgrade once they grow to a certain size, creating an added expense as well as a major administrative headache. Look for a scalable system that can accommodate growth without installing completely new software.
• Does the system collect enough data for accurate forecasting?
It is imperative to maintain detailed data for several years in order to produce an accurate forecast. Many workforce scheduling systems store no more than 16 weeks of historical inbound call data to generate a forecast, and most fail to gather information on marketing campaigns, billing cycles or other variables that can affect call volume. A WFM package should maintain several years of very detailed data for maximum forecast accuracy.
• Can the system generate forecasts and schedules in minutes?
The most efficient scheduling systems should be able to produce forecasts and schedules quickly. Some WFM systems require eight to ten hours to forecast call volumes, determine staffing requirements, and produce call center schedules. Systems that require hours for forecasting call volumes and determining staffing requirements should be avoided.
• Do calculating requirements account for busies and abandoned calls?
For maximum efficiency, WFM software should have an algorithm that incorporates busies and abandoned calls. Systems that do not account for busies and abandons will always overstaff your center.
• Are adjustments made for unexpected daily variables?
In order to keep staffing on target, it is necessary to have intra-day optimization tools which automatically adjust for fluctuations in call volumes, absences, or unplanned meetings. The system should have the capability of recalculating daily staffing needs, modifying work assignments electronically, and automatically notifying agents through email or pop-up messages without having to print and redistribute new schedules.
• Are special events recognized in call volume forecasting?
Having a correlated forecasting capability that recognizes and incorporates any special events, such as catalog drops or discount offers, can have a significant impact on profit and loss. How these special events affected call volume in the past is critical to accurate forecasting. In call centers where workloads fluctuate due to special events, the only way to ensure proper staffing is with a system that can electronically calculate anticipated call volume based on how a given event affected incoming calls in the past.
• Can tasks that must be performed repeatedly be automated?
Repetitive tasks such as disseminating call volume forecasting, scheduling, and activity reports can account for 50-60% of supervisory time. These tasks can be performed with one-click execution through shortcut wizards and scheduled to run automatically or linked in self-executing sequences.
• Can the system produce a single optimized schedule without edits?
Many WFM systems generate a basic schedule and then require analysts to spend costly time editing that schedule to accommodate breaks, lunches, meetings, training sessions and vacations. This consumes clerical time, risks input errors, and makes creating every schedule an inefficient multi-step process. It can also adversely affect your service levels by failing to consider these variables in the optimization process.
• Does the system have an integrated vacation planner?
This is a two-fold test. First, the vacation planning module should integrate with the WFM software to ensure that vacation slots will be accurately calculated and reflected in agent schedules without manual input. Second, it should be fully configurable to support your policies and staffing structure. Staffing rules particular to your company should be taken into consideration and accounted for in the scheduling.
Workforce management is your most important software investment as well as an effective tool for contributing to bottom line profits. When the WFM tool is inadequate and cannot produce an accurate forecast or does not meet service level demands, the tipping point will be toward loss. Take control of your profit margin by investing in an effective workforce management solution.
Pipkins, Inc., founded in 1983, is a leading supplier of workforce management software and services to the call center industry, providing sophisticated forecasting and scheduling technology for both the front and back office. Its award-winning Vantage Point is the most accurate forecasting and scheduling tool on the market. Pipkins’ systems forecast and schedule more than 300,000 agents in over 500 locations across all industries worldwide. For more information, visit www.Pipkins.com.