Thursday, August 25, 2011

7 Tips for improved schedule adherence in your call center

How do you get your staff to show up for work on time and stick to their planned schedule and break times? This is one of the most challenging jobs related to managing any call center - making sure there is the right number of staff with the right skills available at the right times of the day. Here are seven tips that might be helpful to improve schedule adherence in your call center:
1. Quantify the implications of missing staff
First, you need to understand the effects of schedule adherence in your call center. This starts with measuring adherence and quantifying the implications on service level, costs and other metrics that are critical for your business. Typically, a lack of adherence results in understaffing and decreased service levels. In order to compensate for this, call centers might increase staffing, which results in higher costs. Here is an example of the cost implications of out-of-adherence.
2. Set reasonable adherence goals
Identify adherence goals and objectives based on the unique characteristics of your call center environment and also take a look at benchmarks of other call centers. When defining your goals, please consider the following:
  • Include your staff into this process from the beginning
  • Define minimum expectations
  • Average handle time of calls
  • Identify potential barriers that might prevent adherence
3. Identify the reasons for attendance and adherence problems
Basically, there are three different reasons for adherence problems:
  • Don’t know: the agent may either be unclear about what the expectations are, or they may be unaware of how their behavior is not meeting the expectation. Giving the agent timely feedback can help resolve the problem.
  • Can’t: the agent may require more training, although adherence problems are rarely lack of training. More likely there could be a barrier that prevents adherence.
  • Won’t: the agent may lack motivation or may be receiving improper consequences. The most effective consequences are: Positive, Immediate, and Certain.
For more details please read this post about schedule adherence challenges.
4. Identify rewards and consequences that support adherence goals
Reward agents that adhere to their schedule (e.g. 95% within adherence scores) through recognition within the team and tie bonuses to good scores. It is also critical that all agents are aware of the consequences for out-of-adherence behavior; this establishes their responsibility towards the success of the call center.
5. Communicate the “power of one” to all staff
Emphasize the “power of one” to highlight the importance of every agent’s adherence. Using tables or charts available to make “adherence” visually quantifiable can be helpful. So can activities like "Ball Toss" in which six agents are paired off and given a ball which they must toss back and forth. Replace one person in the pair and keep the toss moving. Then take one person away without providing a replacement to show how quickly understaffing can create stress and dropped balls – which, of course, represent "calls".
6. Review your tools to manage and track adherence
Workforce management software helps automate schedule adherence tracking and reporting capabilities. Review the tools you have available in your call center and evaluate if you have the need for more sophisticated adherence tracking tools:
  • Real-time dashboards
  • Alerts and notification
  • Adherence reporting by agent, group and center
  • Exception management
  • Adherence tracking for all activities
  • Accurate forecasting of call center volumes
  • Automated scheduling
7. Measure and monitor
You can only manage what you measure. Make adherence monitoring & reporting and the regular review with your team part of your staff meetings. Over time, the whole team will more and more appreciate the importance of adherence and it will get "internalized" into your service culture.
For more detailed information, please read this whitepaper "Strategies for improving Schedule Adherence".

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What does lack of schedule adherence cost a call center?

There are three areas that are immediately affected when your call center is out-of-adherence:
  • Speed of answer to customers is reduced (service level and satisfaction)
  • Staff workload and occupancy are affected (productivity and staffing cost)
  • Telephone costs can soar (operational costs).
All three areas are avoidable when you understand the impact of out-of-adherence within the call center. In order to find out the costs associated with call center scheduling and out-of-adherence, you need to measure and quantify the effect. Let’s consider that you have 200 call center agents and due to out-of-adherence activities, they lose 10 minutes per day. At an average of $15 per hour wage for your 200 call center agents, the resulting cost is $130,000 per year.
  • 10 minutes x 5 days x 52 weeks = 2,600 minutes per year = 43.3 hours per year.
  • 43.3 hours x $15 = $650 per person x 200 agents = $130,000.
Take the time and do the math and understand the actual hard dollar costs associated with out-of-adherence for your call center and evaluate the necessary internal changes needed to reduce the wasted time. For ideas and more information about schedule adherence, please read this whitepaper: "Strategies for improved call center schedule adherence".

Monday, August 8, 2011

Call center workforce management software selection criteria

Here is a list that should be helpful when selecting a workforce management solution:

1. Key functionality to consider:
  • ACD integration for call history
  • Simulation of forecasts
  • Staffing and Scheduling
  • Exception handling
  • Intra-day management
  • Real-time adherence
  • Performance metrics reports

2. Implementation of software:
  • Time to implement - ready to use.
  • Equipment needed (hardware and software)
  • Resources needed (internal, vendor, consultants)

3. Total cost of ownership:
  • Upfront cost for software, hardware, integration and implementation?
  • Ongoing costs for subscription, maintenance, support, upgrade fees?
  • Operational costs for IT team, facilities, etc.

4. User adoption:
  • Ease of use to make sure software gets used to full extend
  • Configurable to meet your unique center needs

5. ROI and Risk:
  • Payback time: Benefits versus costs/investment
  • Financial risk if solution does not meet your needs
For a more detailed list, please download our Workforce Management Success Kit.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How to improve call center forecasting with simulation tools

One of the most critical steps in the workforce management process is forecasting. Based on the work history you need to forecast call volume and agent requirements for desired time frames in the future - a forecast for future call volume, average handling time, and agent requirements for each 15-minute period of the day based on service level objectives.

How can you use forecasting simulation to improve forecast accuracy? A simulator forecasting engine analyzes all call types and routing policies when creating forecasts. This lets you accurately forecast staffing levels to manage all call types within your center, and build scenarios for budgeting and planning purposes. You can even use simulators to produce center budgets by running a costing of all forecasted agent shifts and agent schedules. Here are some tips on how you can benefit from using forecasting simulation:
  • You can quickly generate automatic forecasts for multiple sites, complex routing strategies, and multi-skilled agents.
  • You can accurately forecast staffing levels to manage all call types, as well as build scenarios for planning and budgeting purposes.
  • You get regular intra-day forecast updates, automatically calculating a new forecast based on what has already occurred to establish trends that will aid in proactive decision making.
  • It helps you evaluate and plan current and future workforce requirements.
  • You can develop "what if" scenarios to explore how a change in call volume or service level goals during a specific day or week would affect your center.
  • You are able to simulate routing rules, agent skill assignments, and schedules by date range and see the impact on staffing and scheduling.
For more information about this topic, please watch the call center forecasting video.