Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Workforce Optimization Webinar

Our recent webinar about cloud-based workforce optimization received a great response. Amidst the shared information and productive discussions, those in attendance learned a great deal about the role of cloud-based WFO in improving workforce management, quality monitoring and performance management.


Watch Webinar Now
If you were not able to attend, Monet invites you to see what you missed by viewing the recorded webinar in its entirety at your convenience.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

How Accurate are your Call Volume Forecasts?

When it comes to forecasting, past activity is always the best predictor of future activity, especially when broken down via workforce management data analysis into ever-smaller increments of time. This makes it easier to identify anomalies and prepare accordingly.

The challenge, of course, is factoring in all of the variables to which forecasts are subject – it’s no wonder that creating consistently accurate contact center forecasts is both an art and a science.

But with the right workforce management system, one capable of predicting future call volume and agent staffing needs, you have everything you need to make the tasks of forecasting and scheduling more accurate and more efficient.

Here are some additional tips to get the most from your WFM solution.
  • Detailed Data Analysis: Use work history data to anticipate future call volume, agent requirements, average call handling time and other performance indicators.
  • Flexibility: Gather necessary data through analysis of call types and routing policies, and review updates throughout the day so you’ll always know when changes are necessary.  
  • Testing: Generate and analyze alternative scenarios based on changes in staffing or call volume, so you can better anticipate issues before they arise.
When forecasting is done right, the result is the right number of agents at their desks, handling call volume without long wait times. For more tips on call forecasting, please also visit our blog post from last week.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Five Tips to Help Achieve More Accurate Call Center Forecasts

Accurate forecasts produce accurate schedules. But what is the secret formula to generate forecasts that are consistently on the money?

It starts with an automated workforce management solution that delivers the necessary historical data. If that sometimes isn’t enough, here are 5 additional tips for utilizing WFM in forecasting.

1. Select More Weeks of Historical Data. 
Use the WFM system to generate additional historical data, which should more accurately average out handle times and return a more even distribution of calls when things get too “spiky.”

2. Make Granular Edits to Call Volume
After viewing a forecast, edit call volumes by queue and by interval.  This can be especially useful if you’re changing hours of operation or just need to edit smaller ranges of data. 

3. Override Agent Numbers
After viewing a forecast, use WFM to override the required number of agents, or adjusted agents, for times when you wish to reduce the degree of variance from one interval to the next. 

4. Adjust Total Day Changes
Use the Total Day changes to deliver more sweeping changes to call totals, AHT, service levels, abandon targets, and staffing numbers.

5. Edit Current Day Forecasts

Use intra-day functionality to edit the current day’s forecast, so it matches the current trends of collected data for today. 

These steps would be difficult, if not impossible, with spreadsheets or a home-grown system. If you are ready to step up to a Workforce Management solution, make it sure it has the functionality to accomplish all of these objectives and more. To learn more, we invite you watch any of the foreasting and scheduling videos on our website.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Workforce Management Software Implementation: Cloud vs. On-Premise

In previous blogs we explored the differences between a cloud delivery system for workforce management, and an on-premises solution. Most of these pieces focused on the cost savings, the automatic upgrades and the lower upfront investment.

But one aspect that is sometimes overlooked is implementation. There is a process that has to be followed whether a company selects a cloud solution or an on-premise installation. But with the cloud, you’ll be up and running much more quickly, reaping the benefits of your investment.

With an on-premise solution provider, the contact center will first have to consult on defining the solution to be implemented, and establishing configuration requirements through workshops and analysis of documentation. With software delivered via cloud, these steps are typically unnecessary, since the software is already set up to handle most contact center environments. It’s possible some consultation will be needed for customization, but this can be concluded in a fraction of the time it would take with traditional software.

Specific customer configuration can be done often in hours or days with the cloud; with an on-premise system, that same task can take up to several months.

Actual installation is also faster, and the site acceptance testing required with a traditional solution is not necessary with a cloud delivery system, as compatibility is already achieved with multiple modern web browsers.

Finally, user training can be completed in less time as well since the true cloud solutions are build  with ease of use in mind - think Amazon - nobody gets trained on that. With traditional software systems, it can take several weeks before agents and managers are comfortable with the new technology because the systems are typically more complicated.

The verdict? A cloud delivery system can not only be implemented for less money, it can also be set up with fewer headaches as well.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Advantages of Skill-Based Scheduling

Skill-based scheduling is a practice where incoming calls at a contact center are routed to specific agents based on the type of service requested. If customers can be connected with an agent that excels at the service they require, the odds are much greater of achieving a satisfactory result.

This practice can take many forms, from simply routing calls from Spanish-speaking customers to bilingual agents, to routing angry callers to those agents with the personality and people skills to calmly resolve the situation.

Generally, the implementation of a skill-based scheduling process requires four steps, starting with a detailed knowledge of why customers call. By classifying these contacts, a manager can define the necessary agent skill sets, and gather some of the information needed to set up an effective schedule.

The next step is to identify staff skills and resources. This can be achieved in a number of ways, but call recording should play a key role. Most well trained agents have more than one skill, which can make the process somewhat easier, while reducing the number of agents needed to handle call volume. Productivity can increase 5-15% from agents with at least two skills.

Step three requires a review, and perhaps an upgrade, of the contact center’s technology. Choose a system capable of skill-based routing and scheduling in a multi-channel environment.

Finally, conduct a gap analysis to compare your current business environment with how that environment will changed under a skill-based scheduling system. This will uncover any risks incurred during the transition period, and help to make certain that the system is working as designed to benefit customers and improve contact center efficiency.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Successful implementation of Workforce Management Software

Workforce management (WFM) software provides the best means of optimizing personnel resources in a contact center.

When a contact center decides it is ready to make the move to a workforce management software system, it now faces another decision when reviewing the range of available products. One way to improve the odds of choosing the right system the first time is to make a list of the qualities and capabilities that are most important. Such a list might include the following:

Forecasting
By using historical data, and through simulations to calculate future call volume, WFM generates forecasts for appropriate staffing, call handle time and other factors to maintain optimum call center performance for any time interval of the day.

Scheduling
Accurate forecasts create accurate schedules. A WFM scheduling engine should incorporate all call types and other activities. A staffing schedule is only valuable when it is optimized for all necessary factors, including agent skill sets, staff availability, holidays, breaks and service levels.

Intra-day Management
Scheduling an agent for a shift is not enough – WFM should provide a graphical display of variances in agents’ schedules during the workday for breaks, lunch and other exceptions. Real-time updates allow managers to compensate during surpluses or shortages for each time period.

Exception Planning
Choose a WFM solution with an integrated exception calendar that simplifies the scheduling of agent exceptions for training, time off and other variables.

Real-Time Adherence
Use WFM to compare planned agent activity to actual activities throughout the day, while also reviewing forecasts for key performance indicators such as call volume and handle time.

Configuration/Administration
WFM should adjust to your call center regardless of how it is organized. Choose a system that lets you build an unlimited number of center splits or agent groups with separate service objectives and guidelines. Use WFM to manage multiple sites and time zones, and set service level goals down to 15-minute intervals.

Performance Analysis/Metrics
WFM provides actionable insights on all agent activities through dashboards, key performance indictors and real-time alerts.

Implementation: The Forgotten Attribute
All of these qualities pertain to the day-to-day usage of WFM, but contact center managers should not overlook the importance of implementation. Technology cannot benefit a business if it is not easy to use, and if it cannot be incorporated into the center with minimal training. It should also be possible to implement a workforce management solution to deliver break-even status in a matter of months, as opposed to years. But that will take some foresight.

While every company and corporate culture is a little different, these guidelines should prove valuable to any contact center in the process of a WFM transition.

Plan Ahead
Upfront planning – that incorporates both technical requirements and business processes, is critical.

Include all Departments
All of the contact center’s functional groups, including agents, managers, supervisors and trainers, should be involved in the process. The implementation of WFM software is going to represent a change for the center. It’s important for all those involved to know why the change is needed, how it will improve their business processes and how they all benefit from shared data and metrics.

Appoint a Liaison
While all voices should be heard, there should also be one project coordinator – usually a manager – with the experience and knowledge to work with personnel, answer questions and address concerns.

Training
It will take time and patience to adjust to today’s feature-rich workforce management systems. But the last thing a contact center wants is to make the transition and then discover that employees are only using 20% or 50% of the system’s capabilities. Comprehensive training will be necessary to ease the culture shock and ultimately arrive at a place of optimal functionality. The faster agents in particular realize the benefits of a WFM solution, the faster they will take to its advantages.

What to Expect from a WFM Provider
Up to this point we’ve described the implementation process from the end-user perspective. But few of these steps can be taken without the support and expertise of the software provider.

For the contact center, WFM implementation is (ideally) a one-time process. For the provider, this is what they do every day, and they should have a system in place that will make the transition as easy as possible.

At Monet, our implementation plan and timeline begins with a kick-off call of about 60-90 minutes. This consists primarily of a discussion of roles and required data necessary to get started.

Once that is completed, the initial set up can begin. This process typically involves the creation of workgroups, shift profiles, skills and skill teams and the selection of service level targets. While the provider initiates these processes, they are then completed and customized by the client team.

Data collection set-up is next, which incorporates configuration and historical data import and verification. Depending on the contact center and the specific situation.

Once this is completed, training of personnel can begin. The procedure will start with the basics – forecasting, scheduling, rosters – and then examine the more advanced features of WFM, from assigning exceptions and analyzing reports to intra-day management.

After implementation and training are complete, the provider should continue to be accessible for questions or concerns, and provide follow-up checks to make certain everything is running smoothly. And since Monet's complete suite of workforce optimization is cloud based, there are not a lot of resources and money required for purchase and installation of hardware and software. Therefore, the implementation team can focus on the business needs and business processes, and less on technology. And the whole set up or implementation can be done in 30 to 60 days.

Conclusion
When a contact center makes the significant decision to install workforce management software, it is critical that the system be implemented and configured properly, since management will be making key decisions on operations and staffing based on the information it provides.

A successful implementation requires not only software integration and configuration skills, but also a solid understanding of the customer environment and of the multiple ways of addressing and solving the specific requirements of the contact center. It should also be completed as efficiently as possible to shorten ROI.

With a little research, contact centers stand a much better chance of not only selecting the right WFM solution the first time out, but the right software provider as well.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Contact Centers in the Healthcare Industry Benefit from Workforce Optimization

The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a source of excitement, confusion and frustration – and not just for doctors and patients.

Contact centers that service the health care and health insurance industries have been inundated with calls about the new guidelines – some asking questions, some looking to sign up.

According to one article, between 7,000 and 9,000 new customer service agents were hired just to handle phone and Web chat traffic for the exchanges run by the federal government. That is a heavy burden to place on contact centers, but one that can be managed with Workforce Optimization (WFO) software.

With WFO, contact centers could more accurately forecast and plan personnel needs by running “What If” scenarios and analyzing the results. WFO can also provide assurance to contact center managers (through call monitoring) that all calls are being handled in compliance with federal regulations and policies, which is a critical concern when dealing with a person’s health care history.

Monet CEO Chuck Ciarlo wrote an article on this topic that appears in the current edition of Call Center Times.

And for those contact centers that stumbled out of the gate in dealing with the public response to “Obamacare,” it is never too late to get equipped with the right technology and the best delivery option to provide a better degree of customer service.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Getting More from your Workforce Management System


When choosing the best workforce management (WFM) solution for your call center, there are a number of considerations to review based on that center’s specific needs.

From capabilities and implementation to cost, usability, scalability and ROI, it’s a decision that will require advance research and feedback from the key members of your management team. Of course, one of the main objectives should be to increase efficiency and service levels, while also reducing costs.

If you’re near the beginning of this process, or have been using it for a while,  here is a checklist of considerations that may be helpful in getting more out of your WFM software to maximize the performance of your contact center.

In the area of process design and improvement, run reports and do analysis in the following areas:
  • Call Handling Analysis
  • Benchmark Analysis

  • Activity Summaries and Details 
  • Work Standards 
  • Quality Form Review and Feedback

  • Evaluation of Coaching Techniques and Calibration

  • Staff Flexibility
In the area of management discipline, take a look at these areas:


  • Intraday Reviews, Adherence and Exception Management
  • Forecasting and Scheduling Best Practices 
  • QM and PM Coaching, Training and Role Playing
Finally, if you need help, be sure to assess the software provider as well, to make sure they will deliver the necessary training and follow-up so your agents, supervisors and managers can get up to speed quickly with the new technology and getting the most value from your investment. If you have any questions, please contact us and we are happy to share some of our best practices with you.