Skill Based Routing and WFM Scheduling

a Pipkins White Paper

1. Skill Based Routing - Introduction

If your ACD has Skill Routing capabilities (such as Lucent's Expert Agent Selection - EAS), a primary call will go to its respective queue to be handled by an agent having that type of call as their primary or secondary skill. Therefore, a "type of call" is designated as a split/skill in the switch and then phone agents must be assigned this "skill" in order for the call to be answered.

Note: Even if you don't have a skill-based environment, you probably utilize overflows, look-aheads, or log into multiple queues. A Workforce Management System must be capable of simulating what really happens in your call center environment.

2. Example - Skill Based Routing

A company has both English and Spanish speaking customers:

Let's say, in this example, that the Spanish speaking customers can speak some English but would prefer speaking Spanish.

The company decides, that in order to deliver better customer service and increase customer satisfaction, to utilize the multi-skill capabilities of their ACD. They decide to create two split/skills: Queue 1: Spanish; Queue 2: English. They then group "like-skilled" phone agents:

In this case they find out who can speak Spanish and assign them the skill "Spanish" as their primary skill and "English" as their secondary skill.

Those who can't speak Spanish are assigned "English" as their primary skill and "Spanish" as their secondary skill. They are given Spanish as their secondary skill because it has been found that Customer Satisfaction among the Spanish-speaking customers is higher if they have to talk English compared to long hold times in the Spanish queue. (Think of examples of how this would work in other environments such as a technical call center, etc., where specialization is the norm.)

What an ACD that has Skill Routing capabilities can do besides get the caller to the most appropriate staff is that data reporting is cleaned up since it can report by the "Spanish" split/skill regardless of who took the call:

Before the EAS-type environments, it was often tedious and sometimes even impossible to accurately report TRUE demand for a specific call type such as "Spanish" as calls were bounced around from queue to queue through programmed look-aheads or by changing where vectors pointed on "on-the-fly". Even without an EAS-type environment, if you've set up your environment so you can still measure true demand even with the use of overflows, etc., forecasting this "true" demand for a specific type of call or customer can still be accomplished. However, when changes are made "on-the-fly", an accurate picture of true demand and thus, accurate forecasts, can be almost impossible.

One major problem with EAS-type environments is, that while you may have increased customer satisfaction through better and faster service "handling" a call, you may have decreased that portion of Customer Satisfaction driven by response time or time "answering" a call. This is a result of breaking up one large group (which can more efficiently handle the randomness of incoming calls) and creating smaller groups. In this example, you actually may do yourself more harm than good as Customer Satisfaction may be driven more by the "answering" portion. You would actually have to increase staff to take advantage of the "handling" benefits while maintaining your "answering" goals.

3. Example - Scheduling Opportunities

When Spanish & English were one group, you needed approximately 200 agents.

Now that you've separated into two split/skills, you now need approximately 220 agents because of the loss in efficiency in having one large group to handle the randomness of the incoming calls. This number actually would have been 230 agents but there were some efficiency gains realized in the "handling" process due to fact that calls are now routed to the most appropriately skilled person.

Now the optimal would be to take the "handling" efficiency gains through decreased talk times, realize the Customer Satisfaction benefits, and more than recoup "answering" efficiency losses via a Scheduling System that can take secondary backup skills into account and make the separate groups virtually look like one again.

How does a staffing number less than 200 sound - with your increase in Customer Satisfaction?

Hey, how about forecasting & scheduling your Team Leaders to be on the phones during key periods of the day? You can even control for how long and further increase service with an additional reduction in costs!

So, how can you take advantage of the "handling" benefits of a multi-skilled environment while also maintaining or even decreasing staff levels? How do you take advantage of secondary "Skill" assignments? How can you schedule for primary split/skills while taking into account available backup people? These are questions you must ask AND get answered or you will not truly see the benefits of a multi-skilled ACD environment.

There are FUNDAMENTAL differences among Workforce Management Vendors and how they approach these issues.

The basis or cornerstone on which their product is built around is very important as it ultimately reflects on YOUR business.

4. Fundamental Differences as they relate to Skill-Based Routing & Scheduling


Pipkins Maxima Advantage


Skill-based routing configuration


Set up to mimic your environment.

No. Can't truly mimic what is happening with your call routing. Can't account for backup skills or other groups who can be called upon to help.

Forecasting of Skills


Maxima Advantage can forecast Skills individually or as an aggregate sum to meet your business needs. Will also take backup availability into account.

Yes, but only one at a time and can't take into account backup skills that can help out a primary skill - thus you'll see major overstaffing.

True Skill-Based Scheduling

Yes, definitely.

Pipkins, Inc. "Skill Sense"

Don't have or Outsource which tries to model certain scenarios but can't actually create optimal schedules which take backup skills into account

Service Objectives by Skill Set


Can even do by time of day.


Service Objectives by Team


Yes but the team is the same as the queue and so can't account for the fact that a backup team can't exceed a certain occupancy level because of other duties, etc.

Schedule by daily availability & optimize schedules for each day.


Maxima Advantage optimizes schedules for EACH day of the week based on your schedule rules (employee limitations or flexibility).

Others produce the same schedule for every day of the week and don't optimize schedules for each individual day. They don't have the capability to set up daily availability rules for personnel.

Support blending of outbound traffic with your call center's inbound traffic


Maxima Advantage can actually schedule an individual to optimally cover both demand and non-demand activities.

Yes, but limited. Can optimize one but not the other.

Handle outsourcing issues.


Configured like another call center site. You can even provide a Roster to Outsource Vendors.


Report which shows multiple Team Assignments


Maxima Advantage can show an agent's schedule for the week with intraday "multiple" serving team assignments for each day.


Deviation Report by individual Serving Team or a group of "rolled-up" Serving Teams


No. Others report deviation only at the queue level and not at a Serving Team level as they can't take into account the fact that a particular Team can handle calls from multiple queue.

Real-time monitoring of agent adherence by Skill


Through the purchase of the Real-Time Adherence module, you can actually monitor by Skill or activity.


Others can monitor only by agent state only - not by multiple skills.

"PIPKINS, Maxima Advantage is the only Workforce Management system today that has the flexibility to provide the complete skill-set scheduling solution. Skill set capabilities were designed into Maxima Advantage from inception to handle all multi-skilled call center environments."