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.



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Webinar: Cloud-based Workforce Optimization in Action

You've probably heard how Monet's cloud-based WFO can help gain more insights and improve the performance and service quality of your contact center. But have you taken the time to see Monet in action? Please join our webinar on Thursday, September 18 to learn how Monet can help your team with:

Workforce Management: Create more accurate forecasts and schedules, increase agent adherence and easily manage exceptions throughout the day.

Quality Monitoring: Monitor customer interactions to consistently deliver great service and improve customer satisfaction.

Performance Management: Easily track, analyze and manage agent, group and center performance to optimize customer service.

We are offering 2 different webinar times for your convenience.
Register now to reserve your spot. We hope to see you.

Monday, September 8, 2014

5 Tips for the Overworked Contact Center Manager

Are there any contact center managers who are not overworked? It’s a challenging job with many responsibilities that requires the ability to plan ahead and then make adjustments accordingly when those plans go awry.

However, with Workforce Management (WFM) software in place, it becomes easier to manage the most important daily tasks, and keep customer service levels consistent even when the unexpected happens.

Here are 5 tips for contact center managers that, with a little help from WFM, can make their work days less stressful.

1. Start with an Accurate Forecast
When you get the forecast right, everything else tends to fall naturally into place. With WFM forecasting every activity and running simulations to check accuracy, managers can work from a forecast that will result in fewer surprises during the day.

2.  Schedule All Activities

Incorporating non-call activities into schedule calculation delivers more predictable and management results.

3. Set Notifications
Set alerts and triggers so you are notified right away if something is not going as planned. That gives you more time to make corrections, while shortening the time that the variance can adversely impact customer service.

4. Daily Recap
Review results at the end of each day, to determine what worked as planned and where improvement might be possible. Don’t dwell on mistakes – just learn from them.

5. Take a Break
Many modern WFM solutions allow you to monitor key metrics from a handheld device, so you can step outside without missing important metrics. You may be surprised at the difference just a few minutes outside the office can make.



Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tips for Proactive and Reactive Contact Center Management

Precise planning can make the difference between contact centers operating at optimal efficiency, and those with personnel and resources that are not properly utilized.

A proactive approach is necessary to formulate such detailed plans, especially when working with a workforce management solution such as Monet’s WFM Live. Here are 3 tips that should help make staffing more efficient and reliable:
  • Plan outbound calls for case management as non-call work
  • Run roster performance simulations several days in advance 
  • Hire flexible part-time and full-time agents
When it’s Important to be Reactive?
So does that mean being a reactive analyst is somehow less important? There are times when it is vital to ensure schedule coverage and streamlined workflow. Once again, having the right technology in place can make all the difference.

How can you spot an effective, reactive analyst? He or she is the one who:
  • Creates employee templates for standard agent types (such as customer service 9-5, cross-skilled overnight, escalations & level 2 afternoon shift) to build a roster that achieves different coverage patterns quickly
  • Schedules meetings in advance with a meeting planner function during times when coverage is acceptable  
  • Facilitates schedule change requests and agent shift swaps 
  • Creates roster shifts when there are coverage gaps for agents to bid on. Agents submit requests which supervisors can approve, to fill and re-balance  the “required vs. assigned” figures 
All of these services are more easily and accurately provided with the right tools. Find out more about how Monet can help managers and analysts achieve their service goals.


To get more tips and best practices, please contact us or check out our workforce management resource library.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Workforce Management for the Back Office

Give almost any company an unlimited budget, and it will probably succeed. Unfortunately, few companies can rely on such generous resources. The challenge for today’s businesses, including contact centers, is to get the most out of what’s available.

Contact center managers have become experts at doing more with less, and prioritizing goals. This means keeping the primary focus on customer service in the front office. Too often, that leaves the back office, which also performs several vital functions, at a disadvantage.

Is it possible to bring the same tools that benefit the front office to the back office, and stay within budget?

Workforce Management is the Key
Fortunately, the same workforce management (WFM) solution that has made your front office more efficient can have the same impact on back office tasks. Workforce Management helps contact centers better align and manage their resources so that service levels continue to be met, while costs are controlled.

Back-office tasks are often manual and complex, making it difficult to automate, manage and forecast workload. With WFM, contact centers can improve service levels. And with WFM in the cloud, the company further reduces both costs and headaches, as it avoids the upfront expenses and IT requirements of traditional workforce management software.

With workforce management for the back office, it’s possible to:
  • Improve forecast accuracy of manual back-office tasks and activities
  • Deliver more efficient resource planning and scheduling to consistently meet service levels and control costs
  • Increase employee productivity by monitoring adherence, backlog and other metrics in real-time, allowing for more immediate actions
  • Track and analyze key metrics to optimize service quality and back-office performance
Let’s take a closer look at what is possible with the right tools in place and extending contact center workforce management to the back office:

Forecasting
Use back office WFM to run simulations that will calculate a precise forecast for future call volume, agent requirements and average handle time for any time interval of the day, based on historical data from ACD.

Scheduling
WFM can incorporate all call types and other activities to generate staffing schedules that optimize a wide range of factors, including agent availability, work rules, skills, holidays, breaks, service levels and center budgets. 


Intra-day Management
Real-time updates are as critical here as they are in front office management. WFM can help to require and assign agents instantly, and display surpluses and shortages for each time period of the day.

Exception Planning
While exception planning is often a challenge, there are workforce management solutions with integrated exception calendars to simplify this task. Now managers will always know when agents are off, or in training meetings.

Performance Analysis
Easily report and analyze all agent activities including their schedule adherence and key performance indicators. Managers can review service level results, costs and revenue.

All of these capabilities can make a critical difference in back office operations. But while adherence was previously referenced, it deserves closer attention, as staffing remains the single biggest cost facing any contact center. Schedule adherence in real time allows managers to compare planned agent activity to actual activities throughout the day, to determine whether staffing decisions were appropriate for any given shift.

When every minute counts, WFM can monitor and record the real-time status of agents in the call center, and deliver alerts when agents are out of adherence, so schedules can be adjusted accordingly.

Choosing a Back Office WFM Solution
Different contact centers may have different priorities, but (in addition to those previously described) here are some of the attributes that should be part of your next workforce management solution.

Multi-Channel Efficiencies
The same WFM solution that forecasts, schedules and assigns resources for your front office should provide the same functionality to the back office.

Clear and Organized Dashboards
It should be possible to track and monitor key performance metrics for both front office and back office from one dashboard. Doing so delivers greater insights in resource needs and allocation, resulting in better customer service.

Intra-Day Visibility
Visibility into backlogs, workforce availability, employee activities and efficiencies throughout the day makes it easier for a contact center manager to take a proactive approach in managing back-office activities.

Integration
The system should easily integrate with the contact center’s ACD or PBX systems, through pre-built adaptors. Adherence and call history should be enabled when these systems are able to talk to each other in real time.

WFM in the Cloud
Compared with traditional workforce management software, a cloud-based WFM solution allows companies to:

Reduce upfront costs: Eliminate the significant investment just to get started, which would typically require the purchase of hardware, databases, and software licenses, as well as additional costs for installation and IT staff to support the system. Cloud-based WFM saves both time and money because there are no infrastructure costs.

Get started faster: Rather than having to ramp-up to a six- to twelve-month (or more) implementation, WFM solutions enable companies to start managing their workforce in the cloud within a matter of weeks.

Connect anywhere:  With the cloud, WFM can be accessed anywhere—whether on the other side of town or the other side of the world, with a computer and a standard web browser.

Minimize ongoing costs: Cloud-based WFM software doesn’t just save money during the implementation phase. Contact centers save time and money in the long term as well. The WFM firm supports all maintenance of the system, including free software upgrades and troubleshooting. Companies also benefit from the ability to quickly customize or add modules via a single, web-based interface.

Pay-as-you-go: Contact centers pay only for the capacity and infrastructure that are actually used, typically based on number of users. This usage-based, pay-as-you-go subscription pricing approach saves money while also delivering the flexibility to quickly scale to manage the demands of changing contact center sizes.

Conclusion
Back office workforce management offers the benefit of extending front office operational efficiency into back office processing environments. It automates manual processes, improves forecast accuracy, enables managers to view and manage resource capacity and adherence to scheduled tasks, and empowers employees to self-manage scheduling and time-off requests.

Please talk to us if you would like to learn more about back office workforce management.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Workforce Management for the Helpdesk

Accurate forecasting, scheduling and staffing for a Helpdesk can be a more difficult challenge than doing so for standard contact center traffic.

Many calls to contact center agents cover basic ordering, returning, questions etc. that can be handled in a few minutes. But the typical helpdesk call may incorporate several complex activities that must be handled by different people with different skill sets.

An effective workforce management solution is the key to making a helpdesk run smoothly and efficiently, so cases get closed as quickly as possible with a positive outcome.

Forecasting, scheduling and assigning activities more effectively can optimize case resolution. WFM makes this possible. Managers can match available resources to the specific requirements of each case. By integrating workforce optimization in the WFM solution, case and activity assignment is further optimized, and managers will always be confident that their resources are being allocated in the best way possible.

Best of all, the data is available in real-time, so managers will always have insight into case handling and activity assignments as they occur. Make adjustments as needed, whether that involves adding or reassigning agents, to improve turnaround time.

A helpdesk is there to take on the tougher challenges. With a Workforce Management system in place that support helpdesks, even the most difficult cases can be resolved in a way that customers will appreciate.

You can learn more about Workforce Management for Helpdesks on our website, or just contact us and we are happy to show you how it works.