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The Secret Sauce to Getting WFO Right

Published: July 11, 2013 | By: Matt McConnell

Call centers spend a lot of time and resources analyzing the forecast based on historical trends and complex algorithms to determine the exact number of people needed for each shift and how many calls are expected to come in.

But no matter how much you plan, the unexpected happens in the call center every day. To get the right people in the right place at the right time, centers have to quickly and intelligently react to these fluctuating conditions.

Surprisingly, the “secret sauce” to getting this right doesn’t just involve planning, but planning to react.


Expecting the Unexpected

The unexpected happens to even the best run centers.

Sometimes it’s a rare event like severe weather disabling a key center, forcing you to reroute to an alternative center. Or perhaps it’s a more common occurrence like internal systems going down or more than forecasted agents showing up late or calling in sick.

Something unexpected happens every day and there is nothing you can do to plan for it. So, what can you do to make sure you’re ready when the unexpected inevitably occurs?

Many companies today have large support organizations dedicated to forecasting and scheduling resources and manually monitoring and responding to changes in the contact center throughout the day. But these manual processes simply don’t allow for a quick enough response time, and are often inconsistently applied.


Better Business Reflexes

By creating some simple business rules to automatically and consistently respond to these unforeseen events and conditions throughout the day, call centers can shift their focus from perfecting the schedule to perfecting their ability to be responsive.
The result is a better customer experience without constantly being in reactionary mode or increasing resources. Rather than manually reacting to change, centers are honing their business reflexes with intraday management to trigger the right actions based on current conditions.


Responding to Call Volume Fluctuations

Through better intraday task management, for example, contact centers can “find” more time for critical off-phone activities like training and coaching that directly improve agent performance and productivity, while they’re responding to fluctuating call volume.

Research shows that agents spend as much as 49 minutes of each day sitting idle at their desks, waiting for the next call. Unfortunately, this idle time comes in small increments of 2-3 minutes, which doesn’t allow for agents to complete any meaningful activity.

Intraday management technology can aggregate idle time into larger chunks of time for agents to complete assigned tasks – like online training sessions and coaching – during natural downtimes in call volume.
Activities are prioritized based on agents’ individual strengths and weaknesses and dynamically delivered to the agent desktop. When call volume spikes, agents are prompted to return to answering calls so that service levels are not adversely affected.

In situations where the center has much more sustained overstaffing or even understaffing, a different set of rules can kick in.

If the call center is suddenly slammed, for example, an automatic alert could be sent to agents in key queues offering voluntary overtime. Or, if activity is unexpectedly low, a series of actions like adjusting breaks, lunch or even voluntary time off offers could be initiated, based on pre-determined criteria.


Managing Customer Experience

Contact centers ultimately want to match up the right agent with the right call, but keeping queues staffed with the best-trained and highest performing agents creates a lot of manual work to make sure queue assignments always reflect the most up to date skills. As agents acquire new training certifications and increase their skills, intraday queue management enables these agents to immediately begin taking the types of calls that match their skill set, or even increasing or decreasing their availability in a queue based on a set of rules regarding performance in response to service levels. Making this type of change with automation as needs fluctuate throughout the day improves customer experience without increasing the burden on workforce management.

Too often, real-time information like trending issues or problem calls aren’t communicated until it’s too late to make a difference. With business rules to govern when, how and who receives alerts and notifications in specific situations, the contact center can optimize performance and free up resources from screen watching to work on more high value activities. With a safety net to ensure that the right people have the right information as soon as it is available, the whole center is prepared to deliver a better overall customer experience.

Flexibility: The Secret Sauce

The best contact centers don’t have the ability to predict the future, but they are flexible enough to respond to changing conditions in real-time. No matter what happens, they can adapt.

The result is a better prepared agent workforce and a more agile and flexible workforce optimization approach that ultimately better serves the customer.

That’s the secret.

This article was originally posted on ICMI

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