Workforce management (WFM) is all about implementing the strategies and procedures that put your team members in the right place at the right time—so they can deliver the best possible results.
Managing a workforce in the call center industry can be even more challenging, as your workload and objectives are determined by an external force—your customers. You’re dealing with multiple communication channels, often on a 24/7 basis, with ever-changing requirements.
On the upside, effective workforce management can improve customer experience, increase agent engagement, and reduce operational costs. By embracing the challenge, you can boost revenue, improve performance, and set your call center apart from the competition.
Let’s take a look at what workforce management means and why you should make it a priority.
Call center workforce management goes beyond typical WFM focus areas like scheduling shifts and assigning tasks. It’s about meeting customer demand without overwhelming agents or, on the contrary, leaving them with too little to do.
It’s an organizational puzzle. You want to establish processes that ensure optimal staffing, putting the right agents in place to handle customer interactions and do it at the lowest possible cost.
In many cases, service level forms the basis for workforce management. Leadership will establish a target based on desired cost efficiencies and CX aims, and WFM will focus on consistently meeting this target.
To do this, you must set out internal processes that guarantee high levels of agent availability, effective workload distribution, and exceptional CX at a minimal cost.
With both internal and external factors to consider, effective WFM in the contact center can be challenging. However, it’s an essential component of a productive organization.
By breaking down the process into main components, you can ensure you follow best practices and optimize your call center’s performance.
Let’s take a look at these components and explore how each one influences the others.
Maybe we can’t see the future, but with effective forecasting, we can certainly plan for it. Using historical interaction data from customer touchpoints across every channel, you can analyze patterns and trends to determine your call center’s seasonal surges and typical peak times.
By taking this data-driven approach to forecasting, you can ensure adequate staffing even when call volumes are high, avoiding long queues and keeping CX standards high. Forecasting also safeguards against overstaffing, which can lead to increased costs and poor resource management.
You should also expect the unexpected and establish contingency plans for things like equipment issues, network outages, inclement weather, and more. Other factors to consider in the forecasting stage can include changes in consumer trends and the launch of a new product or service.
Once you’ve gazed into the crystal ball and seen the future needs of your contact center, it’s time to nail down your scheduling. You want to strike a balance between agent availability and customer demand that ensures high levels of engagement and strong CX.
What levels of coverage are required? Does this change at different times of the year—or even throughout the day? With the information from the forecasting stage, you can determine the number of agents you need per shift, as well as the skill sets required. For omnichannel call centers, you also need to consider which channels require the most resources.
For effective scheduling, you need to think about agent abilities, contractual requirements, and broader calendar items. Different shift patterns will inform the process, too. A fixed pattern may be simpler owing to its consistency, while flexible shifts can complicate the process.
The next WFM step is to assign agents to the shifts that make up your schedule. This process involves balancing agent preferences with organizational policies. It can be a delicate task, as you need to maximize productivity while minimizing the chances of stress or burnout.
To connect customers with the most appropriate agent for their issue and maintain high CX standards, many contact center leaders employ a skill-based approach to agent assignment.
With skill-based routing, you pinpoint agents based on expertise, experience, and performance and carry out the assignment process accordingly. For example, agents with strong communication skills may be tasked with handling interactions with the potential for conflict.
While the previous stages—forecasting, scheduling, and assignment—are proactive and plan-focused, intraday management is, in some ways, a more reactive part of WFM. Call centers are fast-paced working environments with lots of moving parts, so day-to-day management is essential to keep things running smoothly.
Forecasting gives you the foundation for workforce management, but intraday management is necessary to handle things like technical outages, product issues, compliance breaches, no call no shows, and more. To maintain service levels, supervisors should be able to move shifts around, readjust the schedule, or provide alternatives like self-service.
In some ways, intraday management involves “re-forecasting” on the fly—you’re empowering your leaders to make quick changes, like adjusting priorities, adding resources, or changing break times, in order to maintain the service level.
While some contact center leaders believe performance management falls under the umbrella of workforce management, others have a dedicated QA team to handle it. For the purpose of monitoring and improving agent performance over time, a QA team will deliver better results.
Using quality assurance tools like scorecards, learning management systems, and agent dashboards, you can identify areas for improvement, create tailored training programs, and deliver real-time feedback to agents. You can also use reporting tools to track the impact of training on key metrics like first call resolution, average handle time, schedule adherence, and more.
Contact center operations are growing increasingly complex with new technology, additional channels, and multiple transaction types. Effective workforce management will allow you to get a handle on this increased complexity while also achieving key business goals. Let’s examine some of the biggest benefits of WFM.
With 83 percent of customers expecting their issue to be resolved during the first interaction, maintaining high CX standards is essential. Effective workforce management will help you to deliver these quick resolutions and ensure a consistent experience across every channel, meeting key customer expectations.
Forecasting and scheduling, in particular, are useful for improving the customer experience. By improving service levels with adequate staffing and skill-based routing, you can reduce wait times, improve first call resolution, and collect more positive feedback.
Agent engagement is a persistent challenge for contact center leaders, with Gartner finding that only one in three customer service reps are engaged at work. Thankfully, effective workforce management can contribute to stronger agent engagement, as well as increased productivity.
By considering agent preferences and skill sets during the assignment stage, you can ensure they feel valued and more invested in their work. Additionally, optimized scheduling will reduce the chances of irregular shifts and excessive workloads, improving morale. With disengaged agents 11 percent less likely to provide first call resolution, this is also important for the customer experience.
With resource-related costs accounting for approximately three quarters of a typical contact center operating budget, how you allocate your resources has a huge impact on overall operational expenditure. Effective workforce management enables cost savings through optimized processes and efficiencies while maintaining strong CX and agent performance.
Your WFM team can reduce costs by avoiding overstaffing during low-volume periods and accurately scheduling staff based on data-driven forecasts. They should also manage unplanned overtime requests, ensure accurate logging of work hours, and minimize administrative costs for things like attendance management.
Effective workforce management contributes to more informed decision-making in the contact center, impacting everything from coaching and training to budgeting and goal-setting. With the data gathered in the forecasting stage, you can make better decisions for your business.
Historical data and trends will inform staffing and shift requirements, as well as the most pressing areas for agent training. You can pinpoint where your team excels and where it needs improvement, using this information to deliver targeted training that elevates customer experience and employee engagement.
Understanding the importance of workforce management is one thing. Implementing it effectively is another. Below, we have outlined some key actions you can take to improve workforce management in your call center.
By creating a dedicated workforce management team—and ensuring close collaboration with the QA team—you can improve and refine WFM processes on an ongoing basis.
Tracking the KPIs most relevant to your business goals will allow you to measure the ROI of your WFM processes and identify areas for improvement.
With real-time adherence monitoring and the support of a QA platform, you can track whether agents are sticking to the schedule and take corrective action if they are not.
Creating a staffing plan that accounts for every member of your organization, from full-time employees to part-time contractors, will help maximize efficiency.
By putting preventative measures in place for as many potential disruptive scenarios as possible, you can safeguard against the loss of customers and revenue in times of crisis.
Providing agents with a self-service portal can expedite mundane tasks and promote self-learning, empowering them to do their best work while boosting team morale.
Keeping agents engaged is a persistent challenge for call centers. Making things like career development and performance recognition part of your WFM process can help.
With the availability of increasingly advanced AI tools, as well as purpose-built QA platforms, you can support WFM with automation, analytics, and more to expedite your processes.
Effective workforce management is about meeting the shifting demands of a call center while optimizing performance and delivering key outcomes like better CX, increased agent engagement, and reduced operational costs.
By refining the key stages of your WFM process—forecasting, scheduling, assignment, and intraday management—you can align operations with business objectives, set your contact center apart from the competition, and improve profitability.
Scorebuddy offers analytics tools, an in-depth reporting suite, and the most customizable scorecard builder on the market, so you can enhance the impact of your WFM system with minimal manual effort.
To see how Scorebuddy can support workforce management, request your free 14-day trial now.