Article : Key Features You Should Look for In Any Workforce Management Solution
Kevin Weible, director of marketing at Pipkins, suggests important considerations when choosing a Workforce Management solution.
Workforce Management is the set of processes (manual, automated or a combination of both) that an organization uses to maximize productivity of its teams and team members. In a contact center environment, your human capital is one of your most important assets, if not the single most important asset. It’s also a costly asset that needs to be optimized on a continual basis to ensure that your productivity and profitability goals are met.
It doesn’t matter the industry. It doesn’t matter what types of contact centers you operate. It doesn’t matter how big or small your contact centers are. Overstaffing or understaffing, even for the shortest periods, should be avoided or at least minimized as much as possible. Such conditions can have a dramatic impact on your organization by cutting into profits, lowering overall productivity, frustrating your employees and lowering their morale, as well as disappointing and even alienating your customers and/or prospective customers.
To keep your contact center operations humming along at peak levels, you need a fully integrated Workforce Management solution that will give your front-line agents, their supervisors and your entire management team a complete set of easy to use tools they need to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Such a suite of tools is a must-have to maximize your firm’s efficiency, effectiveness, profitability and customer satisfaction.
Whether you are looking for your firm’s first WFM solution or you’re looking for your organization’s next solution, here are 11 key features you should look for when considering Workforce Management products and providers:
1. Hosted, Premises-Based and Mobile WFM
While hosted or cloud-based WFM solutions have become increasingly popular due to their low start-up costs, fast implementation process, flexible month-to-month subscription costs, etc., they are not necessarily the best fit for every business and every application. For example, you may have already invested in the servers and infrastructure to operate a premises-based solution, or you may have specific security requirements that make a hosted solution impractical.
Similarly, a Mobile WFM solutions offers the maximum flexibility in that agents and supervisors can use their tools from anywhere, at any time with only internet access and their smart phone or tablet, freeing them from being tied to their workstation or laptop.
Working with a provider that offers all three types of WFM solutions, gives you peace-of-mind knowing you can more easily migrate from one to the other without changing vendors should your needs/requirements change. Or, you can start with a hosted or premises-based solution and add mobile when you need that additional capability.
2. Performance Management
In general, performance management includes processes and activities designed to ensure that an organization is meeting its goals and doing so in an efficient and effective way. The focus of such efforts can vary from organization-wide, to department or team, down to each individual employee, or to each step required to build a specific product or deliver a specific service.
In a contact center setting, you want real-time performance data and you want it in customizable reports and dashboards, because that data needs to be used to produce actionable results. With any WFM solution, make sure that agent, team, group and department performance metrics can be quickly delivered to every level of your organization from the front office contact center to the back office using easy to understand Key Performance Indicators or KPIs.
Access to real-time KPIs is vital. Your management team needs to know they’re using accurate, up-to-date information. Equally important, real-time KPIs mean that agents can quickly get quantifiable feedback on their performance, and as a result, can quickly adjust measured behavior to improve performance.
3. Forecasting and Scheduling
Employee scheduling is a critical component of any workforce management system; however, when it comes to the operation of call centers, you need more than a basic scheduling tool.
You need capabilities that include comprehensive forecasting and planning functionality. Today’s complex multi-channel environment demands it. You need to forecast workloads and keep your staffing levels optimized no matter how many channels are involved: inbound, outbound, chat, back office, email, social media, etc.
Make sure that the forecasting algorithm used can handle the complexity of your multi-channel environment. Older Erlang forecasting models are no longer adequate.
4. Intraday Management
Ideally you want a workforce management system that can handle all your forecasting and scheduling needs, including intraday forecasting right out of the box. With some WFM solutions, intraday forecasting is only available with third-party add-on modules. Intraday forecasting is every bit as important as daily or weekly forecasting.
As critical as forecasting and scheduling is to your operations, don’t you want the WFM solution with the best and most complete forecasting and scheduling functionality baked in from the start?
Don’t you want a solution where you’ll have a single point of contact with a single vendor if you have questions (or problems) involving weekly forecasts, daily forecasts or intraday forecasts?
Unexpected changes can occur during any given workday that can dramatically affect your staffing needs. For intraday forecasting, you want your WFM system to produce optimal schedules for every interval throughout your work day, so you can adapt to conditions as they change in real time.
That way you can be equipped to deal with sudden spikes in workload, agents calling in sick, late arrivals due to traffic jams or weather, mandatory attendance at company-wide meetings or agents needing to leave work early due to children becoming sick at school or daycare.
5. Real-Time Adherence
It’s important that you get the most out of your company’s investments in its technology and its people. If your agents are not adhering to the optimal schedules generated by your workforce management system, the results will negatively impact your bottom line through wasted time, increased costs, lost sales, reduced profits, etc.
Real-time adherence is a crucial component in managing your team or teams and helping them improve their overall productivity while meeting or exceeding benchmarks for industry standard KPIs.
You want a solution that includes the following real-time adherence capabilities:
•Real-time proactive monitoring of agent adherence by comparing the scheduled activity with their actual current activity
•Automatic alerts to agents and their supervisors when adherence thresholds are broken
•Industry standard adherence KPIs displayed in real time on dashboards for agents and their managers
•Web and/or smart phone access to adherence reports and alerts, so that managers can stay apprised of how their team members are performing, no matter whether the manager is out of the office at a meeting, traveling to a conference, or on the golf course.
6. Agent Web Access, Notifications
A modern WFM solution should streamline communication and provide automated systems and processes to make the lives for both agents and supervisors easier.
Important productivity tools you should look for and expect that will empower your agents and limit supervisor time responding to manual requests from their team members include:
•The ability for agents to view their schedules and make changes in real time.
•The capability for agents to submit change requests and trade shifts with other agents based on business rules established by their workforce manager.
•A notification system that provides agents with KPIs in real time, allowing agents to quickly change their behavior to meet their goals.
•The capability for agents and supervisors to manage vacation time and paid time off through an automated request system, based on business rules defined by current HR practices.
•Communication with other agents via a bulletin board message system.
7. Automated WFM
The modern, multi-channel contact center environment is truly too complex to adequately manage using strictly manual systems and procedures. There are far too many variables to juggle, but computers are ideal for the tasks required to collect and process performance and service statistics in real-time, forecast workloads and schedule the right amount of personnel, monitor schedule adherence, performance tracking, etc.
An automated, fully integrated workforce management solution can make the work lives of your front-line employees, supervisors and managers less stressful and free up their time and energy to focus on doing their jobs to the best of their abilities by giving them the best tools with which to work.
8. At-Home Scheduling
As the "home shoring" trend continues its rapid adoption within the contact center industry, you may want the flexibility to provide for at-home scheduling today or have the option to provide it down the road. Make sure it can be implemented within the solution you choose, preferably through your WFM vendor rather than as a third-party add-on.
At-home scheduling has been shown to reduce the costs of internal infrastructure while improving organizational morale. It’s also a way for companies to offer highly skilled associates a flexible work environment.
If you choose a solution that can handle scheduling both brick-and-mortar and at-home agents, you will have the most flexibility, whether you opt for a "hub and spoke" model with its mix of contact center agents and at-home agents, or your eventually transition to a virtual model where all your team’s agents are at-home agents.
9. Real-Time Dashboards
Providing truly exceptional customer service depends on a wide range of factors. The most important of these factors may be your ability to empower your frontline team members with necessary information and proper tools they need to do the best job possible for your customers.
The importance of real-time dashboards should not be minimized. Your frontline teams and their supervisors benefit immensely from real-time knowledge about individual and overall contact center performance displayed ticker-style.
Look for these features in WFM real-time dashboards:
•Multiple standard data views and the capability for customization to suit your organization’s specific operational needs, or individual user needs.
•The ability to connect with other external systems, like your Quality Assurance solution, so other relevant data can be integrated into custom dashboard views.
•The capability to quickly drill down into any data set with a single click to dive deeper.
•The ability to easily print drill-down reports directly from the dashboard or export them to a variety of formats.
•The ability to perform single-click custom actions, preventing the need to navigate to another screen to submit schedule changes, send user notifications and generate reports.
10. Vacation and Overtime Planners
You want a workforce management solution that includes a planner for vacations and overtime. No one wants a manual system, and not having a planning system is not a good option either.
Rolling out a vacation and overtime planning system that utilizing tools in your WFM software can make the life of your workforce manager and front-line supervisors much easier. It can also boost agent satisfaction and reduce carry-over.
The vacation and overtime planning tool in your WFM system should have the following capabilities:
•Allow you to create vacation and overtime groups based on skill set, so you always have enough coverage to handle all the various tasks and contact types for your team(s).
•Allocated slot limits for each vacation group.
•Forecast available daily overtime slots per staff group.
•Allow you to define vacation bidding rules and overtime bidding rules.
•Allow you to automate vacation and overtime bidding.
•Flexibility to allow you to manage change on both an intraday basis and throughout the entire year.
11. Shift Bidding and Self-Scheduling
Shift bidding and self-scheduling are systems in which employees take responsibility for a major portion of the scheduling process themselves. By involving employees in your scheduling process, you empower them to take control of their work lives. It can drastically improve the efficiency of your operations, reduce administrative costs, and reduce supervisory and administrative time spent on scheduling. It can also improve turnover and retention rates by boosting morale and increasing engagement within your team(s).
Your workforce management software’s shift bidding and self-scheduling functions should be able to handle a complex set of rules such as:
•Qualifications and training
•Other customizable rules to fit your business requirements
Cloud-based solutions and/or mobile apps give your associates the maximum amount of flexibility in where and when they select or revise their schedule.
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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 1982, is a 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. 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.
Published: Monday, October 10, 2016