Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What is workforce management?

Workforce management in a call center is the art and science of having the right number of employees, with the right skills at the right times to meet accurately forecasted volumes of work and to do all that at a predetermined service level and minimized costs. Workforce management is a critical task for call centers and poor planning and execution can have a negative impact on the business (revenues, cost), customers (satisfaction) and also employees (motivation/burn-out). Key tasks of workforce management include the following activities:

1. Calculation of an accurate forecast
  • Collect call history data
  • Identify call patterns (day, week, season, etc.)
  • Identify special day patterns (holidays, etc.)
  • Identify other event or business drivers that might impact call volume/pattern

2. Calculation of staffing requirements
  • Define Service level, ASA and average handle time
  • Calculate workload
  • Define staffing requirements

3. Creation of schedule
  • Include all activities (call and non-call) into schedule
  • Build in flexibility (start/end times, breaks, multi-skill, etc.)
  • Create schedule for 15 or 30 minute increments

4. Monitoring and managing adherence
  • Inform and educate about adherence importance and impact
  • Measure and manage adherence throughout the day (real-time adherence)
  • Provide incentives

5. Managing exceptions and changes throughout the day
  • Changes in call volume or arrival pattern
  • Staffing or scheduling issues
  • Business related exceptions

6. Measuring and adjusting
  • Analyze daily/weekly reports
  • Investigate causes for under-performance
  • Apply learnings into workforce management process

Many organizations still employ a manual approach to workforce management. By relying on paper- or spreadsheet-generated estimates, they lack any way to accurately measure the degree of adherence to the schedule. Reporting, if done at all, is a nightmare. The end product is too much time and effort spent managing staff for little return.
Workforce management software helps organizations to automate key tasks that have an immediate impact on the bottom line through more accurate call volume forecasting, optimized scheduling and daily performance tracking in real-time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What is Cloud Computing?

Everybody talks about cloud computing, but do you really know what it is, how it works, if it might be something for your business and how it could benefit your call center. There is a great video on YouTube that explains What is Cloud Computing - posted by Salesforce.com. Obviously, this video focuses on CRM, however, the principles are the same for call center software such as workforce management and scheduling.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Call Center in the Cloud: Is it cheaper and simpler?

In a recent article in InformationWeek "Call Center in the Cloud: Cheaper and Simpler" there are some interesting customer case studies, interviews and research that summarize the key benefits of cloud computing in the call center. Some highlights from the article:
  • Call centers convert on-premise IT systems to cloud-based systems for flexibility, scalability, ease-of-use and substantially lower cost.
  • They need to scale up and down and want to unify service across multiple sites
  • Besides relieving contact center operators of IT maintenance, they also avoid the capital expense of IT hardware
  • Cloud-based call centers can save large enterprises as much as 50% compared to on-premise systems
The article also contains some research by Frost & Sullivan. Please click here to get to the article.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Apple's iCloud announcement - what are call center managers waiting for?

With Apple's iCloud announcement, cloud computing is really going mainstream. Reading the iCloud announcement makes it so obvious that cloud computing is the future in the connected world. Cloud computing is easier to integrate (any device) and it's easier to scale (almost unlimited storage and performance), it's easier to set up (just turn it on) and it is lower cost (shared infrastructure) . In a recent post we compared workforce management software in the cloud versus on-premise. Here are some additional considerations regarding call center software in the cloud:

1. If your call center uses spreadsheets or other manual means for forecasting/scheduling:
  • The increasing complexity of call centers makes it more difficult to efficiently manage forecasting, scheduling and adherence using traditional ways - see recent post about call center shrinkage.
  • Typically, the monthly savings of using a cloud based WFM solution are higher than the cost of the solution, so you should save money from the get go.
  • In addition, you can improve service levels and other key call center performance indicators by using a more robust and flexible scheduling solution, compared to spreadsheets.
2. If your call center uses on-premise WFM software:
  • Traditional WFM software is often complicated to use and therefore does not get fully leveraged, meaning you are not getting all the benefits from the software to realize cost savings and performance improvements.
  • Calculate what you pay for yearly maintenance of your WFM software, including the internal costs of operating/upgrading servers. Just these costs can be higher than the monthly fee for an all inclusive WFM in the cloud offering.
There are many reasons to switch to the cloud. We hope we inspired you to think about it.