Showing posts with label scheduling spreadsheets. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scheduling spreadsheets. Show all posts

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Still Scheduling with Spreadsheets? Put WFM on Your Holiday List

Scheduling is a vital component in the success of every call center. And concrete, reliable data is vital to achieve accurate, consistent scheduling results.

For decades, that data was gathered through spreadsheets, and would take hours to compile. Even then, the results were not always accurate, or flexible enough to accommodate last minute changes or other issues.

And yet, hundreds of contact centers continue to handle forecasting and scheduling the same inefficient way they did 20 years ago, which is why the data generated sometimes proves insufficient.

It’s time for a change, and technology has made that change possible. An automated workforce management (WFM) solution can improve scheduling accuracy, making sure all the necessary resources are always in place.

A WFM system provides the flexibility to automatically manage start times, end times and break times. Spreadsheets cannot match this speed and efficiency, which results in unhappy agents and higher shrinkage. And wouldn’t you rather spend the hours now devoted to compiling schedules to focusing on other aspects of your business – or just getting out of the office on time for a change?

If so, perhaps it’s time to add a WFM solution to your holiday list. To find out more about this important investment, read “The Real Cost of Spreadsheet Based Scheduling” to find out if you should put WFM on your holiday wish list.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Workforce Management Software vs. Scheduling Spreadsheets

“That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

How often do you hear these words in an office, when managers would rather stay with what is familiar than change to something that will make their lives easier and their business run more efficiently?

Why else would so many contact centers still use spreadsheets for scheduling, rather than switch to an automated workforce management (WFM) solution? The advantages to doing so are many – and will be obvious from the first day with the new system in place:
  • Flexibility – Spreadsheets are fine for fixed schedules, but what happens when the schedule refuses to stay fixed (which, let’s face it, is most days)? With WFM, it’s easy to manage flexibility with start, end and break times. Result? Less idle agents, and better customer service.
  • Skill-based Call Routing – Customers appreciate when their calls are received by the agents most qualified to handle them. Inclusion of skills is handled automatically by WFM, so it’s easier to fill each shift with fewer agents, but with those who have the requisite specialties to handle every customer encounter. Spreadsheets can’t keep up.
  • Tracking Adherence – With a spreadsheet a few limited spot checks are possible, but WFM delivers real-time adherence monitoring and analysis. That results in lower shrinkage and improved service levels.
  • Exceptions – They happen every day, but they complicate the spreadsheet process to the point where most requests will be turned down. Agents at a call center with WFM will find their exception considerations handled more graciously. That means happier agents – and happier agents mean happier customers.
  • Saving Time – With WFM, managers can save as much as 25% off the time they devote to creating schedules with spreadsheets. That’s 2 hours from every 8-hour day.
Spreadsheets simply cannot compete. If you’re still using them, isn’t it time for a change? If you are still not convinced watch this video about a call center supervisor explaining the difference.

Monday, April 7, 2014

100 Agents and Still Using Spreadsheets for Scheduling?

Many small and midsized contact centers still rely on spreadsheets for daily forecasting and scheduling. It’s an imperfect system that could be improved by workforce management (WFM) software.

However, what’s surprising is that some larger contact centers, those with 100 agents or more, are also still using spreadsheets for scheduling. Here, the inefficiencies of the system are multiplied, resulting in much lower customer service (under-staffing) and higher costs (over-staffing) - often both, based on the time of day.

When an increase as low as 1% in productivity can significantly impact the contact center budget, it is imperative to identify areas where efficiency can be improved.

One of these areas is flexibility – the limitations of a spreadsheet result in fixed schedules that can produce higher shrinkage and overstaffing. But with WFM it is easier to manage start times, end times and breaks with an ease of flexibility that dramatically improves service levels.

Managers can also consult more detailed and accurate call histories with WFM, resulting in better forecasts. Scheduling is also faster – some managers can save as much as 25% of the time once devoted to filling in spreadsheets – that time can now be used for additional agent training or to attend to other matters.

There are many additional advantages as well, from reducing the number of agents needed for a particular shift to improving agent morale by making it easier to match employees with the hours and shifts they prefer.

Find out more in the Monet whitepaper “The Cost of Spreadsheet Based Forecasting & Scheduling.”

Sunday, February 2, 2014

15 Tips on Contact Center Scheduling

One of the call center manager’s most important tasks is to create a schedule that balances agent needs vs. call center capabilities, while accounting for such variables as shrinkage and exceptions.

Easier said than done? Not necessarily – the right workforce management system streamlines the process and provides more consistent, accurate data.

If scheduling is still an issue, check out these quick tips:
  1. Don’t use spreadsheets – they are incapable of producing an optimized call center schedule. 
  2. Accurate scheduling starts with accurate forecasting.
  3. Track both call activities and non-call activities for better scheduling.
  4. Make sure all scheduling procedures are clearly delineated among agents, supervisors and management.
  5. Test schedule accuracy with simulations and dry-run scenarios.
  6. Build some flexibility into schedules so changes can be made on the fly.
  7. Take agent preferences into account – if agents can work the shifts they prefer, they will likely do a better job. 
  8. Make sure you are using sufficient ACD data (at least one year) for schedule creation. 
  9. Build in a shift-swapping procedure that is easier for agents to utilize, and easier for management to monitor.
  10. Incorporate agent skill levels and specialties into schedule creation. 
  11. Try this formula for calculating schedule adherence: [phone time + other work related activity time] / ([shift time] - [lunch/dinner] - [break] + [exception time] + [overtime]) = schedule adherence
  12. Personally address agent issues such as tardiness and extended lunch breaks so they do not become habitual, and have a detrimental impact on scheduling. 
  13. Take weather conditions into account when creating schedules, as they can impact both call volume and agent availability. 
  14. List the 3 greatest challenges to schedule adherence at your contact center, then meet with agents and supervisors to address how these challenges can be resolved. 
  15. Choose a Workforce Management solution that gathers and provides the necessary scheduling information through dashboards that are clear and concise.
Fore more details, please download our Contact Center Scheduling Tips whitepaper.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Workforce Management with Spreadsheets?

The holiday season is a time of tradition.  Some traditions deserve our respect and should be sustained for future generations. But in the office, there is sometimes a tendency to show too much deference to traditions that have outlived their usefulness. One of these is the use of spreadsheets in contact centers.

Many contact centers handle forecasting and scheduling the same inefficient way they did 20 years ago, which is why the data generated sometimes proves insufficient.

It’s time for a change, and technology has made that change possible.

Our whitepaper, “The Real Cost of Scheduling Spreadsheets,” explores that very topic.

As stated in the whitepaper, an automated workforce management (WFM) solution can improve forecast accuracy, making sure all the necessary resources are always in place. It can also streamline the scheduling process.

A WFM system also provides the flexibility to automatically manage start times, end times and break times. Spreadsheets cannot match this speed and efficiency, which results in unhappy agents and higher shrinkage.

Workforce Management (WFM) can play a prominent role in engendering employee satisfaction. Skill-based scheduling plays to an agent strengths and boosts confidence, while flexible scheduling acknowledges and may acquiesce to their obligations outside the office.  

Happier agents and better contact center control through online collaboration, reporting and transparency tools, can all result from WFM implementation. Spreadsheets simply cannot compete. And wouldn’t you rather spend the hours now devoted to compiling them to focusing on other aspects of your business – or just getting out of the office on time for a change?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Watch this New Fun Video for Call Center Managers and Supervisors

Trying to decide if your call center can continue to get by using spreadsheets? Then it’s time you met Mary. She’s a call center supervisor and the star of our newest video about workforce optimization.

Driven as all supervisors should be by achieving optimal customer service, Mary spends a lot of time reviewing daily call volume stats and working on schedule creation. She uses spreadsheets, as she’s done for years. But as technology has evolved, this method no longer fits her schedule or her objectives.

Enter workforce optimization (WFO) software. Now, tracking call history and volume is faster and easier, as is using that data to create forecasts and schedules. Plus, she can track adherence and performance, and with call recording she has a record of each customer encounter. That comes in handy for agent training, and to settle disputes.

One WFO solution – so many benefits. Watch Mary's story by clicking on the video above. Then, click on the link at the end of the video to view a more detailed demo of how WFO can make a difference at your call center.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Are You Still Using Spreadsheets for forecasting and scheduling?

Based on a recent call center analysis, we discovered that approximately 20% of call centers still use spreadsheets for forecasting ad scheduling. Those that do are missing out on the convenience, efficiency, flexibility and functionality of workforce management.
Spreadsheet based forecasting and scheduling

Is there an optimal use for spreadsheets? Perhaps – for a call center where the call flows are the same every hour of every day. Unfortunately, such a call center does not exist. When call volume changes, spreadsheets are insufficient.

Here are 5 ways that WFM represents a quantum leap forward in forecasting and scheduling:
  • Flexible Schedules – spreadsheets are fine for fixed schedules – but call center schedules rarely stay fixed. A WFM system provides the flexibility to manage start times, end times and break times.
  • Call History Forecasts – the most accurate call forecasts are those that rely on call history data. This can be done manually with a spreadsheet, but it’s much faster and more accurate to work with real-time and historic call data collected by a WFM system.
  • Adherence Tracking – tracking and schedule adherence are difficult, if not flat-out impossible, with just a spreadsheet. Spot-checks are fine as far as they go, but without the real-time tracking provided by WFM there is a higher risk of over/under staffing, shrinkage and missed service levels.
  • Forecast Simulation – WFM allows for more detailed and accurate forecast simulations.
  • Exception Handling – All exception considerations are handled automatically through WFM. Spreadsheets cannot match this speed and efficiency, which results in unhappy agents and higher shrinkage.
To find out more about why WFM is the better solution, even for smaller call centers, sign up to receive a free whitepaper.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Business Value of Workforce Management Software - Part 1

Persuading senior management to change “business-as-usual” call center systems can be a difficult undertaking. The management team often faces both internal and external factors that make it resistant to change. A challenging economic environment also puts pressure on all areas of the organization to implement solutions that reduce costs and increase revenues—all while improving performance and productivity. As each solution competes for investment dollars, only a select few offering the highest ROI will obtain funding.

This short article helps you make the business case for workforce management automation. We will discuss:
  • Business impact (manual vs. automated solutions)
  • Benefits (savings, service levels, employee morale, customer satisfaction)
  • ROI (payback time of investment)
A common misconception is that workforce management software is associated with a large investment. In fact, it delivers significant value to the top and bottom line with a minimal investment. In addition, an automated WFM solution is aligned with a company’s goals of saving money and increasing revenue, productivity, and service levels—and it even starts paying for itself within months instead of years.

Manual/Spreadsheet Processes
Many call centers that don’t use workforce management systems typically rely on spreadsheets. Therefore, let’s first look at a few of the limitations of using spreadsheets to manage a workforce. These inefficient manual systems have a huge impact on the performance of a call center in many areas every day, including:
  • Capturing data: ACD systems that provide massive amounts of data must be manually typed into spreadsheets, inevitably resulting in typing errors and wasting the valuable time of call center supervisors who could be training agents, analyzing trends, optimizing schedules, and performing other productive tasks.
  • Overstaffing and understaffing: The spreadsheet approach to forecasting and scheduling often leads to overstaffing and understaffing, which results in lower service levels and an increase in payroll costs. Customer satisfaction suffers when customers have to wait for long periods to get their issues resolved.
  • Schedule adherence: Tracking schedule adherence using spreadsheets gives managers headaches. It also needlessly wastes time and money whereas automated WFM solutions make it easy for agents to precisely follow their schedules. Shrinkage can become a huge problem for any size call center. For instance, in a call center of fifty agents, occupancy is critical. If five agents take breaks or go to lunch at the same time, occupancy decreases by ten percent and service levels go with it. An automated solution prevents this from happening by carefully optimizing agent schedules and forecasts, and sending alerts by out-of-adherence. A manager using a manual system may be tempted to hire additional agents, while the manager with an automated system has the data at his fingertips to accurately optimize future agent schedules to dramatically reduce shrinkage.
  • Spotting trends: It is difficult to spot long-term trends over weeks and months with a manual system. This data is priceless for accurately forecasting and scheduling agents in the future, special events and other seasonal patterns.
  • Agent retention: One of the many reasons agents leave is because staffing in a spreadsheet system seems random and fixed, while not considering their personal needs. Agent morale decreases and turnover increases when agents do not understand schedules and what’s expected of them.
A spreadsheet based process might work for a few small contact centers, but it is clearly costly and wasteful in terms of time, money, and productivity for many others. Call center managers typically cannot wait to get their hands on a better solution to manage their workforce. The savvy ones are eager to present senior management with an automated workforce management solution to enhance efficiency, increase performance, and realize a high ROI. We will talk about ROI drivers in our next blog post, please stay tuned. In the meantime, you can also download a few workforce management whitepapers from our call center resources library to learn more.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Call center forecasting and scheduling tips and best practices

The following is a list of practical tips, tricks and best practices on how to better forecast call volumes and more effectively schedule your call center team:
If you would like to see some of these tips in action, please watch our video demonstrations about call center forecasting and scheduling.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Call forecasting and call center scheduling spreadsheets? A few considerations.

Sometimes, spreadsheets for forecasting and scheduling seem to be just fine. However, one of the biggest challenges in call centers - maintaining schedule adherence - is very difficult or almost impossible to manage using spreadsheets. In addition, there are other forecasting and scheduling tasks that can be very challenging with spreadsheets and might result in sup-optimal performance. And those tasks (listed below) are often key drivers to make your call center more productive and deliver better service to your customers.

Schedule adherence: Spreadsheets don't support this well. Studies have shown that tracking and monitoring agent adherence in real-time has a tremendous postive impact on call center performance.
Exception handling: This is a very manual process and complicated with spreadsheets. Automated exception handling of modern WFM solutions keep agents happy and results in higher productivity.
Schedule flexibility
: Spreadsheets are often limited to fixed schedules. You might not be able to take take advantage of schedules with flexible start-time, end-time & breaks to boost service levels.
Call history: Spreadsheets don't support real-time or automated data import of large amounts of data, potentially resulting in reduced forecast accuracy.
Skill-based routing and scheduling: Very complicated to manage with spreadsheets, therefore, call centers often can't realize productivity advantages of skill-based scheduling.

If you are still using spreadsheets, you should review the above list from the perspective of your call center needs and evaluate the potential for improving call center operation. You can also learn more about WFM by looking at automating forecasting, scheduling and adherence tracking.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Spreadsheets for call center forecasting and scheduling?

The overwhelming majority of ongoing call center expenses are related to staffing (up to 70%). Having the optimum number of staff at the right time in the right place is essential to call center success and profitability. Over-staffing results in needless spending for unnecessary staff, while under-staffing will lower service levels, increase staff turnover and impact your revenues. Two key questions to ask:
  • Can a call center really "afford" to use spreadsheets for forecasting and scheduling, since there is so much at stake?
  • Does workforce management software provide measurable improvements resulting in savings that exceed the cost of the solution?
Here are three things to consider when you evaluate the situation in your call center:

1. More efficient scheduling and agent usage: The savings associated with more efficient scheduling includes reducing overall staff hours and need for overtime and identification of over-staffing. Call centers using WFM systems generally experience a minimum reduction of 2% for staff hours with an average potential savings in the 5 – 10% range.

2. Automation of scheduling tasks: Manual or Excel-based spreadsheet forecasting and scheduling consumes much of a supervisor’s time in many call centers. With WFM it is generally expected that at least 25% of the time currently devoted to manual input can be saved and used for coaching, training, etc.

3. Improved schedule adherence: Many hours of work time are wasted due to excessive non-productive interruptions. A WFM system can provide historical and real-time information on agent schedule adherence and exceptions, for better management and control of staff, reducing workforce shrinkage by 10 to 20 minutes per agent per day. Please read our whitepaper "Strategies for Improving Schedule Adherence" to learn more. Also, there is a related blog post that talks about the "cost of out-of-adherence".

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scheduling Spreadsheets: Are they a low cost alternative for your call center?

Many small to medium size call centers still use spreadsheets to forecast and manage call center schedules and workforce planning, assuming that it is a sufficient tool for fewer agents. Quite to the contrary, it is more difficult to manage fewer agents in a small to medium size center, and here is why:
  • Behavior of individual agents have bigger impact on overall center performance;
  • Fewer agents need to multi-task, making skill-based scheduling more complex;
  • It is more difficult to correct the schedule once it has been upset by unexpected events.
Staffing is the most expensive resource in the entire call center budget (60 to 80%), therefore, even a 1% increase in productivity will significantly impact the bottom line. Read more in this short whitepaper The Real Costs of Spreadsheet Based Scheduling.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Call center scheduling spreadsheets - yes or no?

There are free call center scheduling spreadsheets available, but are they really "free"? Yes and no, you don't have to pay for those spreadsheets, but you might pay for sub-optimal call center performance later. Of course, it depends on the size and needs of your call center, so spreadsheets might just work fine for you. But for mid-size and large centers (25 agents and more) with fluctuating call volume and other conditions that impact call patterns, the use of scheduling spreadsheets might "cost" you money in lower services levels and lower productivity. Here are some points to consider when thinking about using scheduling spreadsheets versus workforce management software:
  • Flexible schedule: Spreadsheets are limited to fixed schedules. You might not be able to take take advantage of schedule with flexible start-time, end-time and breaks to boost service levels.
  • Use of call history: Spreadsheets don't support real-time or automated data import of large amounts of data, potentially resulting in lower forecast accuracy.
  • Skill-based routing and scheduling: Very complicated to manage with spreadsheets, therefore, call centers often can't realize productivity advantages of skill-based scheduling.
  • Tracking schedule adherence: Spreadsheets don't support this. Studies have shown that tracking and monitoring agent adherence in real-time has a tremendous impact on call center performance.
  • Exception handling: Manual and complicated with spreadsheets. Automated exception handling of modern WFM solution keeps agents happy and results in higher productivity.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How to simplify call center scheduling

Do you spend too much time on call center scheduling and still don't get the expected results? That's what we hear quite often when we talk to prospective customers. Either the forecast/schedule is not accurate enough, or it takes just too long to work through the spreadsheets and data from various sources, or both. There has to be a better way. There is - please join us for our upcoming webinar "How to simplify your call center scheduling" on May 27 at 10 a.m. PST. and learn how you can simplify your forecasting and scheduling work. We hope to see you.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Still using scheduling spreadsheets in your call center?

One of the questions we asked in our recent workforce management survey (non customers) was about the use of tools for call center forecasting and scheduling. Based on the responses, over 50% are using spreadsheets or other manual tools to forecast call volumes and schedule their employees. Well, we thought there is an opportunity to educate call center professional about a more efficient way to forecast and schedule. We have developed a webinar that will provide some guidance and a comparison: Workforce management solution versus scheduling spreadsheets. We did a similar webinar in 2009 and got good feedback from the webinar attendees. Again, spreadsheets might be fine for some call centers, but we encourage you to attend the webinar to find out for yourself. You can learn more and register by clicking the link above. We hope to see you at the webinar.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Are scheduling spreadsheets a low cost alternative?

As a small or medium-sized call center you might think you can get by with scheduling and managing your staff using spreadsheets. Maybe you have avoided workforce management software because of the large upfront investment that is associated with traditional premised based WFM software vendors. However, with new subscription-based and fully hosted offerings you might ask yourself, if continuing to use spreadsheets is the best or lowest cost choice. You need to keep in mind that inefficient forecasts and schedules will cost your center every day. Take a look at the following questions and see if you might discover an opportunity for improvement in your center:
  • Can you monitor and track schedule adherence? If agents are out of adherence for 15 minutes each day in a 25 agent center, that can add up to staffing costs of $23,000 per year.
  • Can you take advantage of your call history? The use of detailed call history data and patterns might help you improve accuracy of your forecast and your schedule.
  • Can you "build-in" skill-based routing into your schedule? Having multi-skill agents in overlapping groups as part of your schedule will help improve productivity.
  • How do you handle exceptions and agent preferences? The ability to handle exceptions and personal preferences as part of your schedule will motivate your team.
So, take a look at your call center operations and staffing to see if presumably low cost scheduling spreadsheets actually cost you more than you think.