Now More Than Ever, Workforce Management Technology Has Become Mission Critical Call Center Software
With call centers growing more technically complex and agents becoming more highly specialized, staff scheduling is increasing in importance. Too few agents on duty and you frustrate customers due to excessive wait times — a risky proposition when your competitors are just a click or call away. Too many agents and your labor costs go through the roof unnecessarily. Plus, in the current employment market, skilled agents are in demand. Agent retention should be a top priority. Now more than ever, workforce management (WFM) technology should be considered mission critical call center software.
WFM solution providers have responded by continuing to evolve their software to meet the market’s needs for this improved mission critical call center software. More advanced technology is being created to optimize staff scheduling, while increasing agent engagement and satisfaction, reducing turnover and helping the bottom line. These technological advancements are most clearly seen in two key areas: workload forecasting and optimized agent scheduling.
The accurate forecasting of call volumes and other workloads and the generation of staffing requirements requires the use of sophisticated algorithms. One such algorithm is Erlang-C, which is used in the forecasters of many workforce management suites. Developed in the early 1900s by the telcos, Erlang-C computes the number of agents needed to staff a call center based on the total number of calls received historically and the skill sets of the agents. However, this algorithm assumes that the call center can physically answer every incoming call (no callers receive a busy signal), and that all customers will wait indefinitely for their calls to be answered. In the real world, customers can and do eventually hang up (abandon their call) if kept waiting too long. Other callers do receive busy signals when all available queues are filled. Due to these factors, Erlang-C based forecasting tools tend to overstaff. However, there is a modernized version of the Erlang-C forecasting algorithm (Merlang) that accounts for busy signals and call abandonment. The use of this improved algorithm in your mission critical call center software results in a more accurate number of agents needed to handle a projected workload without the overstaffing seen using Erlang-C.
Better, more sophisticated monitoring and logging systems have brought enhanced granularity to call volume predictions. Where in the past, service levels were defined for a full day, they can now be defined for much smaller increments like 30-minute intervals or even 15-minute intervals. This change enables more efficient scheduling of breaks, meeting and coaching sessions, allowing agent schedules to be further optimized.
These newest advancements in forecasting and scheduling in your mission critical call center software do more than boost the bottom line. They also raise engagement and job satisfaction, increasing productivity and improving agent retention. Agents will multiple skills can be scheduled to work on multiple activities during a shift with the WFM software ensuring that all the work activities are covered at all times. In addition, scheduling flexibility has never been greater. Agents can specify preferred start and ends times or preferred days off. Employees can easily be rotated through less desirable shits. These factors contribute to improve job satisfaction and lower turnover rates among agents, which in turn can reduce training and hiring expenses.
Some of the most innovative WFM vendors are not merely added additional bells and whistles to their existing systems. They are responding to advancements in other related systems and technology and incorporating internet and wireless tech into their mission critical call center software solutions. For example, agents can now use the internet to request changes to their schedules, swap schedules or shifts with other agents, sign up for overtime, etc. This makes the WFM system a much more interactive space giving agents more control over their work lives. Similarly, with the embrace of wireless technology, supervisors can be unshackled from their desks. Using a hand-held device they are free to roam the call center floor, while browsing into the system to access real-time information and respond to any and all changes in trends, while providing hands-on coaching and mentoring for their teams.
Another recent enhancement is the capability to forecast and schedule agent for work other than inbound phone calls. This can include email, web chat, faxes, etc. Many organizations are seeing increased customer communication via email. This work requires agents with additional skills and training. As email volume increases, the need to efficiently schedule agents to handle the work will also increase, putting greater demands on your mission critical contact center software.
How much impact can these new WFM technologies have on a contact center and its bottom line? One prominent Fortune 500 company estimates that they were scheduling 2,500 agents per week at 80 percent efficiency before deciding to upgrade their workforce management suite. Once the new software had been deployed enterprise-wide, scheduling efficiency improved to nearly 94 percent. In this case, each percentage point increase in efficiency represents an increase of approximately $650,000 to their bottom line profitability, so their total annual gains where somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 to $8 million . While outcomes for smaller organizations will be less dramatic, a percentage point increase in efficiency for small- to medium-sized call centers can still represent tens of thousands of dollars. More often than not, WFM packages will have a payback of less than one year based on staffing efficiency alone. Add to that the improved customer satisfaction and increased agent job satisfaction and it’s obvious that it pays to keep up with the latest in mission critical call center software.
Pipkins, Inc. (PIPKINS), 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. It offers a rich and robust feature set, as well as an open design that allows for the complete integration of emerging CRM technology. PIPKINS’ systems forecast and schedule more than 100,000 agents in over 300 locations across all industries worldwide. The company is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.