Workforce management (WFM) is at the heart of service level attainment, ensuring contact center efficiency, agent satisfaction and increased revenue. It only works if WFM forecasting and scheduling are done accurately to minimize any errors and cut down on changes.
It’s impossible not to have to make some adjustments in real time, but a good target to aim for is 80% planned and 20% agile management. If you can hit this ballpark, then you’ve got a successful WFM forecasting process.
Achieving this goal is easier said than done, but taking deliberate steps towards it will ensure your WFM is moving in the right direction.
Create a weekly plan
Build up a picture of each day’s projected volumes and service level goals for the week ahead, embellishing it with all the relevant information you can gather. This should include data reports, marketing campaigns, promotions and external factors, such as seasonal considerations.
For a greater level of forecasting, you can split each day into intervals, but that may be something to consider further down the line. Such a granular approach depends on having access to in-depth data to make it worthwhile.
Take all contact center employees into account
Forecasting works best when you take all members of your contact center staff into consideration. This means everyone from agents to supervisors and team leaders, as well as those who work part-time hours instead of full time.
Part-time workers can disrupt the accuracy of the staffing model if they’re not processed properly. For example, it shouldn’t be assumed that part-time employees work exactly half the hours of those on full-time contracts. Use the actual number of hours they’re scheduled to work instead.
Utilize a WFM solution
There are WFM solutions on the market that can automate forecasting and scheduling to take a lot of the manual processes out of the hands of staff. While they can streamline operations and improve accuracy, it’s important that human error doesn’t undermine their effectiveness.
Some of the pitfalls to consider include:
1. Failing to take other business objectives into consideration
Service level agreements are an important business priority, but they’re not the only objective an organization must work towards. Failing to factor in other operations and external considerations can result in an excessive number of last-minute changes.
2. Lack of communication
As eliminating all adjustments is an unrealistic aim, it’s important that the shift changes recommended by your WFM system are communicated to employees clearly. Giving staff as much notice as possible will prevent unauthorized time off work and ensure morale isn’t negatively affected.
3. Not utilizing archived data
Building on previous forecasts to create more accurate and insightful versions moving forward is an efficient way to work. Failing to archive data on actuals and past forecasts will put you at a disadvantage and mean you’re constantly having to start from scratch.
Identify trends from your archives to work proactively by:
- Comparing forecasts to the actual final deployment of staff
- Comparing planned sickness rates to real incidents
- Comparing departments
- Analyzing productivity ratios
4. Not having contingency plans
Plans should be put in place to deal with a selection of scenarios just in case they occur. Failure to do so will mean it takes longer to understand such situations and fix them. This can have a negative impact on both customers and agents as frustrations become apparent.
5. Failing to liaise with agents
Grouping all agents together and assuming their desires are the same is a mistake. While weekend shifts are often considered unpopular, they can actually fit into the work-life balance of part-time employees and remote staff better. The only way to find out is to consult agents and try to schedule shifts to reflect their preferences.
Balance supply with demand
It’s a fine balance between supply and demand when managing a workforce, but getting it right can improve service levels exponentially. Combining automation, forward planning and analysis of past performance can put you in the best position to meet your business obligations.