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Article : Implementing Workforce Management Technology: Keys to Success

Investing in workforce management technology does not make you a workforce manager. It also does not mean that your contact center will automatically increase efficiency and raise the level and consistency of customer service.

There are a high percentage of marginally successful deployments associated with the roll out of workforce management technology. It is not because the product is not stable or lacks functionality.

It is not because the provider does not care about their client. It is not because of perceived notions of ease use. Many contact centers that have deployed workforce management technology have less than precise responses to questions on the success of the application.

Daryl Gonos
The Workforce Management Group

You will hear "We have had it only nine months and are still getting up to speed." "We are really different and the new schedule optimization took some getting used to." "We had issues with integration but it is on track now."

This article was written to enable you to say clearly if you have succeeded and by how much when you adopted this powerful and compelling technology.

So why do people struggle with deploying the workforce management technology? Workforce management is a philosophy and business practice, not a piece of software that resides on a server. The technology is simply a tool. There are keys to being successful and here is what our team observes in our practice of workforce management deployment and optimization.

Keys to Success

  • Tell your agents why you are investing in WFM.
    Agents are your lifeblood and if they were not involved in the selection process make sure they understand why you are investing in the new tool. Make sure you address any concerns they have about change and culture. Their support is crucial to your success.

  • Get an executive sponsor.
    This resource is critical to making sure that your exercise in technology acquisition delivers on the promise of the investment. This individual should set criteria for success and make sure the team and the provider work towards meeting those very specific goals.

  • Set quantifiable success criteria.
    Getting the workforce management application installed is not success nor is successfully collecting valid data from the ACD, nor is completing the training session. These are milestones only. Your contact center invested in results not the services associated with deployment.

Your contact center may have, or is about to, invests in workforce management technology for a variety of very compelling reasons. The primary ones may include:

Increase the Level and Consistency of Customer Service – Organizations without a workforce management system typically are chasing the wholes in their service. Properly deploying a workforce management system will allow for more effective and timely planning and allow the center more alacrity in responding to the dynamics of their environment.

Administrative Time Savings – Manual methods associated with data collection of call statistics, service level reporting, forecasting, scheduling agent performance mangment and overall center reporting are at a minimum untimely.

Control of Payroll Related Expenses – Your existing schedules are probably inefficient and you would like to do one of two things. You either wish to do more work with your existing resource or do the same work, at the same grade, with less resource.

Maximizing Revenue – In revenue generating centers the goal is to determine the exact point where adding additional personnel has no other effect other than adding expenses. It is all about that.

Once you set specific criteria for success relating to these quantifiable benefits your team can focus on the appropriate goals and keep them in their sites through the deployment cycle.

Assign a dedicated project manager
Most contact centers that invest in workforce management technology are deploying it for the very first time. They often rely too heavily on the vendor to make sure the system is implemented smoothly. Many assign a resource that has never been exposed to the fundamentals of the technology components and does not understand its benefits or ends. Our practice typically observes that the "telecommunications guy" or an IT resource is responsible for the many details leading up to the installation, integration and training session. This resource is and should be the milestone manager reporting up to the executive sponsor whose eye is on the objectives for success. This individual should focus on these key elements to make sure the workforce managers can deliver the expected benefits to the executive sponsor.

Acquire the Right Server – The specifications should come from your provider but you still have to acquire the platform. Get it and test it.

Understand the Integration Requirements – Do you need special reports? Do they cost anything? Where do they come from? Is it batch or real time data? Who is responsible for making sure the data is correct? Which vendor you call with a problem?

Make sure the Provider Understands your Application – Are agents multi-skilled? How does that affect the schedules? Every workforce management vendor can tell you the story of being in the training class and hearing "but we do not do it that way." The result is project derailment. The training is delayed or is not as valuable and costs are increased for the users and the provider.

Set up an Appropriate Learning Environment for Training – Contact Centers are dynamic fast moving places. Isolate the team that is to be trained and minimize interruptions. Your vendor will appreciate it and you will not have to call the help desk every twenty minutes to cover the section you missed while you were counseling Todd about his asthma.

Make Sure the Vendor knows the Success Criteria – Make sure the training agenda is targeted your goals. They should give broad support here as they know you will have a great story to tell their next prospect, if they succeed. Insist that a production environment is the result of the sessions. Make sure your staff knows they are completing training to quantify your criteria for success and no less.

Assign the Right Resources to the Application – The workforce management function is not a data entry position. These people should understand metrics, and be accountable to executing your plan for delivering service. They need to be empowered within guidelines.

Measure against success criteria
Once your team has completed vendor training it is time to make it happen. The criteria outlined are not soft or subjective. They are quantifiable and your executive sponsor should hold the team of users to the meeting specific objectives within those criteria.

Service Level is Measurable
Set and expect improvement in overall performance or the consistency with which it is delivered

Payroll Expenses are Quantifiable
A schedule costs x, depending on your criteria you will either do more work with the same resource or apply less resource to the same work.

Time Savings is Measurable
Document how much time it takes the team to complete all the elements of the forecasting, scheduling and reporting cycles and compare that to an automated environment.

Report Back to the Executive Sponsor on your Success Criteria - If your goals are realistic you should be able to report back to your sponsor within 90 days on your performance to the metrics. You will experience more benefits than just hese quantifiable elements but senior mangment is focused on these types of returns an that is what justifies cost in new technology. We can write a whole other article on secondary benefits of workforce management technology that are just as compelling and maybe even more relevant to your position in the contact center.

Hopefully these tips, though will help you avoid some of the common pitfalls that delay and frustrate adopters of workforce management technology. If you set success criteria and measure against those, when your vendor asks you to be reference you can say "yes" or "no" and these are the reasons why.

About the Author
Daryl Gonos has spent the last 14 years of a twenty plus technology career focused exclusively on workforce management issues in the customer contact center. He co-founded the Workforce Management Group, Inc. (WFMG) in 1997. Mr. Gonos is widely quoted and published and speaks frequently at industry trade shows and forums on workforce management systems and practices. WFMG assists clients with the selection, implementation and integration and optimization of workforce management software.

About the Company
The WorkForce Management Group, Inc. is an authority on workforce management systems and solutions for the customer contact center. Changing technologies and increased pressures for optimal utilization of resources have pushed workforce management software to a position of higher visibility and represents increased risk during the product selection, implementation and utilization cycles.

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Published: Monday, November 18, 2002

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