Workforce management (WFM) is critical to the ecosystem of a call centre, with benefits ranging from reduced costs thanks to automated schedules and an improved customer experience as a result of happier agents.
However, some contact centres have trepidations when it comes to implementing this kind of technology, worrying that they could fall into a costly trap from which they can’t extricate themselves. Of course, like investing in any kind of new technology, there are hurdles to overcome when deciding to introduce a WFM service into your contact centre, but they can certainly be handled.
Below are the three biggest WFM challenges/pitfalls and how to overcome them:
1.Falling short of business needs
One of the shortcomings that many contact centres find with WFM is that it doesn’t match up to their business needs. They introduce it and then, after a few weeks, realise that the system isn’t detailed enough; it can’t keep up with changing customer expectations; it’s not good at long-term schedule forecasting.
One of the main reasons a contact centre might look to implement WFM is indeed to improve forecasting and predict costs. Another is to reduce staff attrition. So, what good is this tool if it can’t keep up?
One of the reasons you may be going around in circles with WFM is that you haven’t considered your contact centre goals. This is a common problem amongst contact centres introducing WFM technology – they look to jump on the bandwagon before considering how WFM will affect their company goals and without looking at how it can add value to their business.
You could be running into trouble with WFM because you’ve programmed the system based on business-as-usual goals, with old and inaccurate data. Instead, if you’re looking to change your contact centre’s way of working – to go fully omni-channel in your customer service approach for example – then this is the information the WFM system will need in order to keep you up-to-date and meet your needs.
Before investing in a WFM solution, consider what value it is going to add to your business. Decide to install it because it will add real, intrinsic value to your business needs whilst also meeting your contact centre goals.
2.Lack of trust
This is problem that comes up regularly with WFM systems, with many questioning how they can be trusted to provide reliable data that will help with that all-important forecasting and scheduling.
It may feel as though the WFM system isn’t generating enough data to help with predicting trends and scheduling for seasonal or promotional periods, leading to the centre being under- or, indeed, over-staffed.
The biggest mistake to make with WFM is to rush the process and to not pay enough attention to the data.
It’s unrealistic to expect the system to have generated enough data over a few weeks in order to forecast a schedule for a year’s time. You may not have looked at enough data to make a valid forecast, so it’s crucial that you aren’t rushing the entire process. What’s more, unless the system is being constantly updated with new metrics such as how much overtime was required for a particularly busy period, then the system won’t be able learn and predict trends.
Of course, any forecast is ultimately a prediction, and there are also other factors to consider – such as how will the marketing department’s latest campaign affect customers – but the more data that the WFM is fed, the more reliable the system will become. Having a full understanding of how it works will enable the right skills, agents and resources to be distributed to the right places, so you won’t be caught off-guard.
A final thing to consider is how much trust your agents have in WFM. It’s crucial to be aware that many agents might be wary of the systems, simply because they don’t know how they operate. By teaching them how their scheduling is decided, they will be happier with how things are run. As the age-old mantra goes, happy agents equal happy customers.
Which brings us nicely onto point number three. An issue that comes up regularly with WFM is that it seems as though the biggest stakeholders in the contact centre – the agents themselves – feel as though they are being neglected. Their preferences perhaps aren’t being considered, or they feel they work too many hours or they only have a limited number of tasks to perform.
This can lead to a poor adherence to schedules, leading to time away from desks and phones. If agents are not having a great experience this will not only affect the service they’re delivering to customers, but could also lead to increased attrition rates and more costs.
The answer to this one is straight forward: listen to your agents. By understanding their preferences, such as when they want to take holidays or if they need to take time off for childcare or a health issue, then they should feel like they are being heard.
Some WFM systems even allow agents to input their preferences themselves, giving them more control over their schedules, allowing them more flexibility to ask for sick days or work overtime. They can also track their professional progress by being able to input their skills, encouraging the work of the multi-skilled ‘blended’ agents. Of course, it won’t always be easy to accommodate everyone’s preferences, but by having a WFM system in place, you’ll have the technology ready-to-go.
By introducing a WFM system, showing agents how they work and actually taking the time to input agents’ choices is crucial to keeping the beating heart of the contact centre going.
WFM: much more than a tactical tool
While it’s true that WFM solutions can have their issues, there is nothing too problematic that can’t be overcome without a little elbow grease, patience and, most importantly, the input of agents. It’s time to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to dealing with scheduling and forecasting. As such, it’s important to remember that WFM isn’t just a tactical tool that can be used for scheduling or as high-tech calendar. It is also a strategic solution that can help with long-term forecasting and planning, making your lives, and those of your agents and customers, that much more comfortable.
Contact us to find out more about Workforce Management.
Published in Contact Centre Monthly 11th October 2019.