Call Center Workforce Management: Fundamentals & Best Practices
Blog: MattsenKumar Blog
Effectively run contact centers have helped enterprises register incomparable growth. Often referred to as the center of excellence, these contact centers ensure that end-users are provided with an exceptional user experience. Unlike other departments of a business, a contact center’s performance is measured on varied KPIs. These centers are responsible for improving customer experience, ensuring low CES, high NPS, and constantly improving CSAT Score. What end-users see is a team of agents listening to their queries and providing them with a robust solution. What goes behind the curtain is referred to as call center workforce management. The process of ensuring effectiveness and management of resources in such an innate manner that all customers are attended to effectively without any delay is known as call center workforce management.
The goal of workforce management at call centers varies from organization to organization. Some scale up their operations to have more sales, while some ramp up the agent pool to offer FCR and quick resolution. Similarly, fundamentals of call center workforce management also vary from one enterprise to another.
Understanding Workforce Management at Call Centers
The success of any operation at any organization depends upon the numbers. The number of agents, servers, resources, calls, and queries answered are perhaps the most important numbers at a contact center.
The effective management and the process of streamlining these numbers to achieve specified goals are popularly known as call center workforce management. The stakeholders can increase the number of agents and decrease the number of servers as per the need of the hour. Such changes made with changing end-goals are a good sign for workforce management at call centers.
In terms of agents, workforce management at the contact center is referred to as the process of optimizing available resources to increase the productivity of agents. An effectively managed call center will ensure that the right number of agents are available at all hours of the day to assist customers. The workforce management also considers the right skill sets while matching agents with customers. The optimized process ensures that customers are first connected to the right agent and then provided with requisite support instantly.
Why Workforce Management is Important in Call Centers?
For a contact center that cyclically receives support requests, for example, the volume of support request skyrockets during holidays but remains low on normal days, will need workforce management. A paradigm shift towards workforce management will help call centers that have cyclical requests prepare better.
While seasonal call centers can plan better and acquire resources according to the demand, other players can gain heavily from workforce management too. Some of the top benefits include:
Now imagine, with the help of data analysis, it is possible to identify the number of calls a center receives a month. Based on the available information, the center can add or remove agents. Such analysis will help centers achieve the best equilibrium between customer requests and available agents. With all agents catering to customers at all times, the overall operational cost that was getting wasted will reduce. Also, with improvement in quality of support, customers will have access to FCR leading to a better CSAT Score.
Measure Improvement on All Metrics
With the right number of agents available to all incoming calls, it gets easier to cater to all incoming requests. Customers can gain instant access to agents and get their queries to resolve. With an established system that is powered by workforce management, call centers can register improvement on all KPIs & metrics. Be it FCR, AHT, CSAT, CES, or Agent Utilization, all can be improved with quality workforce management.
Makes Operations Agile
A call center that has no workforce management cannot understand where all its agents are busy. Lack of one such system creates doubts and leads to the irrational setting of duties. With workforce management, organizations can ensure that all their agents are allocated effectively and are offering their services to the best of their capabilities. Workforce management highlights all agents that are busy, free, and not available, which makes operations agile.
With the help of workforce management, stakeholders can:
- Identify available agents and allocate on an emergency basis
- Schedule agents for processes that have higher traffic
- Ensure that substantial resources are allocated to all processes
- Ensure all inbound calls are answered at the earliest
Well, call center workforce management is only about ensuring agents are available to cater to customer requests at all times. It is also about ensuring that employees have proper breaks, recreational activities, and time to breathe. Unlike hazardous call center operations where agents are leveraged as machines, workforce management helps in establishing a system that drives engagement among employees.
To offer exceptional customer experience, it is necessary to have employees that are in a perfect state to go beyond their limit and capacities to curate an exceptional experience. Varied industry leaders like Shep Hyken have always put employee engagement at the helm of quality customer experience.
Improves Employee Morale
With customer experience taking the center stage, employees have found a new kind of attention. Organizations are trying to keep their employees joyful to ensure quality customer support. When employees are intimated about their schedule, holidays, and busy days in advance, they can come prepared. With employees finding enough time to relax and prepare, they are going to be confident and have higher zeal to perform. Owing to the standards of call center operations, employee engagement through workforce management will inspire employees to work harder.
Reduces Non-Compliance Risks
Compliance is an integral part of call center operations. Any data leak or unauthorized access of information can jeopardize all reputation build over years. Workforce management reduces fatigue in employees, which ensures that all of them operate with a fresh mind, which ensures effective management of sensitive data. With employees being attentive, the overall cases of data leak are likely to go down, ensuring a higher level of compliance.
Improves Agent Adherence
Agent utilization and agent adherence are a few of the most important call center metrics. Organizations refer to these metrics when planning to increase or decrease their fleet of agents. With workforce management, call centers can register positive growth in agent adherence. When mixed with workforce management software that automates agent scheduling, the overall adherence rate can be increased.
With more agents adhering to schedule because they are informed in advance, the overall productivity, and impact of call centers will increase leading to better revenue and profits.
What are the Fundamentals of Call Center Workforce Management?
Since workforce management at a call center is all about ensuring the right number of agents are available and fit to answer incoming calls; stakeholders need to consider a few things when managing a workforce.
The first step towards achieving excellence at call centers through workforce management is measuring workload. Once the workload is measured, centers can add break time, recreational time, and other leisure periods before calculating the number of agents required.
Organizations must consider leisure and recreational time when measuring workload because operating with a limited number of agents can haphazard the entire process. One agent failing to make it on time will impact the entire operation and the customer experience will go out of the window.
Accurate management of the agent’s workload will allow organizations to prepare in advance, which we will discuss in further steps.
Once the workload is measured, centers need to cross-check it with the resources. Answering devices, headsets, requisite compliances, servers, and availability of other products that simplify agents’ work is important. Once the availability of the resource is calculated, it needs to be put against the workload and see if it is enough?
Any disparity in workload and available resource needs to be addressed immediately. By ramping up the availability of resources, call centers can help agents adhere to schedules and impart exceptional customer support.
Achieving workforce management is not limited to matching resources with agents and hoping for a better tomorrow. The stakeholders involved need to take further steps and check whether their established paradigms are helping customers or not.
Once the requisite system is established, the stakeholders need to carry testing, where pseudo calls can be generated to see how agents are handling it. Such testing will reveal the following:
- The upper limit of a call center
- The lack of resources, if any
- Potential challenges
Just like compliances need to be refreshed every quarter, workforce management also needs to be revisited because:
- The customer base can increase or decrease
- Customer experience is evolving
- New challenges are popping up
- Agents need to be trained incessantly
- New technology is becoming popular
Since rework is an important fundamental of call center workforce management, it is necessary to ensure that it is a timely affair. With scheduled rework, both agents and stakeholders can prepare themselves. Timely training and tech upgrades will allow agents to perform to the best of their capabilities.
Best Practices of Call Center Workforce Management
Well, a good number of stakeholders believe call centers are all about customers but with customer experience becoming a key differentiator, calling agents have found new respect. Now organizations believe “to have happy customers, we need happy employees”; with the increasing focus on employee engagement, organizations are moving from pro-customers to pro-employees.
Since call centers and the paradigm behind them are evolving, the best practices of workforce management at call centers have evolved too. Here are some of the most important ones:
Focus on Workforce Analytics
The evolving culture demands analytics-based reporting. Visual dashboards can better represent challenges, opportunities, and concerns related to call center agents. With workforce analytics, organizations can keep a tab on the agent requirements and the need to ramp up or scale down. The workforce analytics will also highlight:
- Fatigue reported by agents
- Need for better scheduling
- Upcoming seasons where calls can increase or decrease
- The dipping standard of customer support
Education and Training
The evolving tech requires educated professionals to handle it and run it to impart effective customer support. With every tech upgrade or paradigm shift, the entire fleet of managers and calling agents need to be trained and provided with educational materials. Through training programs and self-help manuals, agents can be provided an edge and later can be leveraged as a competitive advantage.
Education and training will ensure that evolved tech is being leveraged effectively to reduce CES and the time is taken for assisting every customer. These are investments and will pay the highest dividend in form of evolving customer experience, increasing retention, and climbing NPS.
Forecast Workload & Schedule Accordingly
Well, when organizations can accurately measure workload and scale up resources and agents to offer quality support, they can certainly rely on the same mechanism for forecasting workload and scheduling agents accordingly.
A call center that prepares in advance ensures that both customers and agents are provided with an exceptional experience. Planning and accurate scheduling will help agents report fatigue if any and be prepared for a busy season. Such effective workforce management at call centers will promote employee advocacy and will impact customer support positively.
Prepare for Holidays
Undoubtedly, planning for holidays in advance is an important aspect of workforce management in call centers. By allowing agents to report any upcoming holiday or taking into consideration “the number of agents willing to go on leave during holidays” will help contact centers prepare better.
Preparing for holidays a month in advance will allow stakeholders to see how many new agents they need and how the available agents can be scheduled to meet the workload. Often centers announce bounty and extra pay for agents who are willing to stay back during holidays and offer customers quality support.
Implement a WFM Software
In contemporary times, where customer relationship management tools are allowing agents to view all queries raised by a customer through varied channels under one tab and offering exceptional support, we can also have a similar tool for managing a workforce. A workforce management software will put the entire fleet management on automatic mode. It will take inputs from individual agents regarding their upcoming holidays, non-availability, and schedule duties accordingly.
Some of the top benefits of WFM software includes:
- It reports a lack of agents on a particular day in advance
- It can highlight upcoming holidays that require advanced planning
- Highlights days when agents are available in abundance and when they are not
- Illustrates options through which proper scheduling can be achieved
Some of the advanced workforce management tools allow contact centers to measure and analyze varied agent-related metrics like agent utilization and schedule adherence. With the effective implementation and use of workforce management tools, call centers can streamline agents and resources to ensure quality customer support at all times.
In contemporary times, where technology is disrupting established industries, any unreported event can lead to haphazardness. All agents and stakeholders must maintain a set of pointers and report anything that is obnoxious or bizarre. Such reports generated every week when put into visual dashboards can help leaders identify potential challenges and opportunities too.
Call centers are now evolving and it is no more limited to support over call. Customers are reaching out to organizations from varied channels including social media and email. With social media platforms increasing from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram and now LinkedIn, organizations are under great pressure to offer quality support.
Social listening will allow organizations to identify trends that can make or break their call center fast and build up resources accordingly. For example, social media is the fastest way to identify any news from any particular area, organizations can gain insight about any disaster whether man-made or natural, and ramp up their services if the incoming calls are expected to increase. Such social listening can help call centers prepare for varied trends that can be influenced by varied reasons including political or educational.
Earlier call centers were operating with one channel then multi-channels got added, in the recent past the multiple channels have been integrated to offer the omnichannel experience to end-users. In less than 2 decades, the entire industry has evolved. Also, the increasing speed of adoption and evolution is putting call centers under great pressure to evolve or perish.
Workforce management at call centers must be done in sync with the evolution, if more agents are being added more resources and hi-tech resources need to be added. Similarly, if agents are being reduced then effective tech must replace them for the exceptional end-user experience.
Final Thoughts on Call Center Workforce Management
Earlier, call centers were used to help customers find a solution to their problems. In the recent past, call centers have started helping customers with:
- Improved decision making
- Understanding products better
- Finding services that fit their pocket and needs
- Understanding the impact of a product/service
- To identify better products to upscale
With contact centers offering multiple services, the demand for workforce management is increasing. Both agents and customers want to have sync that ensures easier and effective sharing of information. With workforce management, agents can have enough time on their hands to impart quality information leading to improved CSAT and NPS.
Workforce management in call centers cannot be ignored anymore because a lot of organizations are prioritizing it. Since workforce management impacts customer experience, customers are likely to sway towards organizations that believe in workforce management at call centers.
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