In this paper, we will examine skill-based routing and the challenges it poses for the producing optimal workforce management scheduling.
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 (WFM) System must be capable of simulating what really happens in your call center environment in order to effectively perform your workforce management scheduling.
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.
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 according to your workforce management scheduling system.
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 WFM Vendors and how they approach these issues in their workforce management scheduling tools .
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
About Pipkins, Inc.
Pipkins Inc., a leading supplier of workforce management software, now offers a new graphic edition of its agent adherence module with a control panel consisting of a visual grid which places agents in permanently assigned squares that change color in real time indicating agent status and enabling at-a-glance monitoring from anywhere on the floor. Additional features include one-click schedule updates and report access.
“PIPKINS, Maxima Advantage® is the only Workforce Management system today that has the flexibility to provide the complete skill-set workforce management scheduling solution. Skill set capabilities were designed into Maxima Advantage from inception to handle all multi-skilled call center environments.”