Article : Enterprise WFM: Forecasting May Be at Its Core but Its Scope Is Much Broader
In the contact center industry, like all personnel-intensive industries, workforce management has become an ever increasing strategic focus for senior executives and entrepreneurs alike.
Gains achieved through the efficient and effective management of your frontline staff (your contact center agents) can have a huge impact on your business, contributing to improved results across the board – lower costs, increased profit margins, higher customer satisfaction ratings, a lower churn rate of your customer base, higher morale within your organization and lower employee turnover.
Manual processes using spreadsheets and timecards, aren’t enough even for the smallest of contact center teams in today’s multi-channel contact center environment. An automated WFM solution can do a much better job, while freeing up your supervisors, managers and administrative staff to focus on other responsibilities and duties.
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Accurate Forecasting is at the core of today’s best fully integrated Workforce Management solutions, but it is still only one component in a diverse toolset to manage a complex system. That said, you want to have confidence in your forecasts of expected workloads – long-term, medium-term, short-term and even intraday. You base your staffing requirements on these forecasts.
After all, labor is typically one of the biggest, if not the biggest cost in your center. Being overstaffed or understaffed, even for short periods, can significantly drive up costs and lower profit potential. Some WFM solutions don’t include intraday forecasting and require third-party add-on modules to add this capability to their systems. Other providers may use antiquated algorithms that are inadequate to handle the numerous variables in today’s rapidly evolving multi-channel contact center environment. Robust forecasting is a must, including intraday forecasting.
But forecasting and planning are just the tip of the iceberg. A modern workforce management suite can and should do so much more:
- Performance Management – Real-time performance data is vital to your operations. Your entire management team from your frontline supervisors all the up to the C-level suite needs accurate, up-to-date information, preferably in customizable dashboards and reports highlighting key performance indicators. Agents also benefit from quantifiable feedback on their performance which can help them adjust their behavior to improve performance. Plus, performance tracking tools can be linked to motivation and incentive systems to further enhance ongoing agent performance. Can you say gamification?
- Real-Time Adherence – What good is a WFM system if it generates an optimal schedule, but your agents fail to adhere to that schedule? You need real-time proactive monitoring of agent adherence that compares the agents’ scheduled activities with their actual current activities and generates automatic alerts to the agents and their supervisors when adherence thresholds are broken. The inclusion of real-time adherence KPIs on dashboards for agents and supervisors increases accountability for following that optimal schedule your system has generated. Web and/or smart phone access to adherence reports and alerts keep managers informed about their team’s performance even when they are not at their desk.
- Automation and Streamlined Communications – Systems that empower agents and limit supervisor time responding to manual requests can give your operations a significant boost in productivity. The same holds true for the ability to automate the collection and processing of performance and service statistics, forecasting, scheduling, etc. It adds up to fewer man hours spent on administrative and reporting functions and more time dedicated to serving your customers.
Features that fall under automation and streamlined communications include:
- Real-Time Dashboards that display individual, team, group and overall contact center performance KPIs, ticker-style in real time are a huge benefit for frontline supervisors and their team members.
- Real-Time Adherence Notification Systems that free your supervisors from the constant monitoring of old style adherence monitoring screens. Automated alerts for both supervisor and agent can ensure accountability, as well as speedy behavior corrections.
- Vacation and Overtime Planners that allow agents and supervisors to manage vacation time and overtime through automated request systems using rules defined by current HR practices increase agent empowerment, improve morale and free up supervisory time from these administrative tasks.
- Shift-Bidding and Self-Scheduling that require agent involvement in the scheduling process encourage employees to take control of their work lives and improve their work-life balance while improving operational efficiency, increasing staff engagement, reducing administrative costs and reducing supervisory time spent on scheduling. Systems that allow agents to view and adjust schedules at their workstation, at home or on the go using their smart phone or tablet or laptop are ideal.
- Communications with other agents via bulletin board message systems help keep information flowing and increase connectedness of your teams, particularly in larger, multi-shift call centers, or call centers utilizing at-home agents.
- At-Home Scheduling – The use of at-home agents continues to grow in popularity industry-wide, and the trend shows no sign of slowing. If you already are using at-home agents, this feature is a must. If you plan to phase in the use of at-home agents in either a "hub and spoke" model or ultimately transition to a virtual contact center operation, having this capability baked into your WFM system gives you the flexibility to implement the change when the time is right for your organization. At-home scheduling can reduce infrastructure costs while improving organizational morale by giving highly skilled associates a flexible work environment.
- In-App Video Conferencing, Chat and Screen-sharing – The incorporation of video conferencing, chat and screen-sharing capabilities within a workforce management application can be a huge aid for supervisors and trainers to work with and coach new agents or agents learning new duties, especially for organizations with at-home agents or multiple facilities.
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About Kevin Weible:
Kevin Weible is a marketing communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing who joined Pipkins in 2016 to lead the firm's marketing efforts. Kevin has a B.A. in English from the University of Missouri - St. Louis, and a M.B.A. from Webster University.
About Pipkins Inc.:
Pipkins Inc., founded in 1983, is a supplier of workforce management software and services to the contact center industry. Its Vantage Point WFM solution enables managers to solve the complicated operational issues in today’s complex, omni-channel contact center environments and back office operations. Pipkins’ systems forecast and schedule more than 300,000 agents in more than 500 locations across all industries worldwide. The company is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.
Published: Wednesday, November 2, 2016
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